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Screenwritng -- Great Film Job

Updated on March 26, 2018
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna worked on many productions as PA, Craft Services, Talent Scout, Grip, and Producer. Credits include Bowling for Columbine, Wallace.

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“Artists struggle more than a lot of other folk, and this can wear down their pride in themselves. Writers don't let this happen to you. If you remove artists from this world -- the architects, the painters, the writers, the landscape architects, the furniture designers, the clothing designers, the people who design our cars -- if you removed the whole lot -- the world would be a cold and bland place indeed. Artists bring beauty and insight. They make our lives worthwhile. There can be nothing nobler than to let your creativity shine forth, and to share with the world your personal take on the complexities, contradictions, and sometimes the humor of the human condition.” David Freeman

Kenna: Give us an idea as to why you started Beyond Structure Workshops and consulting?

David: Beyond Structure began as a response to problems I encountered in the first screenwriting classes I took. I was always told there was no way to easily learn what all the critical aspects of screenwriting success were. For instance, I was recurrently told you had to have some kind of inborn "knack" for pulling off things like writing natural-sounding dialogue with subtext, or creating emotionally and psychologically complex characters, or crafting memorable scenes, which operate on a number of levels simultaneously. But if you ever want to write a film as great as, for instance, "American Beauty," "As Good As It Gets," "The Matrix," or "Trainspotting," you've got to be able to do all of these.

Making it as a Screenwriter

Over ten years, I created specific techniques to address all these areas and more. I've been gratified to watch the class become the most popular screenwriting and development workshop in Los Angeles. We get about 150 people each time the class is offered. It has also been gratifying to see that the workshop has been taken and appreciated by the writers, directors, producers, and key executives behind "The Fugitive," "Total Recall," "Runaway Bride," "The X-Files," "Law & Order," "E.R.," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Saturday Night Live," "Chicago Hope," "12 Monkeys," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Sling Blade," "Married with Children," and all the "Star Trek" series, and so many other important films and TV shows.

As for consulting...I've set up my own scripts, or projects I've developed, with Columbia Pictures, MGM, Paramount, Castle Rock, Atlas Entertainment, Buena Vista Television, and many other major film and television companies. Most script consultants I encounter can't even write scripts! Am I the only one who thinks something's wrong with that picture?

Please Offer Your Opinion

Do you write every single day?

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Kenna: You sound busy to say the least. How long does it take you to write a script?

David: It's hard to say...I'm always working on one thing or two things, pitching several others, etc. Most people, when hired, are given twelve weeks to outline a script and turn in a first draft, and that feels about right. One of the shocking things about TV writing, which I haven't done, is that sometimes these writers will do a script for a one-hour episode in one to two weeks. And, some of these scripts come out great. It's pretty awe-inspiring.

I recently sold a sci-fi series for the Internet where each episode is seven minutes. I had to turn out five scripts in six days, and each script had to be a gem. Each script was rewritten about four times -- and each had to be a gem, like a complete short film with a beginning, middle and end. That was tough.

Now it looks like those scripts are going to get me more Internet work, because they turned out to be good writing samples.

I summarize my talk with Freeman by pointing out that you just keep writing. Keep writing is so important. Personally, I never go a day without writing because I know the more you write that better you get at expressing your thoughts in words.

The format is important as well, but I have seen some scripts that communicate very well without the standard format. With that, if you want to be a screenwriter, you just need to write, write, and write.

Collaboration

Writing a screenplay is a great reward for any writer. Below is an interview with screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy, who wrote a believable character and story. They talk about collaboration and the importance of working together.

Screenwriter and Director Dan Gilroy and Denzel Washington

Better Than a Screenwriting Course

Jason Schwartzman interview about writing for stop-motion and Wes Anderson is better than taking a screenwriting course. He talks about what it is like to write from basically nothing. He discusses the writing process and how it becomes magic.

© 2007 Kenna McHugh

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