Archives For Screenwriting

Image via Reddit

Aaron Sorkin is one of the best known and most influential screenwriters working today. He received four Primetime Emmy Awards for ‘The West Wing’ and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011 for ‘The Social Network’.

Earlier this week Sorkin participated in an Ask Me Asking session on Reddit to help promote his new online screenwriting class. When Sorkin was asked how much of a character’s backstory he knows before he writes, he provided the following insightful answer:

I don’t like to commit myself to anything in a character’s backstory until I have to. I didn’t know going into the West Wing that Bartlet had MS. Then, along came an episode where I needed to introduce the idea that the First Lady (Dr. Channing) was a medical doctor. And the way I did it was by giving Bartlet MS.

David Mamet have written some excellent essays on this subject. You can get lost in the weeds if you sit down and try to create an entire biography for your character. If this is what they were like when they were six years old, and this is what they did when they were seven years old, and they scraped their knee when they were eight years old. Your character, assuming your character is 50 years old, was never six years old, or seven years old or eight years old. Your character was born the moment the curtain goes up, the moment the movie begins, the moment the television show begins, and your character dies as soon as it’s over. Your character only becomes seven years old when they say, “Well when I was seven years old, I fell in a well, and ever since then I’ve had terrible claustrophobia. Okay?

Characters and people aren’t the same thing. They only look alike.

I write a lot of drafts of screenplays and plays. I keep writing and I keep writing; what I try to do at the beginning is just get to the end. Once I’ve gotten to the end, I know a lot more about the piece, and I’m able to go back to the beginning and touch stuff that never turned into anything, and highlight things that are going to become important later on. And I go back, and I keep doing that, and I keep doing that, and I’ll retype the whole script, over and over again, just to make things sharper and sharper. That’s for movies and plays. In television, there just isn’t that kind of time. In television, I have to write a 55-minute movie every nine days, so we shoot my first draft.

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Hollie Overton - Baby Doll Interview

Hollie Overton is a Chicago-born, Texas-raised writer who has worked on a number of television series including Cold Case, The Client List and Shadowhunters, the series based on Cassandra Clare’s international bestseller The Mortal Instruments.

Hollie’s debut novel, Baby Doll, is out this month. We contacted her to find out more about her experience writing both scripts and books.

You didn’t study creative writing or English Literature at college, but instead acting. Do you think this background as a performer impacts your approach to storytelling? 
Acting was my first love and those skills I learned have been invaluable as both as a TV writer and now a novelist.  I fell in love with performing in middle school and high school.  I learned how to tell stories by analyzing plays, breaking down characters and studying structure. I spent years studying acting and all that knowledge informs everything I write. I visual things that I’m writing, how will it look, is it authentic. The same goes for dialogue.  How would it sound if an actor were saying those words? Even though I didn’t continue my acting pursuits, I’m so grateful for the training and that it led me down this career path.

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The University of East Anglia’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing is offering a free, online course focused on screenwriting.

Starting on Monday 2 May, this course is for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level: “It will establish a common vocabulary for approaching the screenplay and form the basis for upcoming courses in dramatic adaptation, the crime screenplay, and other genres and skills.”

The course is led by Michael Lengsfield. A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA program, Michael has written scripts for The Walt Disney Company, Harpo Entertainment and others, and his work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Fellowship and Mentorship Programs for Screenwriters in 2016

Please check the relevant websites for full entry terms and conditions.

Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab
is an intensive four-week program that runs two to three evenings a week in Los Angeles every Autumn. It is designed to help screenwriters develop and express their unique voices as writers and to take their current scripts to the next level. Lab Fellows connect with various established screenwriters and explicate their films, learn about their careers, and discuss the writing process. The fellowship includes a $10,000 cash grant as well as inclusion in the Screenwriting Lab.. Non-member applications close on 18 April or Film Independent members have until 2 May to apply.

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. This international screenwriting competition is open to writers based anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenship. All entrants must be aged over 18.The final entry deadline is 2 May.

CBS Diversity Institute’s Writers Mentoring Program
aims is to provide access and opportunities for talented and motivated diverse writers. The program is held in Los Angeles but writers do not need to be American residents to apply (there are no travel grants or subsidies though). Applications close 2 May.

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The University of East Anglia’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing is offering a free, online course focused on screenwriting.

Starting on Monday 29 February, this course  is for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level: “It will establish a common vocabulary for approaching the screenplay and form the basis for upcoming courses in dramatic adaptation, the crime screenplay, and other genres and skills.”

The course is led by Michael Lengsfield. A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA program, Michael has written scripts for The Walt Disney Company, Harpo Entertainment and others, and his work has screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Applications Now Open for the $35,000 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting 2015

Recent films written by Nicholl Fellows

Applications for the prestigious and lucrative Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting are now open for 2016.

This international screenwriting competition awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. Since 1986, 154 fellowships totaling $3,915,000 have been awarded.

Who Can Enter

The competition is open to writers based anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenship. All entrants must be aged over 18. Entry scripts must be the original work of one writer, or of two writers who collaborated equally, and must be written originally in English. Translated scripts are not eligible.

The fellowships are intended for new and/or amateur screenwriters. In order to be eligible, an entrant’s total earnings for motion picture and television writing may not exceed US$25,000 before the end of the competition.

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Penn State University Writing Residency

Pennsylvania State University‘s Altoona Campus English Program is taking applications for a one-semester teaching residency in poetry and playwriting/screenwriting. The program is targeted at early career writers, preferably without a published book.

The residency is designed to offer an emerging writer substantial time to write and offers a salary of $10,000 in return for teaching one general education level introduction to creative writing workshop during the Fall 2016 semester (22 August to 16 December).

The resident writer will also give a public reading, visit other creative writing courses and work informally with English major students. The hiring committee is looking for a writer with a history of publication in poetry and staged readings/performances (and/or publications) in playwriting or screenwriting. The successful candidate typically lives in the Altoona area during the residency; benefits and housing are not included.

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