Monica Pausina (Scriptwriting, 2019)

I left with such a strong foundation...For me, it was nothing short of miraculous.

Monica writes: 'The course is amazing. No hyperbole intended. Ken's been teaching it for almost two decades and he's distilled the learning for each lesson down to its essence. He has a remarkably effective teaching style and best of all, a really enjoyable one.

'One of the many great things about the course is that you have writing due in from day two. Self-doubt, indecision, writer's block...none of these things are able to stop you producing work, as they might when left to your own devices, because there simply isn't time. By the end of the eight months you'll have written three drafts of a full-length project, a TV pilot, a short play, a short film and a radio play. So you have to overcome any obstacles, over and over again. I found that invaluable training. I came to recognise obstacles as simply an inevitable part of the process and became adept at ignoring them or finding ways around them. Each time it got easier. One of the coolest things about writing so much was discovering who I was as a writer: what my strengths were, what I was drawn to and what I wanted to say. At the end of the year, looking over various pieces of work, all of those things were suddenly clear to me.

'The small class size of ten is a wonderful luxury and allows for such rich learning. My favourite classes were the practical workshop sessions where we generated story ideas, characters and events on the spot for all sorts of mediums and genres. They were a joy.

'Also a joy was the experience of seeing words I'd written on a page brought to life for the first time. One of the many wonderful opportunities the course provides is having a rehearsed reading of your short play performed at Circa Theatre. I still remember sitting in the first rehearsal and getting goosebumps as I watched the actors transform words into performance. It got me interested in directing and serendipitously, I discovered a beginners' workshop which I took and loved.

'I'm from Nelson and I found that simply being in Wellington created opportunities. As well as taking the directors' workshop, I also joined all the relevant scriptwriters' organisations at the start of the year such as Writers Guild, PANZ and WiFT, and followed NZ Film Commission and others on social media. In addition to it being a really useful way to learn about grants and opportunities, the industry events were invaluable. I developed a great sense of the industry and how it works. And by virtue of being on the course we were invited to some special industry events.

'I started with nada, basically. Some potential but little else. I feel like the course was a kiln I emerged from transformed. I left with such a strong foundation: a well-honed set of invaluable skills, a folio of work, a sense of who I was as a writer and a quiet confidence. For me, it was nothing short of miraculous.'

Bio: In 2023 Monica directed her first short film, The Predicament, which she also co-wrote. It won Best Film in the Top of the South Film Festival. She has just co-written and co-directed her second short film, The Anniversary Effect. Three short films she wrote the scripts for, Bottom Dollar, The Last Supper and Jackpot, have also been filmed. She recently made the top twenty shortlist of the joint NZFC/ The Blacklist competition with her feature film script When Night Falls, written in her MA year. In 2021 she co-wrote and directed two short plays for the Nelson Fringe. St Brigid's Eve won the Best Emerging Talent Award and came second in the NZ Playwriting Association awards for short plays.

In 2023 she co-wrote and co-directed The Anniversary Effect, which won several awards at the Top of the South Film Festival, including Best Film, and was officially selected for the NZ Aotearoa Mental Health Film Festival.


Watch The Anniversary Effect (13 min, 14 sec, 2023)