Monday, March 23, 2009

The Weeklong Screenplay Writing Seminar

Oh my gosh. Incredible. Just amazing.

I just came back from Sandpoint after a weeklong workshop - "playshop," they called it, to lighten it up - Trevor and Fred (the people who organized the workshop) also organize Sandpoint's Film Festival - and "playshop" was a true name - except we also worked and worked.... I got up at 4 a.m. every morning to prepare for the day. Paul Castro ("August Rush," UCLA prof) was our instructor. How do I explain this week? I knew this week would be a big deal for me. Still, I didn't really know. Paul is something else. Patient. Deliberate. Brilliant. Enthusiastic. Involved. Maybe it's the last word that made the biggest difference. There were seven of us in the class. He wanted all seven to succeed. So maybe - a true teacher. The one who keeps all the ducklings in a row. Who would succeed at herding cats. And then all the rest of us - all with different projects, none the same as the other. I actually worked on a project idea that had come five days before the class started - without form - none of the ones I've been working on.... so, challenging but doable. We ended up with a first act (in screenplay writing lingo, that means 17 pages). This worked. It all can be tightened, rewritten, tweaked. But it was good, and strong, and more than worth it. I loved how we all got engaged in working with each other's pages - seeing the stories emerge - having faith that they would, as the week progressed. I believed it more on Thursday than I did on Monday, if just for my own work (meaning the path seemed clearer for everyone else all week long). We plan on meeting as a group in a month - to see progress.

Tuesday was my nadir. I had switched my protagonist twice, was back at the beginning and wondering if I needed to switch back. Then I wrote the first five pages. And then I was good. My best writing comes when I let go of control. It's good and helpful to have outlines, no doubt. But it's like I can hear voices in my head when I really release into a story and let it carry itself through. Suddenly I'm just a scrivener. That happened in a couple places in my 17 pages, this week.

Oh! Oh oh oh. I almost forgot. I got an award. Yes - ahem - voted upon by my colleagues... Best Pitcher. Which, we pitched our stories every week as though Paul were a movie executive. I loved the name of the award - "pitcher" - made me think of the guys from my baseball novel.

I'm hoping to have a draft of the whole screenplay soon - in weeks that can be counted in days. It's all so fresh and immediate in my mind - even had a dream last night, that Paul was trying to help us figure out how best to describe caviar (funny). After I finish the screenplay I've started, I'll draft the baseball novel into script (to learn more about the book, go to the baseball novel website); then the ice skater story. Then I'll have three. And then I make this happen.

Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced ponderay) in Sandpoint
photo credit: Sawyer Pangborn, located here

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