Ever since a former professor of mine introduced me to the idea that writing floats on a sea of conversation, I’ve thrived on the energy that is derived from interacting with others who care about stories and the teaching of writing. I’m a writer and filmmaker who teaches in the Institute For Writing Studies at St. John’s University in New York. I’d really appreciate it if you wrote me a note to say hello. Thank you so much for stopping by the website!
Yours in Books,
Which novel title would you be more likely to be interested in?
If you’re a subscriber to Audible, (or you just can’t get enough of my voice in your head) you might want to check out my 80s music and movies themed novel Love on the Big Screen as an audio book. I’m the reader and my voice is just now recovering in time for the start of the semester. By the way, I do some light singing in one scene.
It’s tough to get the word out about this audio book, and so if you think some of your friends subscribe to Audible, I hope you’ll consider sharing this post.
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Click on the Audible icon or here to listen to me read the opening.
If you don’t know the novel, here’s a little about Love on the Big Screen:
You’ll meet Zuke. He’s a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies. The story is set at a fictionalized version of Olivet Nazarene University and while creating the story, I reflected on my own romantic life and special obsession for films such as Say Anything and Sixteen Candles. My adaptation of this novel won the Grand Prize of the Rhode Island International Film Festival Screenplay Competition.
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Changing your life, going to grad school, entrepreneurism, and all-time favorite movies are the topics this week. I’ve got a new partner, Ben Atkinson, a former student of mine from over ten years ago. After a stint as a molecular biologist, Ben went back to school for an MBA in Marketing & Entrepreneurship from Indiana University. He also started his own web company, Night Phoenix Enterprises, which hosts this site.
Ben and I discuss the movies briefly and arrived on a list of four for you to vote on. Vote on the movie you’d like to hear us discuss. We’ll let you know the results of the poll just in case you want to watch and weigh in with your thoughts too. The poll is in the right sidebar–>
Ben and I each choose our Top 5 Favorite Movies:
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Jurassic Park
- Back to the Future
- The Life Aquatic
- Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
photo from mashable.com
- Say Anything
- American Beauty
- Secret Window
- High Fidelity
“You Stole My Story!”
from rottentomatoes .com
To close the show, Ben and I each gave some shout outs to culture we have been enjoying.
Ben and I hope you’ll comment/criticize our movie choices and tell us about your own All-Time Top 5 Movies. I feel like revising my choices already.
Until then, in the words of Bill and Ted…
“Be Excellent to Each Other”
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Working from notes I’m going to use for a panel at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, during this podcast I talk about how I learned to write, how I try to teach writing, and how a person might be able to get something going when it comes to the business of writing, screenplays, and film.
In the podcast, I expand on the following notes.
First, how did I learn to write?
- I learned to read like a writer in an MFA program focusing on fiction. Texts can be your best teachers.
- I read and write a lot.
- I finish stuff and I send it out.
- The lessons in the stack. For example, I’ve read a lot of literary journal submissions, lit agency submissions, and stacks of student writing. The stacks show me what’s being done and what I might do that’s interesting with those stacks of ideas. The opening films of the festival are another kind of stack.
How do I try to help students write?
- by creating writing territories
- through experiencing an audience of each other
- by providing examples of many writers have a different process for how they finish their work
Some Favorite scripts:
- Diablo Cody’s Juno: her transitions
- Tarantino’s InGlorious Basterds: there is the fact that he is writing for himself, but I could see that you can just do it like you want. I can envision something on the screen and just write it so that it makes sense to the reader. Doesn’t matter if it’s unconventional. That, in fact, might be a strength.
What was the result of winning the festival prize?
- a bit of credibility at the festival, lots of little bits can add up to something substantial
- the lesson of the films I wouldn’t have seen (back to the lessons of the stack)
- the impulse to make my own short film which then accidentally became a feature documentary that will screen at the Phenom Film Festival in Louisiana
- Good talks with Elfar Adalsteins who did the short film Sailcloth
- That I won the film festival and was trying to make a film meant that I met more “like” minded people who may eventually be a part of future projects that we do together.
- Last week I met William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg from Moonbot. Their Lessmore won an Academy Award. Their company is in Shreveport. I first became acquainted with their film because I was in Rhode Island connected to the prize. So my script Love on the Big Screen isn’t a film, but a lot else has happened that’s been fun and intellectually stimulating.
Some Books that helped me write or think about filmmaking:
- Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 (practical how to that got me started)
- How Not to Make a Short Film: Secrets of a Sundance Programmer by Roberta Munroe
- The Hollywood Economist by Edward Epstein
- The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide: A Down & Dirty DV Production, by Anthony Artis
- Stephen King’s On Writing
- Donald Murray’s Write to Learn
Two Podcasts I like:
- KCRW, The Business. Filmmakers are common guests and they explain how they get their work done.
- “Here’s the Thing” with Alec Baldwin. Guests include Lorne Michaels, Michael Douglass, and Jon Luvitz
- The Creative Penn: just got turned on to this one. Some interesting stories from writers and how they’ve marketed their books.
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