Monday, May 31, 2010

Writer & Teacher Marcia Meier

Screenwriters Association
of Santa Barbara

Presents Writer & Teacher

Marcia Meier

"Navigating the Rough Waters of Today’s Publishing World"

Thursday, June 10, 7 pm*

*Come early to join in interactive discussion, get to know each other, and network with local talent. The speaker presentation will start around 7:30pm
Downtown Borders (Upstairs)
900 State Street
FREE and open to everyone!

Marcia Meier is an award-winning writer, teacher, published poet and former director of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She will speak about her new book Navigating the Rough Waters of Today's Publishing World, Critical Advice for Writers from Industry Insiders(Quill Driver Books, 2010). Her last book was Santa Barbara, Paradise on the Pacific, a coffee table book (Longstreet Press, 1996). She has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Central Coast Magazine, OC Metro magazine, The Seattle Times, and Arizona Republic. She is a contributing writer to Miller-McCune Magazineonline and an occasional blogger with The Huffington Post. Her degree is in Journalism and she has taught a number of writing classes for various institutions in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo including Cal Poly, Westmont College, Brooks Institute and SBCC Adult Education. Marcia is a member of the Author's Guild and Pen USA.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 13, 2010 Meeting Minutes

Calling card. Validation. Examples. What you can do. Do’s. Don’ts. Context. What he has learned about writing. All these topics and more were broached during the Thursday, May 13 Screenwriter’s Association meeting at Borders Bookstore with author, SBCC screenwriting instructor, UCLA Film School grad and showbiz vet Jonathan O’Brien at the helm.

Association President, Rashi Bahri called the meeting to order at 7:30pm. She announced that the Association is considering holding screenwriting workshops in addition to continuing to host invited speakers. At next month’s meeting, scheduled for Thursday, June 10, the Association will host speaker Marcia Meier, author, teacher and published poet.

“The Shorter the Better”; How Writing, Producing and Marketing Your Short Film Will Better Prepare You To Write Your Feature-Length Screenplay—the theme of this evening’s discussion.

A short film isn’t just a film, it’s your CALLING CARD. It shows your style. Each new writer and filmmaker that has had any success has their own unique way of telling a story. Screenplay readers used to have ‘to read’ piles. Nowadays, they most likely have ‘to reject’ piles. If you can make a short film that shows your unique point of view that gets people’s attention, it could get your feature length screenplay to the top of the ‘to reject’ pile. When you submit a script, the person receiving it wonders “How do I know this person can tell a story that will get people to want to see more?” If a film is a marketing tool, your goal is to get people talking about it.

You need a way to VALIDATE your work. Instead of telling people you can tell a story, you can SHOW them with a short film that you have a unique, creative way of telling a story. You don’t have to compete with Hollywood, you just need to have a unique voice. How do you ‘get in’ to Hollywood? They don’t dump another artist and replace them with you, they make room for you if they like your work.

And, you don’t always have to be in love with your work. Just go out and do it. Don’t make excuses. No camera to film? Do you have a cell phone camera? Do you have an old Beta Max camera? Dust it off. Lone filmmaker? You’re here at a screenwriters meeting. Get a few people together to work on something.

EXAMPLES: Office Space, Boogie Nights, District 9, 12 Monkeys, Saw, Sling Blade, Sin City, Darjeeling Limited, Boyz in the Hood, Napoleon Dynamite, 9. Feature films that all started as short films.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: According to Stephen King, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” Same holds true for short films. Make the time to watch them. Do this before you start making them. Go all the way back to the short, silent comedies. Learn how to convey emotions without dialogue.

DO’S FOR SHORT FILMS: Do have a high concept. Get your idea down to one line that stands out. Ask yourself what is going to attract people to it? Make it stand out? Can you tell a story in three minutes? Three or four minutes is a good time framework. You can develop fewer characters better. Try to come up with an idea that needs very little exposition. What’s happening is happening right there.

DON’TS: Dialogue in a short film is deadly. When you rely on dialogue in a short film, it’s a crutch. When you don’t rely on dialogue, you rely on emotion. Don’t make a documentary short film—‘they’ don’t consider it as storytelling. No experimental films. If you’re going to do something like a mockumentary short film, first ask yourself how you can make room for a new style. Something that HASN’T been done before. The industry rewards those for taking chances and thinking outside the box.

These days, think about writing and directing according to CONTEXT. Remember how films are watched. For example, at film festivals, your film will be advertised and chosen by viewers based on a one-line description. What is your emotional apex? What is it the characters want to say, but can’t? How good of a story can you tell with what you have? Convey emotions clearly and concisely. It doesn’t cost much to put heart into something. Get the value out of the motion, not your production cost limits.

WHAT HE HAS LEARNED ABOUT WRITING: What is the ‘secret of writing’? How do you help people figure out the essence, what is the apex and the point of the scene? Is the best line of dialogue no dialogue at all? Frank Capra’s secret was to find out whose scene it is and then heighten the point of the scene. Cutting film can help you discover this point. If you can tell a story in three to four minutes, it can help you when you go to tell a story in two hours for a feature length screenplay.

Remember, agents and producers are looking to get at someone talented before anyone else does. They’re not waiting for a well-written screenplay to fall into their lap. Find out how to get them to come to you. Make a short film and show them you can tell a story with a unique voice in three to four minutes. If you believe in your story, nothing is going to stop you from telling it. That will come across in your film.

Before the meeting concluded, attendees were treated to a viewing of an eight minute short film, George Lucas in Love.

Respectfully submitted by Danielle Greene, Association Secretary.