Labour Weekend will be busy with people sharpening their pencils, collecting their thoughts and soaking up the instruction on offer at Tauranga Arts Festival’s writing workshops.

“We like to be able to offer something back to the community and have been doing writing workshops of all sorts for a few years,” festival director Jo Bond says. “It gives aspiring locals the chance to hone their skills and learn from some of this country’s best writers.”

Among this year’s workshops are two on one day by actor and screenwriter Tim Balme, an old boy of Otumoetai College. Tim’s television writing credits include ‘The Brokenwood Mysteries’, ‘Outrageous Fortune’ and ‘The Almighty Johnsons’, while his on-screen appearances date back to Peter Jackson’s 1992 cult movie ‘Braindead’.

Having recently spent 3 years as head of development for South Pacific Pictures, Tim will in his first workshop (Saturday, October 26, Script to Screen), attempt to demystify – from a writer's perspective – the making of film and television.

“There’s a lot of jargon in this world so, for instance, helping move from an idea into a pitch will explain loglines, themes and one-pagers, as well as storylining, scripting, what to do with that idea and what might happen if someone likes it.”

His second workshop (Art and Craft of Screenwriting) dovetails with the first and will be, he says, about “how to write down what you see in your head in a form that is relatable, readable, compelling and televisual”.

One practical exercise will be how to improve a deliberately badly rewritten scene from a recognisable show. “We will discuss it, edit it collectively and make it better,” Tim says. “Then watch the produced version and read the real script. Finally, we would attempt to write an original scene together.

“I'm not a fan of putting people on the spot or forcing people to participate and have them feeling they might be judged. It will be fun and stress free, but it will be practical.”

Waikato University’s creative writing tutor Tracey Slaughter will also have a cinematic tone to her workshop on Sunday, October 27 for short stories (Short Back and Sides).

“I push people to choose the best scenes to put on screen, the ones that hold the most heat and energy,” says Tracey, whose acclaimed collection of short stories, ‘deleted scenes for lovers’, was longlisted for the 2017 Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction.

“The tension, drama and pacing are what makes the short form so vibrant, just like film,” she says. “The form demands really active choices – there’s pressure on every word, every sentence, every line.

“A fun exercise we’ll be doing is recalling an ending from each of our own lives and then working on an interesting opening – I want sentences that leave a mark on the reader’s radar.”