Netflix backs Pacific Screenwriting Program aimed at producing more B.C.-based screenwriters

Netflix is one of the partners in a new initiative that aims to produce more Vancouver-based screenwriters.

The Pacific Screenwriting Program will combine industry mentorship, workshops and bootcamps to help writers establish a career in B.C.’s screen industry.

Supported by the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), Creative BC, Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), Lark Productions, BRON Studios, Omnifilm Entertainment and Skybound Entertainment, its first offering is the Scripted Series Lab, a full-time, 14-week curriculum for six committed writers that will prepare them for entry-level series writing. The program is set to launch in Jan. 2019, in conjunction with the opening of a bricks and mortar location in downtown Vancouver.

“I firmly believe that the potential of our production community is based on the truism that it all starts with a script,” says Brian Hamilton, the program’s board chair and principal and executive producer at Omnifilm Entertainment.

Hamilton says while providing a local alternative for advanced screenwriter training had been in discussion within the production community for years, losing one of his development executives to a screenwriting program in Toronto was the push he needed to move the idea forward.

“That was kind of a kick in the pants for me to help create a training program that would allow writers that live in the west, in B.C. and beyond, to be able to attend a quote ‘finishing’ school in their hometown. For many screenwriters, it’s an obstacle to leave where they live and it’s preventing people from entering the profession whose voices we want to hear from and whose voices will be valued.”

That led to convening a steering committee of close to two dozen Vancouver-based producers, screenwriters, showrunners, and government representatives, that eventually saw Netflix come to the table with a multi-year funding commitment, the details of which Hamilton says he’s not at liberty to disclose.

“What we’re offering in terms of growing and nurturing the creative community here in B.C. is something that is appealing and fits in with the Netflix vision of supporting Canadian creative voices,” says Hamilton. “Part of the process of Vancouver maturing as a global centre for production involves moving up the value chain and having more projects that shoot here, originate here, created by local writers, and establish local writer rooms. Right now, the proportions are relatively low so that means there is a lot of room to grow. We want to offer opportunities and careers to people here in B.C. who may never have considered the possibility of making a living as a screenwriter.”

Going forward, Hamilton says PSP’s curriculum will be shaped based on demand for screenwriters in particular genres like comedy, animation or kids series, as well as offering programs for screenwriters as they move toward showrunning.

“I firmly believe that our success is inextricably linked to the success of screenwriters here in the province. When we grow the number of qualified screenwriters who have experience and credits, we grow the number of productions that can be hosted in Vancouver and that leads to more intellectual property, more original program ideas created here in B.C., and ultimately more economic development and jobs,” says Hamilton.

The Scripted Series Lab is now open for applications. The Pacific Screenwriting Program holds its launch event Wed., Aug. 8, at Suite Genius in Mount Pleasant.