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 I found from having to write 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 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.

'By virtue of being on the course  we were invited to various special industry events and also got to attend The Power of Inclusion; a global summit on representation and inclusion in the film and TV industry, held in Auckland in 2019. During the year I learnt about all the relevant writers' organisations: PANZ, WG, WiFT etc. I joined them all (extremely useful for hearing about competitions, grants, etc) and also went to the various events they held. The industry events were invaluable. I met so many people, some of whom I'm now collaborating with, and got a great sense of the industry, the key players and how it worked.

'I started the course 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: Monica is currently having her first go at short film directing, working on a script she has co-written called, How Much Longer? Bottom Dollar, another short film she co-wrote, has just finished filming and her short film script Catching Breath is scheduled to be filmed in March. 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. She is looking into adapting a trilogy of novels for a young adult TV series.

Last year in the Nelson Fringe Festival she directed two shorts plays which she co-wrote. St Brigid's Eve won the Best Emerging Talent Award at the Fringe and it also came second in the NZ Playwriting Association awards for short plays. She had her short film script Jackpot made by the Victoria University MFA Filmmaking students and a short film she wrote, The Last Supper, made the Gold Reel Screening at the Top of the South Film Festival.