Monday, April 18, 2016

More truth...

 So, okay, here's the second blog about teaching screenwriting. This is all about online teaching and why I think it's better.

Because I did online teaching at UCLA.

And this is why I like online better than on-site.

However, I am going to tell you how I taught, and not how others taught, online or on-site. Again, I will be referring to my book and no, I'm not trying to get you to buy one. 

What I learned about teaching screenwriting online was a lot better than a teacher talking for one hour, like the previous blog.

I would set it up like this: 

I first did that sylabus thing, in which I describe what and how I am going to show you how I write. It's based on 10 produced features and ten rewrites of other writers, not to mention a lot of rewrites that never came through. 

So this is my "theory" on screenwriting for my first class:


Welcome to 10 weeks of attempting to get blood from a stone. At least that’s what I was told many eons ago when I had my first English Comp course way back in Michigan when the Temptations were playing on the PA system and Bobby Kennedy was running for President.

The “blood from a stone” quote is quite real, because that’s what writing can be when it’s hard. When it’s not hard, it flows like a river of music and you feel elated and happy and even the unpaid bills look friendly. Another quote, about the film industry, but appropriate to screenwriting is this, “it’s like being married to a beautiful woman (or man) who cheats on you and you know she cheats on you and it breaks your heart. But every so often, she dresses up just for you and you take her out to dinner and look at her radiance across the table, and you say to yourself, it’s worth it.”

That’s what writing is. Most of the time it breaks your heart but now and then, when it’s working, when you’re watching actors take your lines and lift them to new heights, you know it’s worth it all.

Still with me?  This is my way of throwing you into the world of screenwriting and real writers.  Because if you think it’s just something you do as a lark on the way to making that $4 million spec sale, forget it. It isn’t a job, it’s a way of life, writers are always writing. I spend less than 2 hours a day on my computer (an old Toshiba notebook, if you want to know), but 22 hours thinking writing. Watching characters on the street or in coffee shops, or wherever, listening to people talking, watching their nuances, listening to the shape of their words. Watching people argue, watching people who eat alone in restaurants (I recommend this especially for actors, who can learn incredible amounts from a person eating alone who feels all eyes are on them and acts accordingly).

And when you do finish your great script and if you manage to sell it, then you face the abuse and humiliation of the “rewrite”.  Sometimes this is relatively painless and even inspiring, when you’re working with talented producers and actors who’s egos aren’t threatened by an often more educated and talented writer. Other times, it’s hell.  There’s an old joke, directors hate to have the writer on set because he’s the only one who knows the director’s faking it. We told the story first. He’s just interpreting it.

At least they pay you lots of money. Sometimes.

*Next Wednesday I'll get more into why I think good writing can be done online.

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