Six teams of film-makers shuffle nervously in their seats. Eyes dart. Throats clear. Fingers drum.
Interspersed throughout the room are representatives from Screen Australia, ScreenWest, the Australian Writers' Guild... and the three consultants who will generously offer their expertise, counsel and good humour over the coming days.
Introductions are made. Expectations set. Projects announced...
So begins Feature Navigator, a week long development workshop for feature film projects. And what a diverse group of films they are - horror, psychological thriller, a Bollywood style comedy, children's adventure, period drama, and our own supernatural mystery.
I know some of the people around the table but there are a lot of new and unknown faces. We are all colleagues but also competitors - only two teams will receive development money based on the next draft delivered in three months time. A draft that will be immeasurably enhanced by the sessions we're about to go through.
We meet the Head of Development at Screen Australia, Martha Coleman, who later that day (Monday) gives an engaging and informative session, described here. The following day The Red Bride team have a thirty minute 'meet and greet' with Martha - the project is discussed, who we are, what we've done, what we hope to do.
Then it's down to business. First up - Sue Murray who was an Executive Producer on Dr. Plonk, Ten Canoes, Tom White and co-produced Alexandra's Project with Rolf de Heer. The script is discussed at length and I am delighted with Sue's insight and rigour. This is exactly how it should be and I feel comfortable with the back and forth. There are some very perceptive observations I had not considered (or heard) before and this is like gold. Chris (director) and David (*co-producer) are also engaged in the creative conversation and Sue's comments about the team and Chris' directing style are very positive. Then it's on to marketing, casting and other matters. A thoroughly positive and valuable consultation done with great grace and precision.
Tomorrow, I am really pleased to be back in the company of Messrs. Rawlinson and van der Borgh whose workshop earlier in the year I was most impressed with. Then Elissa Down (The Black Balloon) - who I know from her Perth days - on Friday. Elissa has spent the last two years in Los Angeles developing a slate of projects and it will be fascinating to hear more of that process.
I am feeling good about the future of the script and embracing the momentum this sort of intense scrutiny delivers. More reports as events unfold...
Special mentions to Alan Payne from the WA Branch of the Australian Writer's Guild and Rikki Lea Bestall from ScreenWest for making Feature Navigator possible and for the quality of consultants engaged.
* My other co-producer, Jocelyn Quioc, would love to be with us but is unfortunately unable to attend due to work commitments.