Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday, February 9: Shelly Lowenkopf

Screenwriters Association
of Santa Barbara


Nationally Renown Book Editor

Shelly Lowenkopf

"How to Unfriend Your Characters"

Thursday, February 9, 7 pm

Brooks Institute
27 East Cota Street
Downtown Santa Barbara
(805) 617-4503

FREE and open to everyone!

Shelly Lowenkopf has held major editorial positions with general trade, mass market paperback, literary, and scholarly book publishers in addition to executive editorial participation in special interest, literary, and genre fiction magazines. Those companies include: Sherbourne Press (Editor-in-Chief); Dell Publishing (Director, Los Angeles office); Clio Books (Editor-in-Chief); Ross-Erickson (Editor-in-Chief); and, Capra Press (Advisory and Acquisitions Editor). He has seen over seven hundred book projects and hundreds of short story and essay projects through the publishing process.

Currently a freelance consultant and teacher, his clients include novelists, retired and active academics, and the humorist creator of one of the most popular television series of all time.Lowenkopf taught courses in short story, novel, dramatic writing, editing, genre fiction, and revision at the graduate level in one of the most prestigious writing programs in America at University of Southern California, where he was given a Lifetime Teaching Award.

He is a past regional president of the Mystery Writers of America; his book reviews have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The National Catholic Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Publishers’ Weekly, the Santa Barbara News-Press, and the Santa Barbara Independent. He has been the weekly reviewer for the Montecito Journal since 2005.

Lowenkopf has had over 35 books published, along with short fiction, pulp novels, essays and reviews. His most recent book, The Fiction Writer’s Companion, is a guide to terms, concepts, and forms related to storytelling.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meeting minutes for Thursday, January 12, 2012

Screenwriters Association of Santa Barbara met again at Brooks Institute on Cota Street. A stunning exhibit of student work, mostly documentary photography lined the walls as the group made their way to hear Candace Schermerhorn speak about making documentary films.

Lisa Angle opened asking for any announcements. Chuck Kent mentioned an upcoming film called The Secret Ingredient directed SASB Past President Rashi Bahri Chitnis. It will be shown February 2 at the Metro 3. as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Maria announced the upcoming play The Jaguar’s Nest by Synergy Entertainment Group.

Members were asked to donate $25 so visiting speakers can be taken to dinner before the lecture and to help with expenses. It’s so little, let’s all chip in because the speakers are world class. Such was the experience of listening to Candace Schermerhorn. As a producer, director, and writer her expertise and passion lie primarily in first person narrative and documentaries addressing contemporary issues. Her credits include work for Children’s Television Workshop, the National Park Service, Massachusetts Council for the Humanities, Harcourt Brace Publishers, American Masters, and Turner Broadcasting. She directed, with Bestor Cram, the independent award-winning documentary You Don’t Know Dick, an intimate film about female-to-male transsexuals. For many years she has taught documentary film making at Santa Barbara City College and was the Director of Programming for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

It was amazing to watch clips of the films after listening to the lecture. Candace told the group that documentaries start with footage and more footage. “That’s what the film will become,” she said. “You won’t know what you have till you go back over it.” And even then it might not be what you expect. She explained the process of writing the story from the transcripts. Every single line, every single expression, every sound are painstakingly recorded, and in this way, the story is culled from the masses of footage a documentarian shoots.

She showed the group an immense idea board made of tiny different colored Post-it notes that was the organizing principle behind her film of women in Nigeria called The Naked Option.

“Documentary film making is about what truth is going to evolve,” she told the audience. “Observe as much as possible.” On truth, she cautioned the audience “Whose truth are you telling? All documentaries are exploiting on some level, and what is truth shifts and varies.” Always be prepared to defend your choices. “You are challenging truth and it is challenging you at the same time.”

The bigger story in a documentary is made up of all the little stories, she said. Sometimes it just takes one little line from the transcripts to tie everything together. The lines and the shots of expressions act as bridges to tie the greater whole of the story together. “Train yourself to be moved by stories, to look for them and be moved by them.” What the audience wants is for you as a writer to tell them things, so they can follow you as the writer. “Stick to what you know, if you love something stick to that,” she said. There are basically three questions to ask: What is my story, why do I want to do it and what am I trying to achieve?

Most impressive was watching the film You don’t know Dick. The music, the cutting and the lighting really add to this documentary in ways that show just how masterfully a story can be told in small stories that add up. You can see how this comes together at this link:

It’s just seamless the way this flows as a documentary. The audience was rapt watching too. “Set things up so you can tell the story,” she said. Watch the above and you will see a master storyteller at work. This is how to make the footage flow seamlessly with the music, tapping all the little stories within stories that add up to the bigger picture.