Workshops and Mentors

Here is a breakdown of what will be covered in each of the four Masterschool workshops in 2017:

Workshop 1: Storytelling and Trailer Production

Sheffield, UK

5-9 June 2017

• Storytelling, Script and Treatment-Writing
• Narrative Strategies
• Written Proposals: Titles, Tag-lines and the Elevator Pitch
• Programming
• Trailer Introduction
• International Fundraising

The Participants are invited to a five-day Storytelling workshop in Sheffield, directly ahead of Sheffield Doc/Fest. The Participants will work in small groups and develop their stories with guidance from international industry experts. The Participants will be guided in how to write a treatment to best appeal to commissioners. They will also learn techniques on how to produce a trailer or sizzle to maximize their chances to unlock funding. They will also be guided on how to create a budget for international production and learn about regional and international funding sources to help inform your finance plan.

Workshop 2: Producing

Vienna, Austria

28 August-1 September 2017

• Storytelling

• Trailer Training and Editing
• Budgeting & Fundraising
• Multiplatform Strategy
• New Business Models
• New Technologies
• Virtual Reality Storytelling
• Pitching your Project

In this workshop, dedicated experts will help the Participants fine-tune the elements of the projects they have been working on since Workshop 1. Materials covered are the treatment, trailer/sizzle, budget and finance plan. In addition, the Participants will be given initial training in how to pitch. By the end of the workshop, they will be well along the way to being ready to launch their ideas on the international market.

Workshop 3: Pitching

Leipzig, Germany

24-27 October 2017

• Pitching Training and Technical Preparation
• Finance Consultations after the Pitching Session

Workshop 3 is all about the pitch. Specialist pitch training from leading experts will give the Participants the confidence to present themselves and their projects in the best possible way. The final pitching event, the Leipzig Networking Days, is attended by some of the world's leading commissioning editors and the Participants' opportunity to showcase the culmination of all their work. The Masterschool will continue to provide support after the pitch, and show how the Participants can build long-lasting relationships with industry stakeholders, including commissioners.

Workshop 4: Impact, Distribution and Business Models

Cologne, Germany

14-18 November 2017

• Financing & Funding Strategy
• Impact Producing
• Legal Aspects of International Co-Productions
• Festival and International Distribution Strategy
• Online Marketing

This workshop will help the Participants develop a strategy to follow up with commissioners who have expressed an interest in their ideas and guide them in how to make a finance plan. Experts will help the Participants weigh up the benefits of working with distributors and sales agents as well as advise which markets to attend, which funds to apply to and how to finance any budget deficits. And a lawyer will be at hand to offer the Participants helpful legal advice. Participants will gain valuable insights into online marketing and outreach campaigning and the workshop will open up for Cologne based professionals as we will look into Storytelling techniques in Virtual Reality.

Dates and locations are subject to change!


Mentors work very closely with the Participants during the development phase of their projects. The three mentors each work with five projects. The role of the Mentor is to guide the Participants and help them shape their projects to ensure they are suitable for the international market, including international audience appeal, commissioner and other financier appeal. Mentors also provide the Participants with the necessary know-how and networking skills to help them work internationally in the future.

The mentors, tutors and experts are subject to change each year. The mentors of the Masterschool 2017 are:

Jihan El-Tahri

Jihan El-Tahri started her working career as a journalist. Between 1984 and 1990 she worked as a news agency correspondent and TV researcher covering Middle East politics. In 1990 she began directing and producing documentaries for French television, the BBC, PBS and other international broadcasters. Since then she has directed more than a dozen films including the Emmy nominated The House of Saud, which explores the Saudi/US relations through the portraits of the Kingdom’s monarchs. The Price of Aid, which won the European Media prize in 2004, examined who really benefits from the system of International Food Aid. Cuba: An African Odyssey, which recounts the untold story of Cuba’s support for African revolutions, has received multiple International awards.

Her most recent feature documentary Behind the Rainbow, which examines the transitional process in South Africa, has been released in 2009 and has since won various prizes. She is currently finalizing a 3 hour documentary provisionally titled Egypt’s Modern Pharaohs. Jihan has also written two books, The 9 Lives of Yasser Arafat and Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Years War published by Penguin. Jihan El-Tahri is also engaged in various associations and institutions working with African cinema. She has served as treasurer of the Guild of African Filmmakers in the Diaspora, Regional Secretary of the Federation of Pan African Cinema (FEPACI) and as an Advisor on Focus Feature’s Africa first Program.

Derren Lawford

Derren spent over a decade at the BBC where he helped launch 1Xtra, was Panorama’ s first digital exec, secured a number of BBC Three documentary commissions, was the Mutliplatform Exec for the award-winning Our War and then at BBC Worldwide, helped launch the Global iPlayer in 16 territories around the globe. He then left to join youth engagement agency Livity as Head of Content, before joining London Live as a commissioner specialising in documentaries and breaking new talent on and off screen.

He is currently Creative Director at independent production company , Woodcut Media. His recent projects include two-part documentary series, Football: A Brief History by Alfie Allen, access documentary, The Ivy, political feature doc, Generation Revolution and two Idris Eba documentaries, Mandela, My Dad and Me and Cut From A Different Cloth.

Derren is also a Board Member of Sheffield Doc/Fest and One World Media respectively.

Simon Staffans

Simon Staffans is an award-winning format and content developer working in Finland. Over a distinguished career he has created everything from TV shows to social media strategies and corporate storytelling campaigns. His knowledge of multiplatform storytelling and transmedia development has taken him around the world for speaking engagements, workshop facilitation and international consultancy. His insightful articles have been published in numerous journals and academic papers and he is an avid blogger on his website Evolving Media. He holds a Bachelors degree in Social Sciences, looking into how storytelling can affect people’s willingness to participate in scientific surveys.

Currently, Simon is the CEO of ReThink – New Media Solutions, a production and innovation company. Additionally, he has his own company Storista through which he channels innovative projects in the multi-platform arena. Previously he worked for MediaCity Finland as a media strategist, content developer and producer.