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August 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 16 Aug 1992 12:28:51 EDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Recently there was a query about schools teaching screen writing.
The following may help answer what I understand as the sub-text of
the question about schools. It was written last spring when someone
asked how one gets started in screen writing or film.
Sadly, there is no easy answer.  People must find their own way.
For some that means writing, writing, writing.  Even if they must
support themselves by serving food in a restaurant.  Others take the
initiative and move to Hollywood where they will be in competition
with thousands and thousands of others similarly situated.  School
is only one choice; if there is something that one really hopes to
gain from attending a film school.  And the school will serve that
purpose.  Don't go to film school for lack of anything better to do.
[On this point, Henry Breitrose at Stanford commented, "We've
gotten to the point of actually discouraging people who are younger
than ca. 26 and have had no previous experience, on the ground that
so chancy an enterprise should be pursued only by knowledgeable
consenting adults.  Kind of like marriage.  My feeling is that
people who are vaguely interested in film in ways essentially
undefined should be directed to programs in film studies, where they
may commune with the idea of film."]
I'm not sure I'd be that strict, but the notion is worth thinking
Then one is faced with the matter of which school?  That's a longer
story than be dealt with in e-mail.  In general, Henry's advice
about caution, visiting schools, and speaking to current students is
sound.  I think there is likely a school that can well serve any
student's interest.  The trick is to find that school (and, as we've
indicated, one can't depend on the school's written description).
There's nothing worse than being stuck at a school that is doing
something different than you want to do.
The key decision point, it seems to me, is what are you willing to
give up for your ambition?  And what is your ambition in the first
place?  Stating the question vaguely, does not help much:  "With a
nine month old bachelor's degree in English, how does one get
started in screenwriting . . . or in film for that matter?"
I must ask: What is your ambition?  To tell stories?  As a writer?
As a director?  To get rich and famous?  If writing is the ambition,
then write.  Don't get stuck on one story.  Write one script, then
another, then another.  Then bother anyone who will listen about
your material.  There are screen-play contests announced regularly,
enter a script.  There are other people similarly situated who want

to direct but can't write.  Maybe one of them (or more than one of
them) might be able to take one of your scripts and do something to
get it produced.  There are also people just starting out whose main
talent is hustling, the basic skill of a producer.  Maybe one of
them can do you some good.
If directing is the goal, then direct when ever, where ever.
Amateur theater, scouts, summer camp . . . .  And if you do not have
an assignment, then develop plans on how you would direct a project
if only . . .
Sometimes these dreams come true, but if they don't immediately, one
can still learn from the work.
The truly sad thing about most show business, but especially film
these days, is that one has to concentrate on their ambition to the
exclusion of almost everything else.
If this sounds mean and unfeeling, it is intended to.  My comments
are mild compared to what you face trying to make your way in the
film business.  If anything I say can dissuade someone, then they
are poor candidates for making it.
Cal Pryluck                               <[log in to unmask]>
Dept of Radio-Television-Film             <PRYLUCK@TEMPLEVM>
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122                    voice (215) 247-9663)