A couple of months ago a wonderful blogger named Jen Owenby emailed me and asked if she could do a contest involving my book, An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Hollywood. She had read it earlier in the year and really enjoyed it. She also discovered my website, contacted me, and we started exchanging emails. I was honored that she had chosen my book as one that she wanted to talk about on her website, so I said yes.
I was a little embarrassed when Jen wrote her post about the book and me, but I liked the idea that six people would get a chance to read my book. After all, that’s why I wrote it – for people to read. Jen randomly was going to choose five lucky winners who would win a copy of the book, and one extra lucky person also would have a chance to ask a professional screenwriter (me) any questions they had about screenwriting. Well, as fates would have it, that sixth person was Astrid “Artistikem” Cruz, a young Master in Communications student at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus.
When Jen emailed me the name of the grand prize winner I smiled because I had just discovered Astrid’s work on a writers group website where she had posted a short film she had made based on her poem, “A Study On Character Development.” I had sent her an email a few weeks earlier telling her how much I enjoyed the poem and the film, and she had written back to tell me she was developing a Transmedia project based on it. I was excited to meet a young writer who also was involved in making film. Small world, (small internet): Astrid entered Jen’s contest, and she won the grand prize.
After the holidays, Astrid quickly wrote me four questions – four excellent, multi-dimensional questions (Astrid could also add investigative reporting to her résumé if she ever wanted) and she really made me think about the craft of screenwriting and what it’s like to be a professional.
Over the years, I’ve had people ask me about screenwriting (I worked non-stop in Hollywood for 25 years), and some of them even suggested that I teach a class about it. Well, my husband is a teacher, and that’s about as close to teaching I ever want to get. As my own kids will probably acknowledge: I don’t have the most patience in the world when it comes to teaching people anything. Maybe that’s why my son and daughter both learned how to drive from their father and not me, and when my daughter had to learn about camping as a Brownie I insisted we stay at a hotel instead and order room service (true story). But Astrid’s questions really made me stop and think about the process of screenwriting – something that most screenwriters take for granted when they’re so busy doing it for a living. For the first time, someone was sincerely asking me how to be a screenwriter. And for whatever reason, maybe because with age sometimes comes patience, I wanted to explain how it’s done. Or at least how I did it.
I’ve never won an Oscar. I’m not a Hollywood name. But I’ve written some movies, and television over those 25 years of working in Hollywood, and yes, I’ve gotten paid for it. Enough to raise a family, buy a house, a couple of cars, and have a very nice pension to look forward to (Thank you, Writers Guild of America!) So when Astrid sent me her questions, and I found myself writing, writing, and (still) writing all of the answers, I thought: Why not share this with anyone interested in screenwriting?
So I asked Astrid.
“Do you mind if I share this on my blog?”
And she was kind enough to say yes.
So here’s what we’re going to do: Next week I’ll be doing several posts about screenwriting. Make sure you’re signed up to this blog so you’re notified via email when they’re posted. If you’re not interested in screenwriting, I understand, and maybe you’ll come back in a couple of weeks and read something else here on the blog. But if you’re a writer, a screenwriter wannabe, or you’re just someone who’s always wondered about how movies are written, then you might find it interesting to hear it from someone who has been in the trenches. And if you know of any young filmmakers, or anyone interested in screenwriting, please tell them to drop by next week.
I promise to be patient.
(Are you interested in learning about screenwriting? Please raise your hand if you think you’ll be attending – I want to make sure there are enough chairs. And yes, this is free.)
(To read the first part of this series click here: It All Begins With A Screenwriter)
- The power of screenwriters (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- The Business of Screenwriting: Sometimes you just have to say “Yes”… even to crap projects (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- Just Effing Ask Julie Gray: What Qualifications Are Needed to Break Into Screenwriting? (scriptmag.com)