Thursday, August 25, 2011

What "they" are looking for among other things

There are now at least a dozen websites that can help the aspiring screenwriter write a box-office blockbuster. All that is needed is either Screenwriter or Final Draft softwares. Oh, and the guidance of sure-fire screenwriting gurus to guide you.

For a fee, of course. 

How about this one: 21 Steps to a Powerful Rewrite.

With these steps you can:

1. Triple the quality of your screenplay.
2. Cause you to win contests.
3. Attract producers to your writing.

With promises like that, especially implying that this will happen, who wouldn't attend. And there's no charge* (asterick as written in the ad). But it's limited to only 100 callers. All you pay is long distance fees.

Yes, this is a "tele-seminar".

As you remember, I actually did teach screenwriting for UCLA extension classes for just over 2 years. Eventually I left because it was taking too much of my time for very little money as well as I was burned out from the amount of work I did for the students. I taught an on-line course with people from all over the USA, Canada and even Europe.

The biggest difference between onsite (which I did once) and online, is that the online teacher is always accessible. Day or night. It become more than a part-time job to me as I seriously cared about what I taught and how it was received.

And the one thing I learned from it all was this; I can show you how to write a screenplay but I can't show you how to write a great screenplay. For one good reason.

That part has to come from you. 

And most aspiring writers don't have it. And they likely never will. There is no shortcut to writing, you have to write. And write and write. You wouldn't believe the amount of students I had whose dream was to write one blockbuster then go off to be a dentist or supermarket manager. Really.

Am I bursting someone's dream?

Maybe, but I'm being real. Writers write, simple as that.

I took a week-end course once with Robert McKee, arguably the most noted screenplay guru along with Syd Field. He was very entertaining and had just enough rough edges that made the audience swoon. Everything he said made sense, it seemed so logical. As I left, everyone was buzzing about how brilliant he was and how it all seemed so easy.

But on Monday, all alone in my home office, it all dissolved into two things; me and that damn screen. An empty screen waiting for words to appear. And all the advice from McKee seemed to feel like a great movie you watched and after a few days, made you smile. It wasn't instruction - it was entertainment. And he's brilliant at it.

But it didn't help me write.

I had to resort to the usual thing; feel guilt until I forced myself to write. And since I had been doing this for years, I knew that I would do it even if it was guilt that forced me to write.

I'm sure these gurus can help some people, but it's ironic that almost all of them have never sold a screenplay. Isn't that like someone teaching you to fly who never has flown alone themselves?

One thing I did notice was that when I taught at UCLA, the majority of students signed up for my class because I had a dozen or more credits in features and episodic. And again, if you look at the instructors at UCLA, you will find very few who are still working, someone said you should never put a UCLA extension credit on your resume, it suggests your career is over. My agent even refused to put the credit on my credit list.

And of course, I mean this in the nicest way.

The last time I did a course at UCLA it was for "the Rewrite" and I had 15 students with screenplays anywhere from 70 to 150 pages. Try writing 5-8 pages of notes for that many people in a week!

I did that. And it was soon apparent this was a full-time job. All for $180 wk. And when I and a few other writers suggested the school cut the numbers back they said that was a great idea but not possible. Just remind the students to take the next class next semester.

If you're contemplating one of those screenwriter guru's course, by all means take it. You might learn a few things and you might not. But I'm sure they're all fun, lots of jokes, lots of fundamentalist-type speeches that might even inspire you.

Just keep in  mind that when you write, you won't be in a crowd enjoying some entertainment a little bit of inspiration. If you get that much, it'll be worth it.

And I don't know what a "tele-seminar" is.

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