Emma Ramsay, MA Screenwriting graduate, reflects on her time spent at Edinburgh Napier University.
My dream was always to work in the film and television industry, which fuelled my desire to study a masters. I found out about the MA Screenwriting course at Edinburgh Napier University and asked the lecturers what I needed to do to get on the course. They told me about their Introduction to Screenwriting night classes, so I signed up and started the following week. I totally loved it - I completed my first ever script which I used as my application, secured an interview, got a place and I’ve never looked back.
“The university nurtures a community vibe which feels genuinely invested in the success of its students on a personal level.”
I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier after working with the MA course leader during the night classes, as I had complete faith in the staff. The environment at the Screen Academy made me feel comfortable, supported and encouraged. I would extend that to include all Edinburgh Napier staff from lecturers and support staff to canteen staff and library assistants, janitors, administrative assistants and technical support. The University nurtures a community vibe which feels genuinely invested in the success of its students on a personal level. If you give your all to your course, you’ll see results.
One of the key things I learned from my time at university is that any creative endeavour grows and evolves with experience, nothing makes you a better writer than writing. In saying that, the course really helped to ground me with a fundamental understanding of storytelling and narrative structure. Communicating stories clearly and effectively sounds simple, yet it’s a deceptively tricky skill to master. I still have so much to learn, and every new script, pitch and treatment has its own challenges. But the debates, mistakes and research at university certainly put me in good standing to enter the industry. It taught me not to freak out when struggling with a plot knot and trust the process. As my wonderful lecturer put in my notes at the end of my degree: “Less stress, more karaoke”. Something I try to live by. I learned how to be open and vulnerable with my creative work. We shared our early drafts with our peers every week and got used to people challenging our intentions.
“Put your hand up, be inquisitive and put yourself forward for things.”
While the above is all true, here is the biggest skill I have gained from the course. Are you ready? It’s a real sock blower off-er! Nail this and you’ll be surprised what comes your way; I learned how to put myself forward for things in a polite and respectful way. The saying: “don’t ask, don’t get” is so true. I learned how to speak up and ask questions. When the class had a great guest with a wealth of experience, I showed up for myself and utilised the opportunity by asking questions and engaging with people. It’s how I have made connections with really exciting professionals in the industry which I’ll cultivate long into my career. Put your hand up, be inquisitive and put yourself forward for things.
“The amazing thing about the degree was the eclectic group of students who were welcomed into the classroom. Such a wide range of experiences and tastes lead to a very nourishing creative environment.”
I had a brilliant student experience at Edinburgh Napier. I made some incredible friends from far flung corners of the globe. The amazing thing about the degree was the eclectic group of students who were welcomed into the classroom. Such a wide range of experiences and tastes lead to a very nourishing creative environment. We were given BAFTA memberships which includes an invite to a film screening once a week. We went as a class group, often viewing films before general release. This was usually followed by discussions over beers in The Golf Tavern, our watering hole of choice!
I was encouraged by the University to apply to The Network, a talent scheme run by Edinburgh TV Festival and ended up on their incredible drama programme. I made connections with the very friendly people from River City. I also got to see talks from people like Louis Theroux and Paul Feig, not to mention have a chin wag with Sue Perkins by the Sky Atlantic pick n mix station.
The biggest highlight for me was finding my voice as a writer. I know I have a lot to learn but I am still dedicated to writing every spare chance I get and now more than ever I write the shows and films that I want to see. It’s now just a case of getting them in front of the right eyes at the right time!
“Without the support and guidance of the staff, mentors, and my fellow students at the Screen Academy there is no way I would be where I am now. It was so much more than an academic education.”
Upon leaving university, I got a job as a production co-ordinator with an independent animation studio in Edinburgh. We were working on exciting creative marketing briefs for global brands. It was a great job which closely related to my undergraduate degree, but I knew I wanted to move into drama if and when I could, and so I applied for Screen NETS Traineeship Programme and was extremely lucky to be invited to interview with Two Rivers Media in Glasgow. A few days later I was offered the job and since December I have been a trainee in their scripted drama department.
My day involves reading writers work and writing script reports, going to meetings with agents and commissioners, meeting writers and working on their ideas as well as working on my own ideas and pitching them to my bosses. I am often asked to research particular events or territories we may be interested in. It’s hands down the most wonderful job I could ever have hoped for. I work with incredibly experienced people who know the television industry inside out. They are so generous with their advice. I have been given training opportunities through my placement including Script Editing with John Yorke and Final Draft training which are industry recognised courses. It’s the best job I could have hoped for and I feel incredibly lucky to have landed in the industry straight out of my degree.
Without the support and guidance of the staff, mentors, and my fellow students at the Screen Academy there is no way I would be where I am now. It was so much more than an academic education, for me it was where I grew into a happier, more confident person. I know that sounds like a really trite thing to say, but I mean it with the utmost sincerity.
“Ask for advice. If there is someone doing a job that you want, ask them how they got there and really listen to their response.”
My advice to anyone studying this course would be to apply for everything, even if you don’t think the role is exactly what you want to do. You’d be surprised who you meet on a running job, the industry is small, everyone knows someone who knows everyone. That goes for sending your scripts in to competitions too. Apply, apply, apply!
Lastly, ask for advice. If there is someone doing a job that you want, ask them how they got there and really listen to their response. Be hardworking. Be fearless. Be honest. And finally, be nice.