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Monday, July 28, 2008

Scott Myers, Synergy and Cupcake Kisses

Wonderful new friend of the Wave-inatrix, bon vivant and handsome devil Scott Myers posted on his fabulouso new blog yesterday: 14 Scripts in 14 Days. Wavers - this is wonderful timing. Please check it out and try the 14 day script reading plan - it's brilliant.

Scott has written over 30 projects and teaches screenwriting at UCLA (Wavers know that is my favorite online program, by far) and was kind enough to answer some questions for the Rouge Wave. A thousand cupcakes kisses to you for sharing with us today, Scott.

You lived in LA for many years and have written over 30 projects, including Alaska, with Thora Birch. Does an aspiring screenwriter have to live in LA to make it?

No. The only thing that matters is this: write a great script. You can live anywhere and do that. Write a great script and it will find its way to a buyer.

That said, there are obvious networking opportunities if you live in LA. You can't go to a restaurant, club or yoga class without bumping into someone in The Biz, and each one of these people represents a possible way in. However, if you don't have a great script, it won't matter because they'll read what you submit (or more accurately, they'll have your script covered by a script reader) and your script (and you metaphorically) will end up in the recycle bin with a big, fat PASS attached to it.

Again: write a great script.

Now let's say you write a great script and it sells. You'll either have enough dough to move to LA or you'll keep living where you are and fly out for the occasional meeting. Most communication in Hwood happens via the phone or email anyhow -- so even if you become a successful screenwriter, you can live anywhere and do your job.

You teach screenwriting online at UCLA. I have taken these online courses myself, so I’m prejudiced, but what do you say to writers who may hesitate, thinking that self-paced, online courses may not be as powerful as “on-the-ground” classes?

I've taught over 20 online screenwriting courses and honestly, I think they're better than the on-site class experience. From the student's perspective: (A) You can access the course site any time, any place; which means if you want to hang out in bed in your jammies, eating bon-bons, while downloading a lecture, you can do that; (B) Speaking of lectures, instead of listening to an instructor's babble and having to scribble down notes, in the online world the instructor provides you with a written version of the lecture, all their thoughts in a nice coherent set of pages -- much better access to all the core learning material that way; (C) Your classmates may come from all around the world (I've had students from Germany, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, UAE, Guatemala, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Siberia, and even a U.S. soldier while serving in Iraq) -- this makes for a fascinating cross-pollination of personalities and ideas; (D) In part because of the 'anonymity' of being online, I find that there is much more class participation than in on-site courses -- even the 'shy' types feel comfortable typing up their questions, critiques, and comments; (E) Plus, student responses tend to be more helpful because they actually have time to think about your script pages or your question, then compose their response, as opposed to off-the-cuff on-site course feedback like, "Yeah, um, I really, um, liked your pages 'coz they, um, were, like, good;" (F) Finally, it's amazing the sense of community that evolves in online courses -- I have students who have stayed in touch with each other from classes they took 5 years ago. So two thumbs way up for online education, especially through UCLA Extension's Writer's Program, which has outstanding instructors with extensive experience in distance learning.

Yeah, no kidding. I love UCLA Extension. I see that you’ve written both television and feature work – which do you prefer as a medium?

I'm a movie guy. Have been since I was a kid. I love TV, novels, poetry, art, music, but nothing has the cumulative magic that a movie does, an amazing ability to transport the viewer into another story universe.

What are you working on right now?

Trying to keep my head above water. Between my job at Distillery Pictures, teaching, blogging, family life, and rooting for the LA Galaxy soccer team, I don't have much time. However, I have been doing some research on a novel. I've never written one and this particular story feels like it's best suited as a novel.

Is Distillery Pictures looking for new material? If so, what type of material are you looking to develop and produce?

One of our goals is to get into low-budget feature films, however per our business plan, we are focused on developing and producing non-scripted programming for cable TV.

Do you have any celebrity stories or encounters to tell us about? Come on, a little gossip here!

Well, I could talk about the movie premiere where amidst the post-screening throng, I accidentally goosed Faye Dunaway. Or another movie premiere where I inadvertently spilled champagne on director Peter Jackson's shoe (he never noticed). But then you'd think I was a klutz, so -- nevermind!

What do you say to aspiring screenwriters who get discouraged and disgusted by the poor quality of projects that get made?

It sucks. I mean it's not like the studios start out intending to make bad movies. They do have release schedules and distribution networks that need to be 'fed,' so that's one part of the problem, the inherent pressure to produce movies. On the other side, much of the greenlight decision-making is more about project attachments (i.e., actors, director) than where the script is in terms of the development process. And then there's the actual production and post process. Look, making a movie is like getting pregnant and having a baby: there are a million things that can go wrong. If you're lucky, you end up with a healthy child. But if movies really were babies, sad to say we'd have an awful lot of ugly kids running around.

How many scripts did you write before you broke in?

K-9 was my third script.

What's your favorite kind of cupcake?

Chocolate with creamy vanilla icing from Babycakes in Manhattan -- refined sugar free, gluten free, vegan. Seriously the best cupcake I've ever had.

Okay well obviously you've never had my homemade Duncan Hines cupcakes. :)

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millarprescott said...

Great information and perfect timing for me. Thank you Julie and Scott.

Screenwriter aka No Mess said...

Fabulous interview. Now here's a man who just said everything I want to hear and loves vegan cupcakes to boot! Anyhow, I totally agree that online screenwriting classes are the best. I don't think I would have learned as much as I have learned about the craft sitting in a classroom and feverishly trying to take notes. Cheers!

PJ McIlvaine said...

Tres cool!!!

Diane Stredicke said...

I was lucky enough to have Scott as a teacher (UCLA online). He's a great guy and fabulous teacher.