Tag Archives: screenwriting

Hooray, It’s LA!

Hollywood Bound

Here in the MFA section of Film and Television at Boston University, we get really hyped up about something most people our age find absolutely detestable as a conversational centerpiece–the future.  A case could be made that we’re all just too engrossed in our own work, but the solution may be more ridiculous: it’s our school. The Film and Television department offers a pretty sweet opportunity at the end of our program, one in which we can defer our graduation after taking an additional semester of focused classes and internships in Los Angeles.

This is a pretty big deal, as jobs in Hollywood are notoriously difficult to find.  When people say you need a friend in the industry, they’re not joking.  This program, though, helps us get a foot in the door.

Here’s how it works.  During your final semester, you send off an essay that details exactly what you want out of your future career and a portfolio of what you’ve done so far.  If you’re accepted, a representative from the BU in LA program, or in my case, the Writer in LA program, will come and interview you and help you find an internship or three.

It seems to me that the question isn’t so much why you’d want to do this, but instead–why wouldn’t you?

I’m a career-minded person.  I have a lot of trouble staying in the present with both of my personal and professional lives, and I’m always thinking more about the sale and production of my scripts than the actual writing of them.  As soon as I’m finished getting down the premise, I’m already thinking about shots, actors, and audience reception.  Now, this isn’t exactly a terrible thing, but it’s also not what I’m here to talk about.

This problem leads me to a few solutions.  I’m really interested in developing stories and structures for television.  I like thinking about how characters develop and change over time–after all, change is the essence of storytelling–so I’d love to get into a show-runner position.

Back up–how does this affect what I’m doing now?  My goals, for now, is to get an internship working in a writer’s room.  My philosophy is that the best work starts from the bottom, and being able to work my way up to the top, learning all the way, will make me more well-rounded in the end.   Being in graduate school has taught me a few things, and if you’ve ever spoken to me or read my other posts on this blog, you’ve certainly been beaten over the head by this before.

First, graduate school isn’t the end of your education, but the beginning of your career.  Second, it’s dangerous to have the attitude that the learning stops once you leave the school.  But that’s the really brilliant thing about this program.  Being able to get your start in a place like Boston is really essential, as you don’t have to fight ten thousand other filmmakers scraping for jobs, locations, and actors.  The opportunity to transition over to the land of the big dogs once you’ve had a chance to learn and expand in a free-form environment sets you a cut above everyone else that’s tried (and often, failed) to run out to LA with a suitcase and a dream.

The Writer in LA program, for me, just makes sense.   Hollywood is where the action happens–from writing to production.  It’s the place to be if you’re serious about filmmaking, and the opportunity to have someone hold your hand while you try to figure it all out is too good to pass up.

See you in Los Angeles.

The Name of the Game

Suddenly, it’s two years ago.  I’m looking at graduate school, and I’m asking myself the big questions.

I won’t lie to you–when it came to my decision to apply to Boston University–I only had one thing in mind.  Success.  I searched for the top ten graduate schools for screenwriting and ran down the list.  I didn’t want to be in Los Angeles or New York City.  I didn’t want to be at a school that wasn’t going to set me apart.  I wanted to go somewhere I could write, get better at what I already did well, and push myself to be better than everyone else.

When I was thinking about graduate school, I wasn’t thinking about an extension of my undergraduate life.  The first day of graduate school was the first day of my new career.  The time for changing majors, taking throwaway classes, and sleeping late to avoid that eight-in-the-morning monster of a class had passed.  I knew that with every paper I wrote (and I wrote a lot of them), I’d be showing my expertise, knowhow, and intellect to people who would be paying attention and making a list.  I wanted to be on that list, because I knew who that person was–that person was capable of getting me where I wanted to be.

I knew what I wanted, and got the chance to take it–so I did.  I knew that in my field, a degree in screenwriting from Boston University was a big thing.  I mean, look at what our alumni have done.  Scott Rosenberg wrote High Fidelity and Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. Bruce Feirstein wrote the three greater Brosnan-era Bond films and oversaw the production of L.A. Confidential. Richard Gladstein produced Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Bourne Identity.

I came to Boston University because I wanted to be the best.  I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.  I’m making big connections, developing my craft in a way I didn’t think possible, and am well on my way to getting exactly what I want: success.

Boston University took me a long way in getting there.

 

Admissions Deadlines and the Art of the Snowdrift Luau

Here it is: 2013.

To be frank, I was like sixty-five percent sure that we wouldn’t live to see this night. I mean, I’m not saying that I buy into every single Mesoamerican prophecy that hits center stage, but I really had a good feeling about this one. Oh well. We can’t all be right all the time.

Every New Years’ Eve, I always spend a lot more time thinking about what’s coming up in the next year rather than everything that’s happened over the twelve previous months. For some of us in the graduate school, we’re looking at potential jobs. For others, we’re planning the biggest projects we’ve done since we started school almost two (or more) decades ago. Still, there are those prospective students right now (maybe not right now) eagerly pecking away at their applications, confident (and correct) that this is the right step for their future.

This time two years ago, I was sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, writing the last lines of a short story for my Boston University application portfolio. Tonight, I’m sitting next to a celebratory oatmeal stout, wrapping up the next draft of a short script I’m submitting to Boston University’s annual screenwriting competition. This time next year, I’ll be trying to turn internships into employment in Los Angeles and hopefully on the way to getting some of my own scripts sold and directing projects off the ground.

Anyway, there’s officially a month left in the application process for the next class of COM graduate students. For the screenwriters, that means you’ll need to write at least a page a day to pull this off, if you haven’t started. You’ll spend the next month wondering why you didn’t study more for the GRE, and praying that those professors writing your recommendations don’t actually hate you.

But don’t worry. I’ve got a really good feeling about this year. Sure, it helps that I’m only taking three classes and have plans to be working closer with the COM staff, who are always a blast. There’ll also be more prospective student events, and I’m not just sucking up here, I freaking love meeting you guys. On top of all of that, I’ll have a great new batch of Storytelling students to start teaching all over again from the first FADE IN:.

I’m never wrong about these feelings I get. It’s going to be a good year.

P.S., I read a tweet earlier from @bucomgrad that says that the COM Lawn is a great place for barbecuing, so unless anybody tells me any different, I’m going to start stockpiling charcoal and holding snowdrift luaus on the front lawn.

I’ll see you there.

Meet Rucker Manley

The Art of Giving (or, “What I Did on My Thanksgiving Vacation”)

Once a year, I throw a party.  Now, I can’t tell you what kind of party it is, but it’s Beersgiving, and you, prospective graduate student, are invited.  Except next year, it’s in Los Angeles.

So here’s how it goes.  Fellow screenwriter Chris and I invite a bunch of cool (and not lame) of-legal-drinking-age people over to one of our apartments and prepare a feast: last year, it was cajun-rub turkey, and this year, it was apricot-tequila turkey (and not as good as last year.)  Usually, we’ll try to get together and do something wholesome and family oriented.  For example, the year of the very first Beersgiving, we watched the cult smash megahorror, Jordan Downey’s ThanksKilling. Gobble.

That’s all hogwash, though.  How I celebrate holidays of lesser capitalist prominence isn’t what’s important to me about both of these potluck-centric parties.  I don’t consider myself any sort of saint, but after at least four years of undergraduate study, I came to a realization: there are a whole lot of people that have to spend certain holidays alone.  I wanted an opportunity to make that easier on people, and I lured them in with turkey and macaroni and cheese, and it totally worked.

Your graduate cohort is a family, which means that for the next two years (or however long your program lasts), you’re stuck with them, usually for the best.  They’ll build you up, cut you down, and won’t come to your Thanksgiving party, but these precious people will also have the heart to look you in the eye and tell you exactly how and why your advertising campaign or script or essay on the Messiah in musicals sucks so bad.

I’ve really come to rely on the people in my program, but don’t tell them that.  I’ve found that my reputation as “the honest guy” sort of proceeds me at BU COM, but whenever I’ve needed something from one of my cohort, a quick text message and look over whatever I’m working on reminds me that yes, graduate students are much better people than everyone else.

This year’s party ended with a rousing game of Bang!, one of my favorite Spaghetti Western card games.  A certain film student knocked another film student out pretty quickly, and tensions there are high or whatever, but all-in-all, it was good.  Somehow, five meat eaters and four vegetarians consumed an entire sixteen pound turkey, which leads me to believe that vegetarianism might be some sort of ploy by the soy industry, but I’ll keep my theories on that to myself.