The Careers Adviser: 'How do I get into writing for the screen?

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The Independent Online

How to follow the script

I'm doing an arts degree and would like a career in screenwriting. Where do I start?

There is no one route, and you don't strictly need qualifications or training, although many people do take a course in creative writing or scriptwriting and fund themselves with other work while they do that. You can, for instance, get work as a freelance scriptreader, assessing scripts for agencies or production companies. To get on the books, you'd need first to send a sample report. Apart from getting practice with writing, one main recommendation is that you read as many scripts as possible, especially from genres in which you want to write. Aspiring writers sometimes forget to read widely enough.

I'm sure you already watch films, and it's worth going to masterclasses or networking events. Learning the basic structures of the industry as you work up a portfolio is important. You can join organisations that help with training and networking, such as Euroscript ( www.euroscript.co.uk); The Script Factory ( www.scriptfactory.co.uk), which offers a two-day freelance scriptreading course; and www.tapsnet.org(for new TV writers).

Skillset advises on training across the film industry and has good case studies on its site ( www.skillset.org/careers) showing you the career paths some chose. Other useful sites are www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom and the New Producers Alliance on www.npa.org.uk.

Sparks won't fly

My husband is studying an electrical course in Israel. He will have studied theory, physics and chemistry, maths, IT and technical English, and done practical work, to qualify as an electrical technician. Would this be enough to enable him to work here?

The first thing your husband should do is contact UK NARIC ( www.naric.org.uk) which will, for a fee, cross-match his Israeli qualifications with the standards required to qualify here.

Essentially, he has to have an NVQ at Level 3 or the equivalent, so he will probably need to supplement his qualifications with the industry practical AM2 test, as well as a health and safety assessment and a UK wiring regulations course.

Iain Macdonald, head of education and training at the Electrical Contractors' Association, says that if he wants to do commercial or industrial work he will need an Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) card. There are various types of card depending on where you want to work in the industry, and they are issued by the Joint Industry Board ( www.jib.org.uk). The card will mean he can carry out work he is qualified to do on UK construction sites of all sizes.

If he wants to work in the domestic sector, it would still be handy to have the card rather than limit his options, but he is less likely to be asked to produce it, and he would be well advised to look for work with a firm registered with a "Competent Person" scheme under Part P of the building regulations. At this more basic level of work, he will still require a minimum qualification – he could consider the Level 2 VRQ for domestic installers provided by EMTA Awards ( www.eal.org.uk). You say he has studied technical English – his command of the language would of course be an issue as he must be able to read plans and function safely. For queries about qualifications, he can ring the sector skills council for the industry, SummitSkills, on 0800 068 8336.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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