Program: Film Connection for Cinematography

Screenwriting

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What does a screenwriter do?


Being a screenwriter is no small feat. The screenwriter is the person who creates, takes, or adapts an idea and turns it into a screenplay or script. Without the screenwriter, there would be no movie–period. The screenwriter is the person who starts the often solitary process of imagining, thinking, planning, and ultimately getting that screenplay formulated into the following: acts which build upon one another and propel the action forward, scenes which heighten the tension and hinge on conflict, and characters whose words and actions ring true, in order to ultimately deliver words which leap off of the page, into the mind’s eye of the reader.

While it’s true that there are movies which start with the studio, come up with the basic ideas, and attach the actors, in most cases, the screenwriter is the person who gets the proverbial ball rolling down the hill. Thus, the professional screenwriter is a creative pragmatist who knows how to prepare for the mission ahead, by fortifying themselves on research, and operating with a keen understanding of structure, dramatics, and mastery of the form.

If you are someone who wants to get your own film made and years to share your solitary vision with the world, know this: your success hinges on your screenplay. Even if directing is your first love but you plan to write that killer script on your own, take to the challenge with serious commitment. It may look and sound easy but that’s deceptive. Your success starts with a quality, viable screenplay people want to see, which engages the reader’s senses, whets their appetites, and activates their imaginations.

The Script is King


Spend some time in Hollywood or any filmmaking environment and you’re sure to hear the phrase “The script is king.” What that means is that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the quality of the script.

Many of the best films in cinema are don’t owe their greatness to the actors’ stellar performances, deft action sequences, or amazing effects. These films are considered great because of the script or screenplay.

Quentin Tarantino’s low-budget gamechanging film Pulp Fiction and Robert Towne’s Chinatown are renowned for their reliance on tight action and plot.

Movies Streetcar Named Desire Casablanca and Ordinary People are known for their dialogue, material that enabled its actors to give vivid, powerful performances.

Newer KILLER SCRIPTS which are destined to be classics include Jordan Peele’s plot-twister “Get Out” and Dan Gilroy’s crime thriller “Nightcrawler.”

Your job as the screenwriter is to produce the KILLER SCRIPT.

The Killer Script

The “Killer Script” is the script that isn’t merely good. It is beyond good, and it is beyond great. If you have a KILLER SCRIPT, when someone reads it, they read it in one sitting and immediately get back to you.

When an actor reads it, he or she gets his or her agent on the phone. When a production company reads it, the project is green-lit.

Here is a universal truth that’s as true today as it was fifty years ago: KILLER SCRIPTS GET MADE. Remember that. It’s the good, mediocre, and downright horrible scripts that constitute the vast majority of what other writers put out there. Our screenwriting workshop is different than those filmmaking and screenwriting schools and programs which focus largely on learning film criticism and rarefied stuff which almost no one working in film today gives a care about. At Film Connection we’re serious about empowering you with the tools and expert instruction you need to write your KILLER SCRIPT.

Now can we guarantee that you’ll write a KILLER SCRIPT? Of course not. With us, you’ll get one-on-one remote training from an experienced filmmaker who will work with you to develop your idea for a movie into a complete, polished screenplay.


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Meet our Mentors

Why learn from teachers when you can learn from the professionals?

Ivan Alzuro Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Ivan Alzuro Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“Unlike the local University, Film Connection sends us committed and focused students. We have turned 1 student into full-time contractor – that says it all!”

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Daniel Lir Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Daniel Lir Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Dream Team Directors is a prestigious directorial team founded by Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir. Their company motto, “Let our dream team manifest your dream”, symbolizes the expansion and positive attention they win for their celebrity and high-profile brand clients and collaborators such as Adidas, MTV, Coldplay, P. Diddy, Smashbox Cosmetics, Atlantic Records, Chrome Hearts, Oscar De La Renta, Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo, Golden Globe nominee Anthony Mackie, Matt Bennett of the “Big Bang Theory” and Lea Michele of Fox’s “Glee.”

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Rocco Michaluk Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Rocco Michaluk Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Michaluk has been creating award winning Film & TV productions for over 15 years. His Film Clients include Columbia Pictures, Indian PaintBrush, PBS, NBC, American Empirical Pictures and Fountainbrush Films. His Television clients include NBC, Television Academy / Emmy’s, MTV, Viacom, E! Entertainment, CBS, ABC, Travel Channel, Leftfield Pictures, PETA, and others.

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Alejandra Huerta Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Alejandra Huerta Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Alejandra Huerta specializes in On-Screen Promotions, Executive Presentation Tapes and Sizzle Reels. She started her career with Andromeda in Miami offering Production Services to MTV Latin America as an editor for on-air promotions. She then relocated to New York where she became a successful producer and editor for Viacom and NBC Universal. After her professional experience in NY she relocated to Florida where she continues to manage, produce and edit projects at Andromeda Productions.

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Joaquin Palma Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Joaquin Palma Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“The thing I admire most about the program is that it pairs you with people doing the job that you are aspiring to do. In doing that, I feel it gets rid of the “glamour” that people associate with this business, and helps them realize that it is, in fact, A JOB. It takes hard work, a lot of practice and a sincere courtesy towards one’s colleagues to get ahead and stay relevant; not that tired stereotype of the suffering artist that won’t settle for anything less than his vision of perfection! I don’t think they teach you that at traditional film schools.” — Joaquin Franco Palma

Joaquin Franco Palma was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a first-generation American. Having started his career as a production assistant, Joaquin has gone on to become an award winning writer and director of both independent features and TV; most notably, as a staff writer on the Emmy nominated HULU series, EAST LOS HIGH. Aside from writing for the screen, Joaquin is also a published author of fiction and is a youth writing volunteer for the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and NOSOTROS ORGANIZATION programs.

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Drew Mason Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Drew Mason Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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I started getting serious about making videos during summer backpacking trips with my friends between college semesters at Central Michigan University. Shortly after graduating, I was asked to produce a local TV show. I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. Since then, I’ve produced videos for documentaries, national ad campaigns, and commercials for multinational companies. Recently I was part of a team that produced videos for Lansing’s Silver Bells in the City, and we received an Emmy Award for special event coverage.

My introduction to the business wasn’t with videography; I was a wedding DJ for nearly 8 years. Through this experience, I discovered that weddings are not only among my favorite things to be a part of, but also to film. I love capturing the excitement, love, and energy surrounding them.

When I’m not editing videos – haha, funny joke – I like to make music. In fact, I serenaded my wife Amanda with my ukulele for our first kiss. True story! I also try to get out to the backcountry wilderness with just a backpack from time to time, especially in beautiful northern Michigan.

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David McClain Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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David McClain Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Credits: Coca Cola, Google, Dateline, Travel Channel, NBC

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Demetria Kalodimos Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Demetria Kalodimos Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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In 2000, Demetria established Genuine Human Productions, writing, directing, shooting and editing true stories about real people…genuine humans. Demetria Kalodimos has anchored and reported television news for more than 30 years. She’s won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards including 15 regional Emmys, 2 National Headliners and 2 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards.

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Grant Salisbury Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Grant Salisbury Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Over fifteen years post production experience in Orlando—Grant has provided video editorial, 2D & 3D animations, and motion graphics for a multitude of media clients through his post production company, GFX Creative.

Short & Long Format Video Editorial, Event & Theme Park Animations, Infomercials, Broadcast Commercials, Corporate Communications and Interactive Media for The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, Sea World, Lockheed-Martin, AAA Insurance, 3M, Siemens, Honda, A&D Medical, Toyota, FedEx and others.

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Jae Macallan Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Jae Macallan Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Jae Macallan is the owner, producer, and lead editor for Yoyostring Creative in Seattle, WA., with satalite offices in Portland, OR and San Diego, CA.  Yoyostring produces traditional video as well as animation, 360 VR, live video switching and video mapping. 

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Ron Osborn Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Ron Osborn Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“Simply put, there is no better or more effective way to teach anything than one-on-one, mentor to student.  This is what the Film Connection does.” — Ron Osborn

A writer/producer in television for 35 years, Ron has been nominated for 7 Emmys, 3 Cable Ace Awards, and 2 Writers Guild Awards on shows like MOONLIGHTING, THE WEST WING, and the adult animated DUCKMAN.  He has written pilots for every primetime network, numerous cable networks, as well as movies like MEET JOE BLACK; and has developed feature projects with Steven Speilberg, Ron Howard, and George Lucas, among others. .

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Sam Borowski Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Sam Borowski Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“The Recording Radio and Film Connection is such an effective program, because it takes the student out of the classroom and puts them in the very field they seek to be a part of. With mentors that actually work in the student’s respective field, they get first-hand knowledge of how everything works and just what to do. I think it’s the best way to get hands-on experience and the lessons learned are very valuable. I also think that the interview process helps to match a student with a mentor that will be right for them.” – Sam Borowski

Directed and produced the feature film, Night Club starring Oscar-Winner Ernest Borgnine, Natasha Lyonne and Paul Sorvino. Wrote and produced the feature-length documentary Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man with Oscar-Winner Benicio Del Toro and narrated by 2-time Emmy-Winner Keith David. Also directed and produced the film Maniac.

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John Lafia Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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John Lafia Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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John Lafia is a director and writer, known for Child’s Play (1988), Child’s Play 2 (1990), Man’s Best Friend(1993) and 10.5 (2004)

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Brian Dryden Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Brian Dryden Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Clients: The North Face, Cherokee Sports, LSU

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Peter Foldy Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Peter Foldy Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“For a fraction of the price of a university course, students of the Radio, Record and Film Connection receive one-on-one consultation and mentoring from a seasoned film professional. It is an opportunity for an exchange of meaningful ideas and for some, even a chance to network, an essential requirement to make an in-road in the film business.”

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Eric Abrams Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Eric Abrams Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“Unlike many programs that stress theory over doing, our goal is for our students to have completed a 1st draft of a screenplay or be well on their way in 10 sessions.”
 
Credits I’m proud of: “Married…With Children,” “Gary & Mike,” ‘Live & Maddie,” and an unaired Muppet pilot.

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Monty Mickelson Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Monty Mickelson Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Freelance Journalist, Financial Writer, Corporate Communications Copywriter, Writer of Corporate Training and Life Skills Videoscripts, Public Relations Account Manager, Special Events Promotion and Media Wrangling, Award-Winning Published Novelist, and Feature Film Screenwriter.

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Daniela Larsen Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Daniela Larsen Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Daniela Larsen is the former CEO of Creative Media Education. She created and expanded education & certifications in Digital Media, Film, Cyber Security, Leadership and Technology. She also developed strategic partnerships in the private and public sector to make this education and training accessible to the public. Finally, she used digital media, documentaries and non profit experience to create opportunities for cause marketing, tell the stories that have real impact and increase the reach of online education to the remotest places in the world. She is currently the Executive Director & Founder of Small Candles Education & Economic Development, the CEO of the Navanas Institute and a Certified Partner for Infusionsoft.

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Ryan E. Heppe Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Ryan E. Heppe Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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During his tenure at CCH, Heppe was hired by legendary producer David Foster (The Getaway, Short Circuit, The Mask of Zorro) and quickly climbed to the position of Head of Development where he became involved with Foster’s productions: Collateral Damage starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hart’s War starring Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell, and The Core starring Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank.

As a hyphenate Producer/Director/Writer/Actor, some of Heppe’s work includes: Production of the docu-drama The Magic Was In The Music, a remake of Short Circuit, adaptations of the 80’s television mini-series V and cop series T.J. Hooker, among others. As an actor, he’s starred in such stage productions as You Can’t Take It With You, Life On The Bowery, Dracula and Picnic at Hanging Rock – several of which he directed. In the world of VO, he’s lent his voice to numerous commercials, both national and regional, and performs several characters on the animated series DaGeDar.

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Wade Marshall Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Wade Marshall Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Since 2007, Millennium Studios has been servicing productions in Shreveport and throughout Louisiana.

Credits: True Blood, The Expendables 3, Olympus Has Fallen

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Jon Reiss Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Jon Reiss Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is also critically acclaimed filmmaker whose experience releasing his feature Bomb It with a hybrid strategy was the inspiration for writing Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing in the Digital Era (TOTBO), the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films.  He also co-wrote Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul and Selling Your Film Outside the US.   He also teaches at the Film Directing Program at Cal Arts.

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Rick Dahl Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Rick Dahl Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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I’ve written for many of the major studios and networks. My first movie, “Red Rock West,” was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Independent Spirit Awards. 

I think this program is fantastic. I get to spend an hour a week, one-on-one with my students. We read over their material carefully. It affords me the opportunity to dig deep and get into the details of screenwriting – a deceptively complicated craft. We can cover various aspects of formatting, different styles of writing and how they impact the reader – which ultimately determines the filmic outcome and audience sees on screen.

The time allows me to get know my students so that I’m able to help them put some part of themselves into their stories. 

Once you get past the basics, screenwriting is about story. And we all have one to tell. The more personal that is, the more impact it will have.

The terrific thing I get to experience with Film Connection, because of the one-on-one time I have with my students, is the growth they achieve in their writing

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Jana Sue Memel Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Jana Sue Memel Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“Students at the Film Connection receive the extraordinary benefit of a one-on-one mentoring relationship with highly experienced industry professionals. What an amazing way to learn your craft. Nothing could be better.” — Jana Sue Memel,

Films Jana have produced have been nominated for eleven Oscars and won three. They have also won Emmy’s, Director and Writer Guild Awards and numerous film festival awards. 

Credits:  So I Married An Axe Murderer, Tough Guys, Down Came A Blackbird, Duke of Groove

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Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs Learn Screenwriting Mentor

Background

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs has been one of the most consistent actors in Hollywood and his amazing work has won millions of hearts all over the world. He was born in the year 1953 on 4th of September and this makes his age 61 at this time. At this age he has already been a legendary actor and he will be always remembered for his contributions. He was born in a place called New York City, which lies in New York of United States of America. He belongs to the ethnicity black and nationality American. He is very humble and always carries a smile on his face. He is an extremely tall man as he has a very impressive height of 6 feet 2 inches, which is around 1.87 meters. He went to the university called Wilkes University for his degree. A lot of information on him and his interesting biography can be grabbed from wiki sites like Wikipedia and IMDb.

He has been very motivated in his career and to make the scenes look real he has given many shirtless scenes as well. He has been living a king’s life and all thanks to his hard work and dedication. He has poured perfection in almost all of his work. He has been earning good money also and has his net worth in millions of dollars. He has a net worth of 1 million dollars and this speaks his success story. Videos related to him are absolutely loved in YouTube. It does not seem like he is much into social networking sites like Twitter and Instagram and does not like to upload his pictures in those sites to share them.

After being so popular he has managed to keep his personal life very low profile. It does not seem like he is gay but, as he has not revealed his sexual preference nothing can be said with assurance. He has never talked about his wife and children but he looks like married. If he is not married also he has never revealed the person he is dating right now or his girlfriend. He has never talked about his current affair also if he is having any. It seems like he has not been through divorce.

He has played great roles in TV shows and movies and this has made him who he is today. He played the role of Charles in a movie called Claudine in the year 1974. He played the role of Cochise in a movie called Cooley High in the year 1975. He played the role of Floyd in a movie called The Annihilators in the year 1985. In the year 2004 he played the role of Anthony in a movie called 30 Miles. Other movies to his credits are Nocturnal Agony, Otis, Tamales and Gumbo, Indecent Behavior, L.A Vice, Chance and Youngblood.

He has been superb with his roles in TV shows and series as well. He appeared in a TV show called Welcome Back, Kotter from the year 1975 to the year 1979. Other TV series to his credits are Pointman, Ellen, Moesha and The Jacksons: An American Dream.

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Jim Fogarty Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Jim Fogarty Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Jim Fogarty is a writer and producer, known for Waxing Gibbous (2001), Coffee & Donuts (2007) and A Legacy Reborn: The Rebirth of the W.D. Packard Music Hall (2014).

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Dale DeToni Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Dale DeToni Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Owner/Producer, Dale DeToni, began his career thirty years ago when he brought his experience and education from some of Chicago’s largest recording studios to Springfield, with the dream of starting his own media production company.

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Damon Crump Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Damon Crump Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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The Millionaire Matchmaker, Risen, Broke Sky, Aliens on the Moon, Endings, Assault on Waco, Telling Stories: The Comic Book Creators, Big Rich Texas

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Mark Gibson Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Mark Gibson Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“As a screenwriting mentor I know that every student like every writer is different.  The Film Connection screenwriting program allows me to work one on one with my students, customizing the curriculum, allowing me to focus on each student’s needs by helping them raise the level of their writing whether it’s their first script or their fiftieth.”

As for credits, I think my two Disney films SNOW DOGS and THE WILD are certainly the most well known. 

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Conrad Denke Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Conrad Denke Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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“There is no replacement for actual hands-on experience, and The Film Connection provides opportunities to work closely with our production team and learn what it takes to make it in the production business.” — Conrad Denke

Conrad Denke, film producer/director and CEO/owner of Victory Studios has been in the film and video business for over 30 years. He was co-executive producer and director on the PBS series “National Desk.” Denke has worked on feature films including “Assassins” with Sylvester Stallone, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” with Antonio Banderas and Johnny Depp,  “Santa Who?” with Leslie Nielson, “Boycott” for HBO, “Alone with Her” with Colin Hanks, “Cover” directed by Bill Duke, and “Mr. Warmth: Don Rickels” directed by John Landis. He is currently producing the television series “Band in Seattle” and has several projects in development including “Music for Young People” and “Daredevils and Disasters.”

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Seth Wood Learn Screenwriting Mentor

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Seth Wood Learn Screenwriting Mentor

Background

Seth has been working in production since 1998 and has a wide range of refined marketing skills.

With abilities in media marketing and advertising, he is an asset to almost any organization. Seth works with companies and agencies all over the US to produce “brand” friendly marketing pieces that actually generate results. Because of his extreme expertise and experience in graphics, photography, video production, and other media marketing solutions, you can get all your products produced at one boutique advertising location… Seth’s office!

Brands promoted with video projects over the past years include: Microsoft, Avaya Telecommunications, Susan G Koman, Texas Instruments, CAE, Evatran, Oster and many more. Check out the full list of production credits on his new leads generating website.

www.SwoodMedia.com

“I work hard, am deadline savvy, and ready to get YOUR job done right.”

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This is your curriculum.

Lesson One: Getting Started

In this lesson, we begin your screenwriting education by dissecting a script to find out what makes it a KILLER SCRIPT. How does this screenplay stand up against other, less masterful scripts? What stays with you after you read it?

We then dig into the essential elements all good screenplays have in common, from Star Wars, to Rocky, to Casablanca. Together, we uncover the reasons why getting the right education in screenwriting includes reading and honing one’s understanding of the dynamics and antagonisms which are always at work in great screenplays.

Then, we’ll discuss why reading the “classics” is paramount for anyone who wants to grow an insider’s knowledge of script-writing and go on to write the KILLER SCRIPT.

Lesson Two: The Story

Whether you’re in Hollywood, Bollywood, Indiewood, or on some soundstage in Atlanta, New York, Charleston, or Ontario, everything starts with the story.

So, what’s the story are you’re burning to tell? Is it based on a true story, a book, or some other published work (an adapted screenplay), or is the idea entirely your own, hatched from your own imagination (an original screenplay)?

In lesson two, you will learn what the writing maxim “write what you know” really means. Then you and your mentor will discuss why every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Behind all great cinematic films is an adherence to structure. Rebel against it as you like, structure will forever be the backbone of great stories which, when handled expertly, become great screenplays and ultimately great movies.

A note on adapted screenplays: Not all great books make for great films. If the book you want to turn into a movie takes place through a first person point of view (POV), or if it tells the story of a writer, thinker, artist, or individual whose activity is one of the mind, you may want to reconsider your choice of subject.

Another maxim of screenwriting is to “write what’s seen.” They’ll be more on that later. Sure you can say good movies been made about artists, writers, philosophers, etc. Certainly! But in so doing, many screenwriters adapt what was originally told in a first person POV into 3rd person POV. Others attempt to leap into the character’s minds by showing their daydreams, dreams, or visions. Still others never clearly establish POV and therefore disrupt the audience’s ability to empathize with the main character and feel compelled to find out what’s going to happen next, rather than confused about what just happened.

In any case, stories told “in the mind” do not generally result in good screenplays, so beware!

Lesson Three: The Three Act Structure and Plot Points

Nearly all films follow the same plot format, which consists of three separate sections of a movie to tell a story. This is called the 3-Act Structure.

Although the manner by which various writers tackle and categorize the Acts may vary, the underlying structure is so universal that audience members naturally expect and anticipate for the movies they watch to unfold in a 3-Act Structure.

The Setup and The Confrontation, comprise Act One and Two, which may be seen as a “ratcheting up” of plot points and rising action which persists and increases all the way until the needle-sharp climax, followed by the shoring up of various narrative threads addressed in The Resolution of Act Three.

Act One: The Setup

  • Exposition
  • Main Character
  • Dramatic Premise
  • Dramatic Situation
  • Inciting Incident

Act Two: The Confrontation

  • Obstacles
  • First Culmination
  • Midpoint

Act Three: The Resolution

  • Climax
  • Denouement

Homework

Lesson Four: Character

Your characters must be so alive, so convincingly real that they seem to leap right off of the page. What they say, what they do, and how they do it even when they’re way out on a ledge, hanging-on with one sweating palm, pushed miles beyond their comfort zone, must ring true.

Some of the greatest screenplays of all time aren’t great just because of a memorable lead or well-executed plot twist. Sometimes a character can say one line, and you instantly feel you know him or her.

In short, every single character in your movie, from the leading man to the sultry seductress, to the street-sweeper who finds the body, has to have substance. There’s no substitute to doing the work it takes to achieve this.

Every character in your screenplay has to have substance. Substance is achieved by the development of a solid backstory. In lesson four, we’ll discuss the development of character and the relationship between character and story which are equally co-dependent i.e. two sides of the same coin.

  • The Reality
  • Back Story
  • Character Arcs
  • Taking What You See
  • Supporting Characters

Homework

Lesson Five: Theme/Genre

In this lesson, you will define the kind of film you are writing. As is the case in music and literature, genre is a category of artistic composition marked by a distinctive style, form, or content. In Film, genre is the form of film your story will ultimately reveal. Understanding that definition will come to your aid as you learn to watch movies as a filmmaker. Hence, that “dramedy” that’s grossed millions at the box office, has just one dominant genre which is revealed at the film’s point of climax.

In order to write a great screenplay you need to know what’s expected of the story you’re telling. That expectation is largely based on genre. Want to bend the rules or disregard them altogether? First, learn the form and execute it well. You can break the rules later.

Genres include:

  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Action
  • Musical
  • Thriller
  • Horror
  • Western
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Satire

As well as these variations:

  • Dramedy (Drama and Comedy)
  • Black Comedy
  • Film Noir
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Street Drama
  • Horror Comedy
  • Musical Comedy
  • Crime Thriller

Even though they’re often conflated, “theme” is different from genre. A theme addresses the question “What’s it about?” in a topical, idealistic sense. A story can be made deeper by adding a theme. That being said, it’s definitely possible to lay it on too thick.

Examples of themes include:

  • Good vs. Evil
  • Love Conquers All
  • Triumph Over Adversity
  • Individual vs. Society
  • Coming of Age
  • Death, as part of Life
  • Man vs. Himself
  • Man vs. Nature

Additionally, during this lesson you and your mentor will begin work preparing you to sell your screenplay and “go pro.”

  • Identifying the Genre
  • The Two Line Pitch
  • The Two Movie Pitch

Homework

Lesson 6: Actions and Descriptions

Before it can captivate, entertain and delight, a screenplay has got to move. We’ve talked about having a beginning, a middle, and an end. All of the scenes within each of the three acts must work to propel the story forward, whether that happens through character exposition or action. In this lesson, we’ll dig into what to do, what not to do, and how to keep that writing fresh and engaging for the reader.

  • The Novel vs. The Screenplay
  • Write What’s Seen
  • Writing Scene Action
  • Shooting Scripts vs. Reading Scripts

Homework

Lesson 7: Formatting

If you submit a screenplay to a literary agent that’s typed in Microsoft Word in Times New Roman font, it will most likely never be read and end up in the trash. Screenplays must adhere to certain rules:

  • They need to be formatted correctly.
  • They need to be the proper length. One screenplay page is roughly one minute of movie playtime, so a 120 page screenplay is a 2 hour movie.
  • They need to be printed and presented correctly

In marketing, “packaging is everything.” The same can be said of professional screenwriting. If you plan on selling your script or raising money to produce your own film, you need to know how to format and present your finished screenplay in exactly the same manner as the pros. The truth is that readers at a film production studio or agency are often very pressed for time. Every day they may be asked to review between 10 and 30 scripts. Take an eight hour workday, then subtract time for answering phones, scheduling, making copies, and working on shooting schedules, correspondence, or sending and filing contracts, as well as grabbing lunch and running errands. By the time the reader gets to “read” incoming submissions, they’ve got little time to actually read.

In order to separate the good from the bad, readers use a shortcut. Typically, they’ll look at the title page, the first page, and the last. If the format, presentation, and length of the script adheres to standards, the chances are good that they’ll actually read page one of your screenplay. If then that first page bores them it goes in the trash bin. If it compels them to turn to page two, they may keep on reading. If it doesn’t, that script which was worked on for hundreds, even thousands of hours, gets tossed into the bin, right along with the others.

Therefore, in lesson seven you and your mentor will dig into the essential nuts-and-bolts of screenplay presentation, including:

  • Which Screenwriting Software to Use
  • Your Title Page
  • Printing

Homework

Lesson 8: Dialogue

When writing dialogue, you’re not writing what looks good on the page, you’re writing what sounds good to the ear and rings true for that character. One of the best ways to become good at dialogue is to listen to the people around you. Every line you write should be able to be spoken aloud. You should be able to visualize and hear your character saying that line of dialogue. Be as tight and as economical with your dialogue as possible. Try to never “overwrite.” Again, this is a screenplay, not a novel. People rarely talk or think in paragraphs. Make all your words tight and to the point. To that end, in this lesson you and your mentor will dig into the following fundamentals of writing good dialogue which reflects and informs the development of the character:

  • Giving Your Characters a Voice
  • A Word on Narration
  • Do You Ever Use It?

Homework

Lesson 9:Synopsis and Treatment

The short synopsis is a one to two paragraph summary of your story. Be careful here: you don’t want to give away the ending! You just want to give a quick rundown of what the story is about. This is another one of those tools that helps you both before you write (it gives you a short, tight picture of your story), and after you’ve completed your screenplay, since many times it’s your short synopsis that gets your foot in the door. Besides drafting a compelling and accurate short synopsis, this lesson will also cover:

  • The Long Synopsis
  • The Four Page Treatment

Homework

Lesson 10:The Scene Outline

The outline is an essential tool for many writers. Though many veteran WGA writers still use outlines, it’s greatly important for beginning writers who have never completed a script to know just where, specifically, they are going.

  • Scene Ordering
  • Marking The Plot Points, Acts, Midpoints and Climax
  • Sample Scene Outline
  • Your Guide
  • The Main Rule of Writing
  • Create Your Rock

Homework

Lesson 11:The First Draft

The main rule of writing is as follows: Don’t be afraid to write crap. Understand that even the best writers in the world do not write brilliant masterpieces on their first drafts. Many of the greatest screenplays of all time have been written and rewritten numerous times over. Just focus, get excited, and begin to write. If you never start, you’ll never finish, so start!

  • Create Your Rock, Part Two
  • Pushing to the End

Homework

Lesson 12

Now You Know

Congratulations! You’ve finished your rough draft screenplay. Isn’t it a great feeling? It’s fantastic to hold those 120 or so pages, 3 hole punched with 2 brass brads and say, “I did this!” Okay, now don’t get too confident. The script you hold in your hands you will show to NO ONE. EVER. Don’t get down. In this lesson, you’re going to hone critical skills that can make you a pro who’s capable of going the distance, from first draft to final draft, and on!

  • The First Read
  • The “Professional” First Draft
  • Making a Cohesive Story
  • Judging the Logic and Movement
  • Your Job

Homework

Lesson 13:Polishing

The first aspect of your script polish deals with tightening. As we stated before, you MUST have a script that moves. After your first rewrite, you might have altered major aspects of the story. Now it’s time to polish them. Polishing the script is like operating with a laser. Another way to look at it is, you’ve shaped the rock, now it’s time to pull out the chisel to start working away the extraneous stuff that’s in the way. “Tightening” is the process where you make the script shorter and quicker. There’s no such thing as a script that reads too fast. You need to be economical on your dialogue and your action, but not lose essential elements.

  • Good Tightening
  • Bad Tightening
  • Fixing a Scene’s Structure and Flow
  • Making It Error-Proof
  • The First 10 Pages
  • Your Job

Homework

Lesson 14:The Good Read

Know this: at this point in time you’re too close to your script. When even the most veteran of writers have completed their first draft, they might have an idea of how good or bad their screenplay is but they never truly know until they’ve gotten “The Good Read.” The Good Read is the read by an objective person who will cover your script and give you feedback. This person is not a friend or a family member, even if you find them critical or think they’re objective. They’re not. They know you and they have a sense of you, so their view of your script is always tainted. In this lesson we’ll uncover the following:

  • Where to Find Good Readers
  • How to Interpret Their Notes

Homework

Lesson 15:Rewriting, Part Two

One of the essential steps in your second rewrite is to identify the problems that the “Good Readers” pointed out. What do you need to change? How do you change it? Again, the best way to improve something is to see how the problem areas in your script were resolved in a successful script. If one of your consistent notes from your readers were, “I wasn’t buying the action sequences,” for example, then you know you’re not writing great action sequences.

Continuing with this example, you’d need to refer to at least two screenplays where the action sequences are known to be excellent. Always, always refer to what has worked in the past. That’s what makes this program and its approach to screenwriting instruction so powerful. We’re using the technique of “modeling” to create a KILLER SCRIPT. “Modeling” involves duplicating successful paths so that you can be successful as well. You’re going to be modeling your KILLER SCRIPT after the techniques and qualities that previous KILLER SCRIPTS had!

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Kill Your Babies
  • Go Back and Read
  • Your Job

Homework

Lesson 16:Agents

Literary agents serve to sell your screenplay in exchange for a 10% commission. They have the connections to the studios and the production companies who buy your script and potentially make it into a film. In essence, that’s what you’re paying the 10% for…their contacts and relationships. The more powerful the literary agent, the more pull he or she has with the studios and major production companies.

  • The Pitch
  • Referrals
  • The Query Letter
  • Getting Them to Read Your Script

Homework

Lesson 17:Selling Your Script

There are tons of scripts written each year. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has less than 12,000 members. Of these members, only a small percentage are making a living by writing. Becoming a professional writer takes time, hard work, and talent. As we stated earlier in this program, if it was so easy to sell a screenplay for mid-six figures, everyone would be doing it.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and plan for success is to write a KILLER SCRIPT. That’s what matters in the end. If you can create a Killer Script that’s backed up by good reads, has been polished, and can potentially be reshaped (more on that in the next lesson), you have a much better chance at a sale.

  • Be Realistic
  • Production Companies
  • Don’t Be Afraid
  • Copywriting

Homework

Lesson 18:Rewriting, Part Three

Okay, so maybe your script isn’t selling. Maybe you can’t get an agent, even after you’ve gotten some great feedback. What are you doing wrong? Perhaps your script needs to be altered. Maybe if you wrote a thriller set in the 1970’s and it needs to be moved to present day. Maybe you’ve written your lead character as a male and you might need to change him to a female.

There are so many variables. The key is, you need to be flexible and open to changing your script. A script is almost never finished. Once your script is optioned, it will be rewritten many times, and by the time the screenplay makes it to the screen, the script may be completely different. You must be open to this.

  • Be Open to Changing Your Script
  • Writing is Rewriting, but…
  • Director’s Notes

Homework

Lesson 19:On Set/Credits/WGA

Sometimes it seems like the writer has one of the least important roles on set, and, in many ways, that’s true. You, as the writer, were the inspiration and the source of the film in the first place. You created (or adapted) the idea and put in the many hours, sweat, and worry it takes to write a good script. As a result of that very blueprint, a movie will be made. Now here’s something it may hurt you to hear. Even if you single handedly wrestled that idea out from the depths of your imagination and have turned it into a great screenplay, it’s time to get out of the way. It’s true…when it comes time to shoot a film, the writer’s job is regulated to the sidelines. That’s exactly why, according to the WGA, the writer has to be paid in full 100% by the time production starts. Their work is done—kind of.

  • Your Job on the Set
  • Actor’s Notes
  • Credit Rules
  • The WGA

Homework

Lesson 20:Your Career as a Writer

The killer script is your ticket to making a career as a screenwriter. You can become a professional writer if you work at it persistently and regard this as a career not a hobby. As your read more, learn more, and write more scripts, remember to always look into the great screenplays you’ve studied and consider what worked and why it worked. Develop your ability to know and see with your mind’s eye everything that’s delineated on the pages of the screenplays you read. It will serve you well.

Recognize the problems you come across in the less-than-fantastic scripts you read (there will be many). In short, task yourself with developing a deep understanding of writing film. And even though the screenplay is a document of words that serves as the blueprint for a movie, always work to entice the reader who is holding that script in their hands. Make it downright captivating to read.

  • The Future
  • Branding Yourself
  • Establishing a Body of Work

Homework

Coursework is delivered via distance education and completed at a location determined by the student. Externship locations can be up to 60 miles away from the student’s address. The externship mentor will work with each student on structuring a specific schedule, the student agrees that he/she will be available to meet with the mentor for a minimum of two sessions per week.”

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