Sandi Somers: NSI helped develop my confidence as a screenwriter

Sandi Somers

Photo by Neil Zeller

Storytelling is more important than ever as we all face the unique challenges this year has brought us.

Stories entertain, inspire and transform. They remind us of where we come from and where we can go. We need more stories to free our imaginations and open our hearts to create a path of understanding and healing.

To mark the season of giving during December, we’re sharing impact stories from our alumni and board members to show the power of story in action.

Current NSI students are blessed by the commitment of NSI’s Board of Directors – 100% of whom have donated to NSI’s annual fund. Please join them in supporting our students by donating today and making the power of story even more powerful.

Today’s impact story comes from Sandi Somers, NSI Features First alumna.

Sandi completed the Features First program in 2018 with the film, Hailey Rose. The film received funding through Telefilm Canada and is slated to begin production in spring 2021.

The NSI Features First program helped Sandi develop her script and secure funding for production. Sandi was able to challenge herself as a writer, and dive deeper into her work with her supportive mentors and inspiring peers.

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If you could describe your experience with NSI in three words what would they be, and why?

Motivating, inspiring, exciting.

The NSI Features First program really motivated me to dive deeper into my work, to reach out and connect with helpful people, and to continue working towards a solid script to eventually secure production funds.

The other teams were so talented, and I found our conversations and interactions extremely inspiring. Meeting and collaborating with the facilitators (Shelly Quade and Al Magee) as well as the invited guests and speakers was an exciting adventure.

How did your training through NSI help you get to the place you’re at in your career today?

Training with NSI was so instrumental in helping me develop my script, Hailey Rose, with producer Scott Lepp. Without NSI’s training, Hailey Rose might not have received Telefilm funding this year. We go into production this spring.

How did your instructors, mentors and peers influence you to become a better storyteller?

Al Magee offered great insight and was really supportive, always willing to engage in conversations about the script and other related elements.

Al’s input, my conversations with the other teams, the support and encouragement from Shelly all provided immeasurable learning. I was able to see where my strengths were as a writer and the areas I needed to work on.

It was an amazing venture, hearing vast opinions, amazing critiques and heartfelt discourse on the various drafts of Hailey Rose.

What advice or encouragement would you give a prospective applicant considering NSI programs?

Be thorough, prepared and provide the best material possible for the application. Put the work in and apply! The experience is invaluable.

What has your career trajectory looked like between when you completed training and now?

Scott and I have been dedicated to developing and producing Hailey Rose. We also worked on a few web series for CBC Digital Originals and TELUS Originals. Since NSI, I have been wonderfully busy.

What was the most transformative part of your learning experience?

Coming into the program, I was a director and had written a few scripts previously. This program allowed me to challenge myself as a writer and work on the aspects of my craft that needed help. NSI helped develop my confidence as a screenwriter.

What skills did you acquire in your course that you did not have before?

I learned very practical techniques on how to approach writing when answers for plot and characters aren’t forthcoming, and also how to strengthen story structure.

What project(s) are you currently working on?

I’m shooting my second feature, Hailey Rose, this spring. I continue to mentor women in film via Herland. My COVID passion project, Greet the Dawn, weaves together theatre and film.

Where can people find out more about your work online?

You can always visit, HUDSON on CBC Gem, and Realization.

What is your favourite Canadian film, and why?

My favourite Canadian film is Deepa Mehta’s Fire. It was bold and beautiful and, to this day, I still remember the imagery and the feelings I experienced while watching it so many years ago.

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Got alumni news?

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At NSI, we’re passionate about nurturing storytellers because stories connect us all.

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