Screenwriter Spotlight

Sophie McVeigh on CanneSeries and signing up with an agent: Sophie graduated from the MA in Screenwriting (MAS) in 2017 and will be known to following MAS cohorts as one of the students that course leaders like to hold up as the golden mean when it comes to essay writing. A prior teacher and hobby writer, Sophie is one of those people who decided to give up on it all in order to dedicate herself to screenwriting, starting with the MA at London Film School (LFS). The results have paid off. Last year she attended the new and prestigious CanneSeries programme devoted to TV writing and in the last month, she was signed to an agent at Independent Talent Group. We caught up with her to find out what the first two years out of LFS can be like for an LFS screenwriting student.

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Photo: Sophie McVeigh, fourth from left

You recently were on the new CanneSeries programme, which is one of its kind in Europe. What did the programme entail?

It was a six-week writing residency organised alongside the CanneSeries TV festival which started last year. There were eight participants from different countries - we stayed in a hotel and worked with script editors and each other to develop a TV series pilot and bible which we then pitched to Canal+ and Vivendi at the end, as well as attending the festival and lots of masterclasses and events throughout the residency.

Why do you think you were selected for it? Was it the project you pitched, your background, your style of writing itself?

Maybe a mixture of the first two! They liked my idea and were definitely looking for projects that they thought would be a good fit for their network. But I think my background, having lived in France and Spain, wanting to work in Europe and having experience of collaborating with people from different countries probably helped.

What were the main lessons and insights you gained from the course?

The programme taught me a lot about structuring a TV series, editing my work and being in a writers' room, and we got so much experience pitching that I finally think I've lost my fear of it! The best thing about it for me, though, as with the course at LFS, were the people I met and the contacts I made. That's been what's helped me develop a career afterwards.

You've got signed as a screenwriter to an agency! Amazing! For MAS students this always seems to be a cause of much concern and worry. Can you tell us your personal journey and advice regarding getting an agent?

I would honestly say try not to worry about it! I didn't contact any agents when I graduated because I didn't feel like I was ready, but after Canneseries one of the script editors and mentors offered to recommend me to some agents that she knew. That seems to be a good way of going about it, if you can get a recommendation rather than feeling like you're 'cold calling'. My agent read what I'd written in Cannes, liked it and offered to meet me. I got such a good feeling about him and we got on really well so when he offered to represent me I immediately said yes (obviously!). I think you have to trust your instincts.

Photo: Sophie McVeigh on the right-hand side

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on a feature film script with a production company that I met in Cannes. It's a Western, which is quite a learning curve! I'm also working on a script with a director from LFS and developing a few TV series ideas of my own.

What advice would you give a burgeoning screenwriter about work and about CanneSeries?

I think the most important thing is the relationships you make with other people in the industry. Try to be someone other people like working with, stay in touch with everyone you met at LFS, write every day and keep developing ideas so that you've always got a project to be excited about. I tried to make sure that everything I did to make money after graduating was at least in some way related to where I wanted to be. And always keep learning - there are lots of programmes and opportunities out there, not just CanneSeries, and they can be an amazing stepping stone between school and a career.

Want to know more about the MA Screenwriting programme? Join us on one of our MA Screenwriting Open Evenings, held monthly throughout the term. Book here.