The Orange Country Screenwriters Association
Thursday, October 27, 2016

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logoThe Orange County Screenwriters Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing education and resources to all aspects of the film community both amateur and professional!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Leah Estrin - A True Pro

leah estrinTHE PRO

The first thing you notice about Leah is she is a no-spin zone - the good kind.  Ask a question and she gives you a straight and honest answer.  It's a reflection of her years in the industry reading and evaluating scripts.  But more than that, it's a true reflection of an industry pro; someone who has seen what being disingenuous can lead to - unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings that becomes heartache and heartbreak as you try to navigate an industry (Hollywood) that you don't understand.

She does understand it oh so well.

The amazing thing about Leah is that this honesty can make some people sound cynical and mean-spirited and Leah is nothing of the sort.  She is open, always smiling, always ready to give someone a great tip.  That was abundantly clear at our event before, during and after.   (more after the jump)

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160825 westworld s1 key art 1024x374Didn't think I was going to enjoy "Westworld" on HBO. I liked, not loved, the movie although it was sufficiently violent and creepy to appease my young mind.

But the first episode of the series has me wanting more.

You think you know what this show is about: A wonderland of fantasy where any whim can be accommodated. That's about as close to what is presented as the old TV show "Fantasy Island" is to the porn films that use the same title. The movie itself showed/implied a lot of this from what I can remember; the series kicks that theme up several notches.

The show's 1st episode more than implies what that would really mean to anyone wealthy enough to buy a ticket to this world where anything goes; and given what's on the horizon technologically- and virtually-speaking, the thought of this world or some form of it existing is getting much closer which is even more troubling.

westworld 2016 evan rachel wood1Violence in "Westworld" is epidemic. The Wild West is used as a motif purposefully. Blood (faux) flows as "people" (robots called Hosts) get their throats cut or shot in the neck. In one scene, a leering manbot host about to rape a fembot prostitute host in a saloon is shot from behind and his face opens like a squeezed grape. It's a quick image but memorable nonetheless. One hapless manbot gets scalped and although you don't actually see the gruesome details (yet) you are shown the beginning and end, and that he has been bled nearly dry by his tormentor.

Ultra-violent, seemingly senseless gunfights take place in streets as outlaws roar through towns shooting women and men. No children have appeared so far but can't that be far behind given the level of violence that the first 45 minutes has shown. Or maybe not. Even the hint of that particular sexual/violent perversion would cross a line because it would be all too possible here and I'm sure neither the builders of Westworld (nor the producers of the show) want to introduce even the possibility of that. Thanks to them (all) for that small restraint although you have to wonder if they are being true to the themes - would that ever be off the table if this Westworld was real? Let's continue to hope so - I don't want to squirm any more than I already am while watching this.

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If You Can't See It, Hear It or Speak it - Don't Write It!

See No Evil Know No EvilOne of the hardest tasks I face as a scriptwriting teacher is convincing new (and sometimes vetted) students not to put internal thoughts into scripts.  I call this inner narrative.  This is action or meanings only a reader would be able to glean because there is no way for a director or actor to matriculate that information to the screen.

Passages like: "He remembered his mother who told him always to wear clean underwear" has no function unless it can be tied to the precise moment that is contextualized in your script.

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Is Deception in Romantic Comedies Rape?


I frowned at the students' contention.  Then I started to think about it.  Is it?  Maybe they had a point.

overboardI had assigned the movie "Overboard" to my Intro to Scriptwriting class (Class Info) in honor of Garry Marshall's passing. I needed a romcom and that was the one that fit best when I looked at his filmography.  The discussion was to be about how these types of movies work and when done properly, reinforce the best of what is a fun genre.

The key words here are "was to be."

An interesting and troubling side discussion came up about the sex scene in which Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have (loving) intercourse.  It comes at an appropriate time in the film and it's shot very beautifully and tenderly.

So why could it be considered rape?

The storyline is simple and funny.  Goldie plays a wealthy, obnoxious woman who is married to a vacuous and specious man.  They do nothing positive as they sail the seas in yachts that look like the Queen Mary.  She is not happy, never satisfied and constantly, consistently ultra-critical of everyone and everything.  He hates her (it's obvious) and yearns to be free from her constant screech.

Russell is Joe Everyman, a widower, laissez-faire father with three unruly boys who the school district is about to come down hard on because the boys are quite boisterous, even to toilet-papering the school's principal when she visits to welcome them to the area. The principal warns Russell that he has to get some supervision for the boys or else the next visit will be from social services.

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The War With Your (Creative) Self

Recently, my Intermediate class students all had a difficult workshop session.  Most of the comments on all of their scripts were not positive.  The comments were constructive to be sure but even constructive criticism is hard to take.  It still means "this isn't working."  I wrote them an open letter that then became this article.  I've expanded it a bit from the original form.

There's a war going on inside you.

Your head and fingers are in constant battle.  What you see with your mind's eye about your script never ends up to be what actually gets to your fingers.  Why is that?  I blame...uh, Canada (that's from the movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" and I'm just kidding so relax.)

war5 Here's the problem; it's too easy to write that first flush of great scenes that you see so clearly when that concept comes to you.  After that it's nearly impossible to clearly see the ramifications of that work.  You think you know the story but unless you've carefully charted out each moment, sh*t happens. 

Even if you've carefully charted out your script you take side trips; a character inserts himself or herself demanding more attention than you had intended.  Maybe a piece of information comes to you or you have to change something that you thought worked.

Also, each day you're a different person and your mood, attitudes, sense of life changes.  If you're doing the work properly, you are writing from your subconscious mind and that changes - a lot - as you process each and every moment of your life.

A script seems simple but is maddeningly complex. 

Most of the time, what you have in your head is not what ends up on the page. 

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