We started off the evening with a very basic question for our panelists and received a variety of answers. Don't ever think there's only path to get to where you want to go!
WIC - What did you go to school for and how did you get to today?
- Owen - Owen started studying in communications, but that only lasted for a semester. He graduated with a degree in English then received a MFA in fiction writing. Currently, he works at the Austin-famous Alamo Drafthouse.
- Matt - While studying at UT, Matt interned with Austin Film Festival and now runs the competition that he first interned for!
- Michelle - As a young girl, Michelle always considered herself a writer by creating puppet stories. As she grew older, she realized filmmaking was developed out of her love for writing.
- Jill - Jill studied English at Columbia, but she really wanted to act (she admits that going to Columbia was to trick her parents into letting her live in New York City). But she quickly found out that acting was a miserable experience. She then became intrigued by what went on behind the camera. She tried her hand at directing, but again, she found it miserable. Her next adventure was in screenwriting and the rest is history.
As the evening progressed, the panelists talked about script rewrites, screenplay competitions, working in LA and with big studios, and how to break into the business. Below are some of the key takeaways.
Advice for Rewrites
- Owen - Throws around ideas with his two partners until they all catch on to one idea. They also utilize a beat sheet and are always aware of the three act structure. His best advice? “Hold on loosely to everything you write, don’t put your heart into it. It’s easier. Cut it and put it in another document for a different project.”
- Jill - 99% of the scripts she reads fails to tell a story. The scripts usually have a situation, not a story. She says “We get so attached to plot details we cannot see the greater picture and story.”
- Scripts try to do much! They try to be the director, they put in camera angles, or the script is put in a binder with a head shot.
- If you’re writing an original pilot, do not take forever to set up the story and situation.
- People do not know what story they’re telling. Something that was the subplot accidentally becomes the plot.
- If you don’t know what you’re ending is you won’t know where you’re going.
- Make sure every character has it’s own distinct voice, to the point that if you scribble out their name on the script, you know who was talking.
- Owen - (on the Hollywood system) Make it your goddamn self. It’s so much easier.
- Matt - Keep going, write as much as you can.
- Michelle - Agrees with Owen. She made Preacher's Daughter on her own and that was a risk that paid off. So don't be afraid to take risks.
- Jill - You don’t have to win a competition to get a lot out of it. Make a short list of screenwriting competitions to apply to, and get your work out there. Also, if you want to be a serious screenwrititer, you should be reading scripts all the time. Jill reads 50 scripts a year. (You can find free scripts at script-o-rama.com)
Owen, Matt, Michelle, and Jill, we can't thank you enough for sharing your time and thoughts with us!