I do a lot of teaching, and one-on-one mentoring these days—more and more lately. I never planned on being a teacher, didn’t go to school for it, it just happened. I should clarify that, the school part. I did go to school, several of them over the years—I completed several extensive screenwriting programs, including the Seattle Film School, I was in the inaugural class.
I think it all started, the teaching thing, when I was head of the Northwest Screenwriters Guild’s compendium—back then a writer had to prove they could write to industry standard before you could qualify to be included in the compendium; which aloud you to pitch to visiting producers.
Consequently, I had to know what industry standard was, which lead me to reading a lot of books, including the Screenwriters Bible and talking to many of the screenwriting gurus. I also ended up reading one hell of a lot of screenplays over the next four years—many of which the writer new little or nothing about writing screenplays. And I took it upon myself to help them along. I’m not sure anyone in the past had gone to these lengths but I felt I had to, for some reason—Belva says it’s my personality.
I’ll be the first to admit, that I can be a bit on the obsessive/compulsive side—Belva would say, quite a bit on the obsessive/compulsive side. And I think that’s a good thing, when it comes to developing characters—Belva might argue it’s not so appreciable in other aspects. Anyway, as usual, I’ve gotten a bit off track. Here I am, talking about personality traits and building characters; when I wanted to talk about teaching.
I love to write and there’s something about teaching aspiring screenwriters that gives me almost as much satisfaction as nailing a story—writing a screenplay that POPs. I think it’s the look on their face when they see their words come to life. When they see their cardboard characters become real and develop personalities; see their pages morph from exposition filled blocky paragraphs into slender lines that show the reader what will be shown on the screen and hear in their mind what the actors will say—witness their clumsy, stumbling story blossom into a sleek and slender screenplay that can dance.
I’ve always believed in Karma, believed that what goes around comes around. And I believe we should pay it forward—help others if we are able. But I’ve also learned through the years of teaching, I too was learning, developing and honing my own skills, growing as a writer.
Writing screenplays is a continually evolving craft—and if you don’t keep up, you get left behind—you become obsolete over night. Hey, there’s another reason I like to teach—It keeps me young, up to date.