These alumni comment on how the experience at Writers Boot Camp has prepared them for a career writing for film & television.
My Writers Boot Camp experience was essentially a series of escalating breakthroughs and deepening insights, pushing me toward mastery of the art and business of screenwriting. Using writing tools at once robust and flexible I passed from knowing next to nothing to knowing that I knew next to nothing. Then came the understanding that a story of 'who' and 'what' is incomplete without knowing 'how'. Next came the realization that who, what, and how are pointless without first answering 'why' - as well as its corollary 'so what'. Following was the awareness that all these questions must be answered fully, clearly and organically within the script pages themselves and that if someone didn't understand what I wrote, if they just didn't get it, then that someone was me. If I can't deliver my vision clearly how can I expect anyone else to see it? Isn't it foolish to expect millions of dollars in order to make a movie that attempts to communicate to millions of people something I can't even communicate to just a single reader? But my most potent writing breakthrough struck when I realized that the most potent writing breakthroughs are not, strictly speaking, 'writing' breakthroughs at all. They're conceptual breakthroughs. Writing well is necessary - but not sufficient. Conceiving well is the more essential and more difficult art. And while this craft-consciousness was developing I had exclusive and invaluable exposure and access to industry professionals (writers, directors, producers, agents, executives) that taught me how the Hollywood engine runs, giving me strategic insight as to how I might fuel it. The big lesson on that front is that promoting underdeveloped material leads immediately to an underdeveloped career. I'm certain that I wouldn't understand any of this nearly as well without the luxury of developing my craft in the sheltered harbor of Writers Boot Camp, where being an unknown writer (for now) is the best thing that ever happened to me.
If this sounds like a testimonial - well, it is. An emphatic one.
Writers Boot Camp is not for the uncommitted nor the faint of heart. But then, neither is writing.
I learned essentials about writing screenplays and I now know how to write a feature length screenplay. From the standpoint of learning the structure of the medium, I feel familiar enough with it that I could allow myself deviation from the norm. In other words, I feel no constrictions to formula.
Although this took me over a year to "get," the idea of the "conceit" suddenly came into focus while watching Three Days of the Condor and A Shot in the Dark, the first being a brilliant example of thematic conceit and the latter, character conceit.
My biggest problem with Basic Training or the Full development coursework is the supposition that someone can produce a well-developed screenplay in six months or a year's time, while writing ten hours a week. I guess you could do this if you already had a name in the business and were turning out studio formula crap. For me, however, it takes 30 to 40 hours a week to develop my characters and story and discover conceits that are meaningful.
The most difficult aspect of teaching something creative is the conflict between the process of the creative unconscious, and the conscious, analytical mind that's trying to structure and organize. That's probably my greatest conflict and problem with the tools. It would take so long to do a 3-6-3 that by the time I would get halfway through, the last six segments had to be totally rewritten because everything had changed and been moved around. If there was a way to simplify the organization process, it would alleviate a lot of stress for the students and they might not get so bogged down, depressed, and frustrated.
The experience, including the speaker series, gave me a clear idea of who and what is in charge in Hollywood, and has been instrumental in helping me decipher the paths I will take.
I'm not much of a joiner and it's unlikely I'd write this (or any) testimonial for anyone else. Either Jeff is a master manipulator who can pull comments from a stone, or I really do feel pretty good about my experience with this group. Which has ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. Though the friends I've made tend to congregate at the ridiculous end of the spectrum. Which says the sublime end comprises what?
While I respect both the platonic ideal of a unified theory of writing, and the down-and-dirty execution of it which changes and enriches itself day by day, what I most enjoy about this program is being able to improvise within a structure. The structure may be flimsy and temporary, like LA, but so's the tent you rent for a wedding: it's there to enclose and facilitate the development, magic and ceremony surrounding what's within.
I love the people I've met, especially those of us who didn't start as writers. I know enough writers--many of us are boring geeks. I signed up because I was melting into my keyboard and growing hair on my ass from doing too much solitary writing, and because I felt I was missing the point, being in LA without at least trying to write a screenplay. It was like not knowing how to tie your shoelaces. Or something. Spanish is another of those life skills you really need in LA. I felt that learning how to write a screenplay might alleviate my homesickness for NY. Which it has. Because half the people here are from NY.
The most awful moment I've had here was also my most successful, in a gruesome kind of way. Last October, when I was three weeks into Project Group, Jeff had set up a pitch panel consisting of three producers and cautioned us newbies to sit and listen and absorb the greater wisdom of our elders or whatever. But a bunch of the more senior writers happened to chicken out. I found myself in the hot seat trying to blab out my premise line, realizing I had two and a half minutes of a three minute pitch to go and I'd forgotten my story under the pressure of people's actual (or carefully simulated) interest. I interrupted my pitch and yelled out how loathsome and stupid pitching was. Even the word "pitch" is ugly, doing it feels like crap except for the adrenaline, it's no wonder in baseball pitchers wear out fast. One of the producers reminded me that pitching might be necessary for a little something called sales. I can't tell you how embarrassing the whole thing was, those three horrible minutes and the discussion that ensued, because, like childbirth, it's an experience I've mercifully forgotten. Anyway, I managed to stumble through and the producers totally shocked me by being interested. Either it was the Tourette's imitation, or they perked up because the heart of the pitch was in the five components, which I didn't need to remember because through reiteration and development, I'd internalized them, and they were me.
I take it back, this wasn't the most awful moment after all. It's been followed by a whole series of subsequent awful moments in which I've tried to follow through on what I promised, or what the producers believe I promised, or wish I'd promised, or read between the lines of what I blurted out. Fortunately there are a whole lot of experts around who were there that night and know what I should do, so I can blow them off, tell them they're wrong, try to make this rickety tent go up so what's within, can happen my way, or whatever "our way" the producers and I delineate. I don't know what I'll do when we're done. Maybe learn Spanish. And I'm pretty stuck with writing more scripts.
There are many avenues to becoming a professional writer. Great ideas and hard work is the main highway to success. But you need more than them to make it. Writers Boot Camp gives serious writers a dependable compass that constantly challenges and refines your creative and professional goals so you don't make a lot of needless wrong turns along the way.
A vacuum is no place to sell a script. In many ways, marketing yourself is harder than writing. Writers Boot Camp's goal is to teach you how to look at the industry in realistic terms and make sure that your projects don't become isolated artistically or commercially. Between your mentors and fellow writers, the road, and that final destination are so much easier to see.
I have been in other workshops and seminars in the past, writing courses at UCLA extension, covering feature film and television, applying techniques to use for every genre, and developing concept. Only one has given me the tools to improve my writing and the structure to make my work more competitive, Writers Boot Camp.
Jeff Gordon and his staff are the most professional and committed organization to giving writers a chance to break in as writers in the entertainment industry. The approach is no nonsense and goal oriented. If you want to keep stalking celebrities with your script or camp out at a studio executive's door, we will see you on the news. If you want to write scripts that you can drop in the middle of a barren desert and still get numerous responses from, take Writers Boot Camp.
There are so many incredible aspects to membership as well as the Basic Training course. The tools are truly idiot proof, however, they aren't without sophistication. They lead you to translate the ideas floating around your head into life on a page- a structure, then scenes, and ultimately a working story. Writers Boot Camp is the kind of learning environment that one could return to at any point in their career, whether you have won an Academy Award or are a beginner - the tools can only enhance your writing.
I have found that I respond to certain tools more than others, as in anything. The Horizontal and Windows and Brainstorming as a combination really prove to work for me. The tools in their presented succession are challenging; they provoke you to create material quickly without becoming overwhelmed. I have greatly enjoyed my time at Writers Boot Camp, it has helped me begin to truly realize myself as a writer and begin to fulfill my potential. After taking the course, I realize that now it is just up to me to implement what I have learned, as all that I need are the tools and training that I have received, and they are right in front of me.
My last day of Project Group, I turned to a close friend whom I met two years ago when we first started the process. "Can you believe it's been two years?" I said. "Two? It feels more like ten." This feeling is testament to the enormous amount of ground covered in the Professional Membership coursework. Not only did I learn the fundamentals of telling a story - a skill that applies to all forms of writing and analysis - I learned how to look at myself through my work and to better understand what I was trying to say. In essence, Writers Boot Camp gave me the much-needed space to grow as a screenwriter instead of having a premature and heartbreaking coming-of-age among the wolves of Hollywood. While good advice is sometimes hard to swallow, I am glad that I followed it and, in retrospect, had peers and mentors who were - and still are - on my side. In the immortal words of Shakespeare - the readiness is all.
No testimonial should feel like it has been coerced or manipulated into existence by the very organization for which it is intended to serve as testimony. So for authenticity's sake, let me say that Writers Boot Camp's coursework was not always fun, it was not always noticeably inspirational, it was often tedious, dull and seemingly pointless. Well, well. What training that is worth its salt is not these things? We've all seen the movies-training is hard, and it's not a straight line, and it's certainly not all triumph and roses. But it is well worth it.
I started Professional Membership in January 1999, working on a script about Freud and Jung. Now, not two years later, the movie is scheduled to start shooting in May 2002, starring Richard Dreyfuss as Freud and directed by Paul Mazursky. Can I tell you that Writers Boot Camp made that script what it is? No. What I can tell you is that Writers Boot Camp served as the ground, the arena, the context in which that script was created; and the tools that Jeff Gordon invented were the tools I used and abused to get that script into existence.
Am I going to tell you that Writers Boot Camp has the best two year coursework in screenwriting in the world? I have no idea-it's the only one I've ever taken. But, personally, it would be hard for me to imagine a much better program. Why? Because Jeff-who actively runs Writers Boot Camp-is brilliant and is ALWAYS THINKING-he's always evolving his ideas about screenwriting, and always trying to communicate that evolution. So it's not a static environment, it's a quest. And this quest-to do it better, to think it better, to know it better, to express it better-is what pervades Professional Membership and makes it such an exciting and challenging experience.
What We Do
Get writers to write and teach tools for collaboration in movies, television and the web.
What We Offer
Practical coursework and script completion, as well as ongoing membership benefits for your career at the highest level of the entertainment business and digital production.
Our alumni have major awards of all kinds, plus more than 150 major feature film and television credits, in addition to being on the vanguard of digital and branded content.
What You Need
10 hours per week for writing and creative exercises.
Schedule an interview to determine your creative focus, whether feature, television pilot, web series, novel, graphic novel or all above the above.
When You Start
As soon as you've carved out 10 hours from your week to focus your Creative Calendar.
If you're concerned about finances, then you may qualify for partial Work Study or become an online member for further savings.
But don't let time pass without writing or climbing the industry learning curve!