WA’s Lauren Brunswick graduates from SPA’s Ones to Watch program
Lauren Brunswick is a writer-director as well as a producer, and was named Young Filmmaker of the Year at last year's WA Screen Awards.
2015 also saw her selected as one of SPA's Ones to Watch, where she was mentored by Arclight's head of acquisitions Mark Lazarus.
Brunswick was inspired to apply after watching friends go through the program.
"The entry pathway into this industry is fairly unclear, but to have seen people go through O2W and go on to achieve their goals made me feel like I could make it up the hill as well", she said.
The producer was able to nominate a mentor herself.
"SPA gave us no boundaries. They said, whatever it is you think your personal development needs right now, pick that person and we'll try our best to make it happen. I picked two people and the first choice just said yes".
"The reason I asked Mark was his understanding about Screen Australia and the production and investment side".
Lazarus was Screen Australia's drama investment manager until 2014.
"He has a very clear business understanding of how content moves, and how you make it profitable and also good."
The mentoring was almost entirely by correspondence, with the Perth-based Brunswick and Sydney-based Lazarus talking over Skype – "pending the internet connection that he's got" (laughs).
Brunswick tells IF she benefited from a clear idea of what she wanted to get out of it.
"If you have a plan about what you want to work towards, then it works really well for you", she said. "You have to push it to get results."
"Mark's got a really crazy schedule, but he would make the time to sit down with me once I asked him a specific question."
As well as broader questions about the industry, Brunswick was able to ask Lazarus detailed questions about the commercial viability of her own projects.
"It was great to get the perspective of someone who assesses projects and takes pitches at international markets", she said.
One of those projects, Top Knot Detective, started out as a pilot for a TV series funded through SBS.
"During the time I was being mentored it actually got picked up for a telemovie with SBS2", Brunswick said.
"That was already being developed externally, but talking to Mark he gave me a couple of digital producers and contacts within other broadcasters and international broadcasters to just get some perspective on it."
Another project is feature Dreaming of Brando, about a young indigenous actor who dreams of emulating his hero in Hollywood.
"I think it's more for an American audience than a European one, so I was asking [Mark] how we could tap into that."
Brunswick also attended SPA's Screen Forever conference.
"All of a sudden I was in Sydney and put on this platform and people actually cared about who I was", she said.
"Mark helped me meet with the people I never would have gotten face time with before, and having that little [level of] elevation, people were interested to know what my projects were."
"Through that I've started a couple of co-productions, one on a series, one on an animation, and the feature I'm doing now I'm talking about doing with one of the other Ones to Watch producers."
As for any expiry clauses in the mentorship program, Brunswick tells IF, "I'm a bit of a hassler, I'm never going to let Mark go now (laughs). He's very generous with his time."
Brunswick is a board member of FTI, WA’s version of Sydney's much-mourned Metro Screen, "because I’m really passionate about emerging filmmakers".
"In the current climate it’s rare to find talent development programs like this one, and support is limited to the next generation, so it’s important to keep these kinds of programs going."
Applications to the 2016 Ones to Watch program close this Friday, April 8, at 5pm AEST.