This week I had the honor of reading the work of two writer-friends of mine who are in the throes of readying projects to pitch. One friend had an outline to share while the other had a pilot script based on a popular blog that he created and helmed for a few years. Both friends are really strong, entertaining writers with a fun range of concepts, so I was thrilled to be asked to offer my feedback.
These analytical exercises are a good reminder of how critical the “reading” experience is to screenwriting. I always appreciate receiving feedback, but I also find it helpful to give it. It’s exciting to see new ideas take fruition and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what works and what needs more honing in a project. In resolving these elements, I am hopefully making myself a better writer.
I didn’t study film in college (yeah, one of those woulda/coulda/shoulda regrets), so I was never formally trained in screenwriting. While I’ve always loved film, I didn’t really start writing until six years ago. When I started out I read a number of helpful “how to” books – Save the Cat, How Not to Write a Screenplay, Screenwriters’ Master Class to name a few. I also had the good sense to take a class in screenwriting. Like most 21st century knowledge-seekers I turned to the internet to find my source of movie-making education.
Thanks to Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope website, I stumbled upon The Gotham Writers’ Workshop, which is based in New York City. You can attend live classes there yet they also offer online classes. This allows those of us who don’t live in the Big Apple to sit in our pajamas and share a virtual classroom with people from all over the world. It should be noted (pay attention you writers out there!) that the organization offers a wide variety of writing classes, ranging from fiction writing to blogging to travel articles. I’ve taken three screenwriting classes from the Writers’ Workshop and they’ve all provided me with the following: 1) the structure of deadlines, which forced me to write regularly; 2) helpful information about creating compelling cinematic stories; 3) exposure to some really amazing…and amazingly bad…screenwriting. (Okay, I’m not saying I’m William Goldman by any stretch, but there were some people in class who thought Joe Esterhaus was the embodiment of artful writing.)
Appropriately enough, I had dinner tonight with one of my former Gotham classmates, Mr. F. Yes, he and I have gone from exchanging ideas over the info superhighway to actually meeting face-to-face. Mr. F was living in New Jersey when we landed in a screenwriting class together and he was an immediate standout. Simply put, I was blown away by his writing. Talk about a strong, confident voice – his characters were clearly drawn and grounded in reality and his descriptions were the kind of verbiage I aspire to create myself. I knew I had to stay in touch with him.
And he made it that much easier for me by moving to Pasadena with his wife earlier this summer!
What a treat it was to sit across a table from him tonight and compare thoughts on writing, movies, music, etc. It made me realize that one of my goals in establishing my production company is not just to further my own projects, but to offer a channel through which the creations of others can gain notice. There is so much talent out there creating meaningful, original work and that talent deserves to have an advocate. I would love to be that advocate – hey, it’s a win-win situation because the talent gets produced and *I* look like a genius!
NEXT UP: Small Screen Scrutiny