WRITERS ON GENRE: Takes the ambitious amateur screenwriter closer to the level of 'Pro'
By Thom Fowler
Posted 07/29/03 08:45:29
The Writers Guild Foundation (the non-profit educational arm of the Writers Guild of America) offers numerous educational opportunities for those trying to understand the business of screenwriting and how to get into the business of screenwriting. Series like WRITERS ON WRITING, WRITERS ON GENRE and conferences like WORDS INTO PICTURES provide ample opportunities to get an insider’s perspective on what it takes to break in and survive as a screenwriter in Hollywood.
The 2003 Writers On Genre took place June 21 - 22 at the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood, California and featured over 25 screenwriters who shared their expertise not only in their genre but how their career took shape. “Everyone has a different way into the business,” is an oft-repeated phrase. The Writers on Genre conference was geared towards someone who had a rudimentary professional understanding of the business of screenwriting and invaluable insider insight was showered on the audience.
While the opportunities to interface with working writers may not get your script sold, it will equip you with the information you need to work the system and create a career for yourself. It can also help you get past the myths and romance of being a screenwriter and help you avoid the costly mistakes that outsiders and amateurs make. Some tips I picked up were, “be flexible, the script you sell may not be the movie that is made.” “Write what interests you. Write the scene you are most interested in first.”
I also learned that there is no one single way to do anything. Every writer has a different approach to their work, to the business and to other writers. You want to keep developing your craft, but for the studio side of the business (as opposed to the world of independent film which is a completely different business) you also need an agent and that is where your creativity comes into play. There is no career path. But there are professionals willing to give you the benefit of their hard won experience. Many of the writers also teach or have websites for screenwriters.
Among the speakers were David S. Goyer who is currently writing the new Batman film for MEMENTO director Chris Nolan, Jessica Bendinger who wrote BRING IT ON, Don Roos who wrote BOUNCE (Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow) and wrote and directed THE OPPOSITE OF SEX (Christina Ricci, Lisa Kudrow and Martin Donovan) and Ted Elliot who co-wrote SHREK and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL. The sessions were organized by genre (hence, the name of the conference, Writers On Genre) and included a panel on documentary and non-fiction programming, which interestingly enough ranged from so-called reality programming to more traditional non-fiction documentary programming.
The Saturday session ended with a cocktail party where several of the panelists made themselves available to discuss the craft and business of screenwriting in a more informal, one-on-one setting.
For the ambitious trying to learn the ropes, it is easy to get caught up in endless rounds of workshops and seminars so use them to learn what you need to learn to help you make good decisions about moving your career forward. If you find you are just making the circuit, find a new approach. For more information about Writers Guild Foundation programs, go to www.wgfoundation.org.