Sunday, July 3, 2016

Gotham Writers’ Workshop Screenwriting I Class

By Olga Agafonova

In an effort to put my writing life into higher gear, I spent some time looking at writers’ retreats for people who are just getting started. I could not find what I wanted: a quiet, small retreat by the ocean, preferably somewhere on the West Coast. So, I did the next best thing I could think of and signed up for an online screenwriting class with the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, which operates out of New York City.

The current iteration of “Screenwriting I” runs from June the 14th to August the 23rd. It’s a cool $399, plus the $25 registration fee. Every week we have a reading and a relatively short assignment. Students exchange ideas on the bulletin board and there are two mini-projects that will be critiqued by both the instructor and the entire class of fifteen adults, most of whom have full-time jobs.

I don’t really have any idea of how to become a screenwriter: there is probably a canon of cinema that I’m supposed to revere and emulate but frankly I don’t give a damn. Instead, I’ve been reading scripts for movies that I like: Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, The Bourne Identity, One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest and on the more romantic side, Sleepless in Seattle.

The biggest challenge for my first script is going to be handling conflict and action: my story is about how one man deals with the loss of his fiancée after all the women in the world disappear. There is a lot of sci-fi stuff going on throughout the script but that’s not the point; this is, above all, a movie about a person coming to terms with his loss and finding a meaning in life. So far, I’ve been pretty good at the sci-fi bits and not so great about getting the internal drama across to the imaginary viewers.

I remember when I watched Gravity I was struck by the scene where Sandra Bullock’s character is alone in her space capsule, without any motivation to live and then she hears this baby over the radio transmission, a father who is trying to soothe the baby in some foreign language. I think this is before or maybe after she hallucinates George Clooney’s character explicitly telling her to keep on living but anyway, those few quiet minutes when she’s reflecting on her life and everything she’s lost, that’s powerful stuff and it’s at the core of that movie. Gravity isn’t as much about the dangers of space exploration as it is about life and death and how we handle both.

That’s the kind of movie I’d like to write a script for by the end of this summer. Here’s hoping I will reach that goal.


Laura Puccia Valtorta said...

Hi, Olga. Try the Screenwriter's Bible Good luck. I'm also writing screenplays when I'm not writing fiction. I hope to turn my current novel into a screenplay. By writing it as a novel first, I'll be able to look at the arc of the action before i write my 90-page screenplay.

Just Julia said...

Good stuff Olga! I'm sure you will indeed reach your goal!