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Of Course You Can Write!

February 9th, 2010


I never intended to make my living as a writer. As a matter of fact, I intended to become a film director, and that’s what I studied at college. However, the year I graduated from Yale the Writer’s Guild went on strike, and I fell back on other skills, including photography, to get work. Within months of when the Writers Guild finally ended their strike the Screen Actors Guild went on an extended strike, necessitating the delay of the fall TV season and making all kinds of problems for those of us in Hollywood who were already looking for film or TV work.

Disenchanted, I returned to New York City and began a 9 to 5 job on Wall Street, even if my heart wasn’t in it. A turning point came when a friend, also a Yale graduate, asked me if I would be interested in reading and qualitatively assessing scripts for a public TV series which would produce a series of full-length independent movies for broadcast. Intrigued, I met with the Director of Development, a woman whose grandfather was an eminent American playwright and screenwriter. We hit it off, and my career as a script reader, story analyst and consultant had begun.

I began slowly, reading on a freelance basis. I read everything they asked me to: screenplays, treatments, plays, teleplays, manuscripts and more. Because I was a quick read and could turn around a critical response in a short period of time, I soon became a ‘favorite’ reader for the two executives who ran the series and who, in essence, produced all the films. It was a heady time: public TV actually had cash, and the movies being produced were free of the usual ‘lowest-common-denominator’ aspect that most TV movies embraced to secure viewers. In fact, most of the films that were produced were really theatrical features; it’s just that public TV got to them first…

As a result of this cultural flourishing, I was able to read some great ‘properties,’ as we say here in Hollywood. Of course it goes without saying that I also read a lot of dreadful things, since the ratio of great to dreadful is actually quite high; although most scripts contain some kernel of creativity, interest or cleverness, very few scripts are consistently creative, interesting or clever. In fact, that’s where I come in: I read and analyze writers’  scripts to help determine what is strongest and what is weakest, and attempt to reinforce the best writing while eliminating anything that’s sloppy or simply wrong. I provide constructive criticism, informed by a lifetime of film knowledge and experience and topped off with a literary sense that ties writing and filmmaking aspects together.

After three decades of story analysis, I have come to the conclusion that everyone has a story to tell, and anyone can write. Good, solid writing is harder to accheive, but it, too, is simply a matter of taking the time to do things right. As an experienced writer, editor and analyst, I am living proof that Of Course You Can Write!

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