Pamela Woods has worked in the UK television industry as a writer, script editor and story editor for all major broadcasters on long running shows such as Coronation Street and been a script assessor with the British Film Industry production department. After studying film directing at the Victorian College of the Arts, Pamela made short films that were screened in festivals all around the world.
What led you into the film and television industry?
When I went to art college about a million years ago, I made films, short ones, lots of them and it was love at first sight. At the Victorian College of the Arts, I studied animation and directing for film. I made a few shorts that went to festivals around the world. I worked for the BFI as a script assessor before landing my first job as a script editor and story editor for children’s drama and eventually cut my teeth on Coronation Street, running a team of 18 regular writers.
I worked for 15 years in the UK television industry, in story departments and academia, but you can never quite capture that frisson of excitement when you make your very first short. I love shorts because they are pure, they are wholly yours. As an industry professional that ownership is diminished. So viva the short.
What are a few of your favourite short films?
I love shorts that have another level and an element that you cannot quantify, films that straddle art and film. My all-time favourite short film maker is the animator Jan Svankmejer. I still love Roman Polanski’s student shorts and Jane Campion’s AFTRS films. So it seems I prefer the darker side of human experience depicted on screen. But I also admire short narratives and have taught hundreds of students the short narrative form. I use many of these examples in my classes to unpick what makes a short film’s story telling so different.
What’s a key tip you have for writers who want to try screenwriting for the first time?
Try to be realistic, recognise performance is everything and help your actors out by giving them something worth performing. Don’t overload them with dialogue – develop your visualisation skills. Watch as much as you can. Make something, even if it’s on your iPhone or just a scene. As a writer you are one part of a whole team and knowing what everyone does in that team will inform how you write.
Join Pamela and tackle short film and script writing in her course Write a Short Film Like a Film Maker at the NSW Writers’ Centre Saturday 3 September, 10am-4pm.