Jess Paine and Ramon Watkins.

When Jess Paine and Ramon Watkins were announced as the inaugural recipients of the In Dreams Fellowship at the beginning of last year, their aspirations of cracking the US market were given a significant boost.

However, the screenwriting initiative’s mission to spark a new wave of Australian storytelling perspectives in Hollywood coincided with the more unwelcome wave of COVID across the world, which cast a shadow over new opportunities in the industry.

Despite this, both Paine and Watkins have managed to take their craft to the next level, with the former having her YA sci-fi pilot The Replacements optioned by Kojo Studios and Stampede Ventures partnership, The Alliance, while the latter has joined Impact Australia 2 to work on half-hour queer comedy Daddies.

Paine, who writes scripts for Neighbours while developing other projects, told IF the pandemic may have even carried a silver lining.

“We’ve entered an era where it is very common to have video conference meetings, whereas before, a lot of people I talked to in the industry talked very openly about the fact no one in LA wants to have video meetings and that you have to go over,” she said.

“The nature of the past couple of years has meant we have moved beyond and I feel like I have built some actual contacts over there now while sitting in Australia, which is fantastic.”

As part of the fellowship, Paine and Watkins were given virtual introductions and meetings with key Hollywood industry professionals, as well as creative guidance from In-Dreams founders Carmen Knox and Melissa Azizi. They also completed the Storywise six-week Teleseminar with story/career consultant and In Dreams sponsor Jen Grisanti.

Carmen Knox and Melissa Azizi.

Knox is a former creative executive at Los Angeles-based independent studio Insurrection Media, who works as a screen consultant in Melbourne, while Azizi spent many years working closely with producer Gail Mutrux, helping to produce The Danish Girl, Show Me a Hero and iBoy, before establishing her own company Sparkwood Films.

Their experience proved valuable for VCA graduate Watkins who told IF he entered the fellowship at a time when his career “needed a leg up”.

“Carmen and Melissa really took my hand a bit and taught me how to approach meetings. They set up meetings with people they thought would be interested in my voice,” he said.

“There was a lot of specific coaching that really put my nerves at ease for the first few meetings and then I got the hang of it.

“The biggest takeaway for me was that the people on the other end of those meetings are interested in you and not just the script they’ve read that got you that meeting; they’re interested in a writer that has something to say.”

Unrepresented Australian screenwriters of all experience levels are encouraged to apply for the second round of the fellowship, with submissions to consist of an original full-length screenplay or teleplay that best showcases their craft.

Five semi-finalists will be notified and asked to submit a short video introducing themselves and their screenwriting dreams and ambitions, from which three finalists will be announced.

The two winners will be selected by a panel of Hollywood judges, featuring representatives from companies such as SK Global Entertainment, Greg Silverman’s Stampede, Verve Talent and Literary Agency, and Good Fear Content.

The two fellows will be announced in mid-February 2022, with the Jen Grisanti Storywise 6-Week Seminar to commence mid-March, and virtual introductions and meetings with Hollywood professionals beginning May.

Application fees apply, with discounted Early Bird fee available until September 24, 2021. The final deadline for submissions is November 5. Find out more information about how to apply here.

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