Pen meets paper, and paper meets screen

Everyone has a story to tell. Some decide to write their stories in books and leave the imagery up to the reader, others write plays and bring the drama to you live and direct. If you want to tell a story in a way that only celluloid can deliver, look no further than Laurel Minter’s beginning or advanced screenwriting class.

The beginning class helps students get a foundation in screenwriting. This is where students learn the traditional three act structure, which is the traditional Hollywood style. “The first thing is coming up with an idea that a student is passionate about,” says Minter, “then it’s a matter of deciding whether or not it can be a movie.” Through this process, students develop evaluating skills that will help them determine if their idea can be translated to the medium of film. “There is a specific process to measure that, which I teach new students to go through.”

Every story needs a main character. “The character has to want something that important and clear to them,” explains Minter, “then design a story around all the different things that could get in the way of that.” Take the example of a corporation that is dumping waste illegally, the main character would have to illuminate some sort of moral, like the notion that greed will always be punished. Films like “The Insider or Michael Clayton” have best showed this idea. “The most popular and memorable films are usually morality tales. This is something I teach in the beginning class.”

Part of forming a good main character is in the way we follow the character’s journey, what sort of journey the character takes and how the character has been affected by the journey.

“There are a lot of my students who love to write road trip stories,” says Minter, “in this case you explore what the characters learn, what the road trip teaches them and how they are different by the end.” Most of these road trip stories are hypothetical and have no basis in autobiographical material. “A few of my students try to write autobiographically, but that is always tricky because you get attached to what actually happened, and it is much harder for a writer to let go of facts.”

The advanced class is where students actually write an entire first act of a script. The students sit in a circle and read their work out and receive feedback from the other students.

“Students learn how to write dialogue, keeping it snappy without being repetitive and how to create character voices.”

“This quarter, there has been an exciting variety of stories,” says Minter, “we have romantic comedies on one end, one of which is about a guy who is too truthful, and the other end of the spectrum, we have a story about a girl who essentially obsessed with getting rid of her right hand…that one is going to be a little dark.”

Minter was a part of traditional stage theater for 15 years. “I wrote a stage play and turned it into a movie script, and from there I went to the UCLA film program.” It was at the University of California Los Angeles that Minter won several awards and accolades for her writing, and she decided it would be a fun and interesting career to pursue. She has been a screenwriter for eight years now.

In this class, you can expect to get some of her philosophy on screenwriting as well. “I think what is sad is that the only place for dark films now are small, independently produced companies,” says Minter, “I would be interested to see what happens to independent films in the next eight years. Artists reflect their culture, they write about what is going on around them and what they feel, and I think the good ones serve as vessels to a place where the culture can experience it. [Today], if you tried to pitch a movie like “Easy Rider” to a producer, they would show you to the door.”

The advanced class will have a reading of some of their scripts, read by actors, at the Stop Gap Theater from 1-3 pm on June 3.

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