Hayley McKenzie is the Founder of Script Angel, a screenwriter coaching and talent development company. She was previously script executive for over fifteen years including for BBC, ITV and Channel Four. Hayley is an international speaker at film and television events including Cannes Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Women in Film & Television, Story Expo (Los Angeles), Craft of Comedy UK, LOCO London Comedy Film Festival and London Screenwriters’ Festival.
This year’s Summer #SetReady participants are lucky enough to be attending her ‘How To Start Your Career as a Screenwriter’ workshop today. So let’s learn a little more about the talented Hayley…
What is your background in film?
After finishing a Degree in English Literature and Media Production I started working in film and tv production before moving into script development. I then spent fifteen years as a professional script executive in UK film and tv working in both development and production before founding Script Angel.
What do you do now?
I run Script Angel which is a screenwriter coaching and talent development organisation. I’ve got a fantastic team of screenwriting coaches who are all as passionate as me about helping screenwriters fulfil their potential.
What are your biggest achievements?
Not getting burned out by the industry! I’m as excited about developing writers now as I was when I started, maybe even more so!
What do you think about the film industry?
I think that it’s got easier to navigate over the last twenty years now you can find information online and connect to people who already work in the industry. When I started out IMDb didn’t even exist (I’ve really given away my age there!) so I made my own database of productions and credits so that I could find out who was making what. Then I had to buy the Artists and Writers Yearbook to find out production company addresses because again, that information didn’t exist online back then!
And of course fantastic organisations like the National Youth Film Academy help young filmmakers to navigate the film industry. Although it’s got easier to navigate (if you are willing to search for the information) it’s definitely got more competitive.
I think that the UK film industry faces the same challenges as the whole creative industries sector. What’s true of the film industry is often also true for games design, television production, fashion, etc. It’s hard to retain talent because we can only offer short-term contracts. When you’ve got rent or a mortgage to pay, that’s really not an attractive proposition.
What do you think are the reasons for so many young filmmakers not making it into the film industry?
Because the whole of the creative industries is essentially a gig economy sector it’s incredibly hard to sustain a career. Jobs tend to last only as long as a project takes to get made so you’re constantly looking for the next piece of work, and the next, and the next. The vast amount of energy and determination it takes just to keep getting the work means many, many people drop out. It’s also incredibly competitive so again, you have to work so hard just to get the next opportunity that it can be exhausting.
Who are your favourite actors in the British film industry?
I always love watching Gemma Arterton and I thought Florence Pugh was fantastic in ‘Lady Macbeth’. Not film, I know, but I’m also excited to see Michaela Coel in Hugo Blick’s ‘Black Earth Rising’.
Who are favourite filmmakers (British film industry)?
I’m a big fan of Amma Asante – I thought ‘Belle’ was an extraordinarily accomplished piece of cinematic storytelling for someone so early in their filmmaking career. And Carol Morley’s ‘Dreams of a Life’ has haunted me ever since I first saw it. I’m always interested to see what she’ll do next.
What made you want to pursue film?
I loved watching film and tv. I loved the adrenaline rush of production and I loved developing stories. Working in script development is the perfect combination of all my favourite things.
Lastly, are you looking forward to joining us on the course next week?
I’m really looking forward to joining your writers on the course next week.