WGF Panel – 01/13/2017

WGF Panel - 01/12/2017
Panelists (l-r): Monica Macer (Quenn Sugar, OWN), Shernold Edwards (Hand of God, Amazon), Dawn Kamoche (Sharp Objects, HBO), Dee Harris-Lawrence (Star, FOX), Valerie Woods (Soul Food, Showtime)

The Writers Guild Foundation event, co-sponsored by Stephens College MFA in Television and Screenwriting on January 13, 2017, was a great success. The panel, moderated by writer and BooksEndependent publisher, Valerie C. Woods, engaged the participants with their wisdom, humor and real-world advice on the evening’s topic – “Writing Outside the Color Lines: Women Writers of Color or Storytelling and Perspective”. A lively Q&A following the discussion extended the evening past its scheduled ending time.

Thanks to Chris Kartje and Enid Portuguez at the WGF, and Ken LaZebnik and Khanisha Foster of Stephens College for a wonderful evening!

Writers Guild Foundation Panel

Writers Guild Foundation

Writing Outside the Color Lines: Women Writers of Color on Storytelling and Perspective

Fri, January 13, 2017
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

WGF / WGA Headquarters – Del Reisman Multi-Purpose Room
7000 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Valerie C. WoodsThe Writers Guild Foundation, in partnership with Stephens College MFA in Television & Screenwriting, hosts a dynamic panel discussion moderated by BooksEndependent founder, screenwriter and author, Valerie C. Woods. Join television writers from such shows as “Shameless,” “Hand of God,” “Star,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and “Queen Sugar”, as they answer questions on writing authentic stories and characters outside one’s own cultural identity.

 

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The RoughWriter

There it is. The blank page. Or screen. It’s perfect, pristine, shimmering with possibilities. You want the words you impart on this perfect canvas to be worthy. To flow with lyrical, righteous, and passionate… stuff. No, scratch that, not ‘stuff’ – it must be classic Oscar, Emmy, Tony award winning scriptness. Wait. What? ‘Scriptness?’ Ok, perfect prose, poignantly profound… stop! Scratch that, too. And now it’s ruined. The blank page, which was once so full of hope, is now ruined. Crumple paper, or delete, delete, delete. Time for coffee.

Such pressure, the blank page. Why is it so hard to allow for imperfection? It’s not called a rough draft because it’s perfect. So go ahead and be a RoughWriter!

In his book,”Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” Syd Field put it very bluntly, “Let yourself write sh*tty pages, with stilted, direct, dumb, and obvious dialogue. Don’t worry about it. Just keep writing. Dialogue can always be cleaned up during the rewrite. ‘Writing is rewriting’ is the ancient adage.”

This advice applies to ALL writers, not just screenwriters. It is the only way to get through a novel, a play, short story, or novella. I know, because I’ve written at least one of each in that prior list, and Syd Field’s advice got me through each project.

Currently, I am a Mentor for a group of very talented MFA screenwriters. In the first semester, each student selected the topic of their screenplays, wrote beat sheets, and narrative outlines. At this point, two writers decided they no longer wanted to write the stories they’d chosen, and switched – went through the earlier process again and then began writing script pages. Then a third writer decided her pages were awful, her story was stupid and it was boring. One of the first two writers, worried that well, maybe the new idea wasn’t good either.

To clarify, none of the stories were boring. What I was hearing from these students was doubt, resistance… you know, fear of failure. They had each done great work. But the Inner Critic had moved to the foreground and was doing its best to get them to give up.

What to do? It was time for the talk, as follows:

Pursuing a “Singular Art”

“Adaptation is both a skill and a challenge.” These are the words of legendary author and screenwriter, Syd Field (1935-2013), acclaimed as “the guru of all screenwriters” (CNN). Syd goes on to say, in his seminal book, Screenplay – The Foundations of Screenwriting: “The verb to adapt means ‘to transpose from one medium to another.’ Adaptation is defined as the ability ‘to make fit or suitable by changing, or adjusting’ – modifying something to create a change in structure, function, and form… It is a singular art.”

The pursuit of this “singular art” is the mission of Staged/Lit – to celebrate and examine the creative synthesis of adapting literary works from prose to script to performance in a series of staged readings. Developed through my indie press, BooksEndependent, Staged/Lit was designed to present and promote script adaptations, primarily from our book list.

Once I pitched the idea to Aviva Field, Executive Director of Syd Field – The Art of Visual Storytelling, things rapidly fell into place. I had worked with Syd for many years, both studying with him, and coaching writers using the Syd Field screenwriting method. The first time I attended one of Syd’s weekend seminars, (back in the last century!) I was in the process of adapting a stage play to a screenplay. Syd’s book, Screenplay, was the backbone of my process. The resulting script won me a Disney Screenwriting Fellowship. So, trust me, it works!