Make the Strongest Choice

Photo by: Edgard Medina.  All Rights Reserved.

I recently did a film consulting job for a very talented writer. The story involved a romantic rivalry subplot. Two men were in love with the same woman. One man was rich and powerful. The other man was poor but intelligent and savvy.

Both men needed the other to succeed and they owed substantial debts of honor and respect to each other. The woman was the rich and powerful man’s servant. My first question about this romantic triangle was– what would drive the powerful and important man the most crazy? Would this influential pillar of the community be driven to extremes if the intelligent but poor man stole his SERVANT or his WIFE? The answer is, of course, is his wife.

That much more intimate betrayal would produce a nuclear reaction of outrage, shame and revenge. No servant girl, however, beautiful and desirable, matches the humiliation of being cuckolded by one’s wife, business partner, and best friend.

In another consulting job, two best friends decide to embark on a road trip. The night before they leave they hook up with some local girls. The girls, who are new acquaintances, are generally supportive of the two guys’ dream of heading out on the open road. What would cause more conflict? Telling your FINACE that you are leaving town indefinitely to pursue your dream or some easy-going ACQUAINTANCE  you might never see again?

The answer is clear. Telling your fiance involves intense inner angst, incredible turmoil, and probably a torrent of tears. (Along with a lot of guilt over a loved one’s sense of betrayal and abandonment)

Always ask yourself– What would make the situation more impossible? What would twist and torture your character more intensely. Then make the strongest choice. Ramp up the conflict. Make it more personal. Make it more intimate and emotional. The higher the stakes for the character the more the audience cares about what happens next.

Nigella Lawson and her Recent Troubles

Nigella Lawson’s admission she used cocaine in a fraud trial of two sisters who were her personal assistants has caused a sensation in the British press.  The intimate details about her relationship with her husband, multi-millionaire Charles Saachi, was further fuel for scandalous gossip.

The story reminded me to look back on an article I wrote about celebrity chefs and their Character Types.  (The full article is here

Below is my analysis of Nigella at the time:


Nigella Lawson is a Power of Love character.  She is a food seducer.  Cooking is a sensual pleasure and the opportunity to nurture.  She is  often described as being “sexy and flirty” while working with or presenting food.  She celebrates her own voluptuous curves and says she takes her greatest joy in “feeding others”.  Here is how she describes her philosophy in one of her books:

The trouble with much modern cooking is not that the food it produces is not good, but that the mood it induces in the cook is one of skin-of-the-teeth efficiency, all briskness and little pleasure. Sometimes that’s the best we can manage, but to others we want to feel not like a postmodern, post feminist, overstretched modern woman but, rather, a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in our languorous wake. So what I’m talking about is not being a domestic goddess, exactly, but feeling like one. – Domestic Goddess

Lawson’s culinary efforts have been described as decadent, succulent, passionate, luscious, and lavish.

Lawson’s sexy roundness mixed with her speed-demon technique makes cooking dinner with Nigella look like a prelude to an orgy.  – The New York TImes

Her appeal is further described here:

Women like her, she says, “because I’m not thin”, while men who lack the domestic skills to unwrap a chip supper can watch her licking a fingerful of her signature Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly and wonder what they have been missing.  – The Telegraph

Power of Love characters, regardless of what they look like are innately sensual and sexy.  They are Earth Mothers or Nurturers regardless of their gender.  In her many television shows like Nigella Bites and Forever Summer with Nigella, Lawson presents food as a comfort, a pleasure and the abiding warmth of true sustenance.  Cooking is her way of giving pleasure to others.  When she is criticized it is for creating a kind of “Food Porn” that is a too voluptuous or too much the over-stuffed sensory feast.


Earlier in the year, her husband, Charles Saachi, famously grabbed Nigella by the throat in the outdoor patio of a London restaurant.  She testified she saw a young woman with a “sweet looking” baby and said she “was so looking forward to having grandchildren”.

She says her husband then grabbed her by the throat and told her he was the only person she should be concerned with and that he should be the only person giving her pleasure.  Saachi contended in the press that he grabbed his wife by the throat with one and then two hands in order to make her focus on the conversation they were having (and presumably on him).

After photos of the incident were published Saachi was cautioned by the police for assault.  A police caution is a serious formal warning but stops short of actual prosecution.  Very soon after publication of the photos Nigella filed for divorce.

She says her husband has been continually emotionally abusive.  Why didn’t she leave him before then?  Power of Love characters tend to be very forgiving in their relationship with Power of Will men.  It’s typical of a Power of Love character to believe if she just loves her man enough, or in exactly the right way, he will have to love her back.

Power of Will men are controlling, often have anger and temper issues, are extremely jealous, and are very physical. They see their partner as belonging to them and them alone.  In a strange way, this possessiveness and aggressive behavior can “feel” a bit like love to Power of Love characters.  He may not be treating her kindly but he has a powerful connection to her and she had a big emotional impact on him.

Saachi insists he still deeply loves Nigella and is “devastated” by the divorce. He said in court, “I adore Nigella, and I’m absolutely brokenhearted to have lost her”.

As this sordid saga plays out in court and in the press, I’m sure we’ll see other testimony that supports and further defines this battling couples’ Character Types.


Lessons from eQunioxe Scriptwriting Workshop

I am the 2013 eQuinoxe Europe workshop in Zurich.  We’ve got nine script from seven countries.  In working on all these projects one set of questions keeps coming up.

The answer to this these questions provides a critical overview of the story. If they aren’t answered clearly then it doesn’t matter how good the individual scenes might be. The story won’t add up to much or hold together properly.

The following is an excerpt from my book How to Evaluate Stories available on Amazon

What Does the Character Want?

What the main character wants is a clear and simple ego-driven goal. It is something that directly benefits the main character that he or she can physically have or obtain. It is concrete. It is specific. It is the finite object of the character’s personal desire. For example: Win the championship trophy, get the promotion, pay the rent, solve the crime, buy the fancy car, steal the jewel, get the girl (or guy), etc. To obtain the want, the character must abandon the need.

What Does the Character Need?

What the character needs is an inner ache or yearning that the character is unaware of, denies, suppresses, or ignores. It is a deeper, more abstract or intangible human longing. It is not physical or concrete. It is an emotional or spiritual urge or inner call to live up to one’s higher nature. For example: To become a better parent, to forgive another, to act with integrity, to find one’s faith, to become more altruistic, to be a more reliable friend, to face the truth, to love unselfishly, etc.
To embrace the need, the character must abandon the specific self-centered goal (or object of desire) and address more fundamental and far-reaching human concerns.

What is the Conflict Between the Want and the Need?

One of the most common problems with stories that don’t work is the lack of a clear and specific want vs. a deep and powerful inner longing.

The want pulls us through the story. The need draws us deeper into or inside the character. If this bedrock conflict isn’t clear the story won’t add up to very much.

Does the Story Clearly Distinguish the Want and the Need?

Does the main character have a specific physical or concrete object of personal desire? What does he or she want? What is the concrete physical goal or specific objective? Does the main character actively pursue this objective through the story?
Does the main character have a clearly delineated deeper human longing? What is missing deep inside the character?
What is the main character willing to sacrifice or surrender to obtain the want or to embrace the need? Is there a high cost for each choice?

Does that mean that no character ever gets what he or she wants? We know that’s not true. Characters get what they want all the time. But this happens in a one of two ways.

1) The character gets what he or she wants and finds that it is hollow:

For example, in Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) gets what he wants, to get back in the game by representing a major NFL player. He finds his victory is hollow when he realizes he has no one to call or with whom to celebrate after a big win. This is when he returns to his wife and family.

In Dangerous Liaisons, Vicomte Valmont (John Malkovich) gets what he wants: To seduce the un-seducible woman. He finds his victory is hollow when he realizes he has destroyed the only woman he has ever loved and who truly loves him. The story ends tragically with his death and hers.

2) The character lets go of the want and embraces the need and then, in the classic comedic turnaround, he or she finds something even better or finds that the want comes around on the other side:

In life, this is the experience of a young couple that tries to start a family. What they want is a biological child. They try and try to no avail. They realize what they need is to start a family with a child who needs them. They adopt and are deliriously happy. What happens one year later? The wife gets pregnant. This happy turnaround happens enough in life that we believe it in fiction.

Or for example, in Pretty Woman, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) wants to pay the rent. That’s why she picks up Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) in the first place. It’s why she stays with him over the course of the story. When he offers to meet that want by buying her a condo (and pay her rent in perpetuity) she turns him down. What she needs is to live a life of honesty and integrity. If she accepts his deal she will always be a whore. She rejects his offer and it is that act of integrity that brings him back to her as a real suitor and a true partner (rather than as a man who is simply “buying” her).

The tougher the choice is, the better the story. Does the main character pay dearly for whatever he or she pursues and chooses? The price is the end of the long road where the character comes face-to-face with the ultimate truth. Who is the character really? This supreme price is what the audience is waiting to see. If the price is not high enough, the story suffers.

The following was an excerpt from my book How to Evaluate Stories available on Amazon

The Golem

I am interested in how fables and folktales reflect politics and modern life.  I’ve been thinking about the story of Golem for a while now.

In folklore, a Golem is a huge being drawn from inanimate matter.  The word Golem does occur in Scripture and means an unshaped form. It is commonly means an uncultivated being or a brainless hulk created to do another’s bidding.  (This is not Golum from The Fellowship of the Rings.  Different spelling and different kind of being.)

In folklore, the Golem’s purpose is usually  to fend off attackers or defend against maurauders. This being does in fact turn back or destroy those who would attack the community.  The problem is that eventually the monster turns on its creators and does terrible violence to those who raised the being from the unformed mass.

This story of the Golem reminds me of Tea Party and the Republican party. Fox News and the Koch brothers largely drew the Tea Party from an inchoate mass of distrust, anger, and fear in certain parts of the population. Now this Golem is turning on the Republican party it was meant to defend.

Tea Party candidates have run against mainstream Republicans and have defeated more moderate elements of the party. These more extreme Tea Party candidates are causing untold problems for Republicans who believe in cooperation, moderation, and reaching across the aisle to get things done.

The budget and debt limit crisis the latest and most extreme example.  The Tea Party is pushing the party further and further to the right when Republican candidates must appeal to a wider audience of independent voters in the general election, an audience who doesn’t share their extreme views.  Even traditional corporate allies and big business lobbyists are finding the Tea Party extremists impossible to work with and unwilling to make practical compromises.

It will be interesting to see how this particular Golem story plays out.  Will the Tea Party destroy the Republican party it was created to defend?  Or split the party into two wings?  Polls seem headed in a growing unfavorable Republican direction.  It will be interesting to find out whether politics follows folklore.

Dexter Finale vs The Breaking Bad Finale

The difference between the Dexter series finale and the Breaking Bad series finale is the difference between exposition and revelation. The Dexter finale was exposition, defined by various dictionaries as “writing or speech primarily intended to convey information or to explain; a detailed statement, description or explanation.” I would throw in a justification or excuse as well (more about that in a minute). The Breaking Bad finale was all about revelation, defined by various dictionaries as “something revealed, especially a dramatic or striking disclosure of something not previously known or realized.”

Dexter’s final season was filled with rather convoluted plotting and a lot of discussion about what a sociopath can and cannot feel, what is the nature of a monster, and the role of Dexter’s “dark passenger”.

It reminds me, on a lesser scale, of the husband of a friend of mine. This smart, handsome, funny man is a narcissist. He is consumed by the desire to look a decade or two younger than he is and he endlessly trots out of tales of his former glory days as a man about town and a minor player in music business celebrity comings and goings.

Every aspect of his life is in service to his vanity. He explains this by talking about his difficult childhood and his boyhood low self-esteem and insecurities. Or he charmingly says: “I guess I am just a selfish bastard.” Or- “I know I am such a narcissist.” It’s said with a wink and a nod or a shrug and a shake of the head. It is as if admitting this passes for real self awareness or actually excuses his behavior.

Meanwhile, his kids go to a sub-standard school because he overspends on luxuries large and small and the education budget is shot. He justifies the lesser school by saying he wants his kids exposed to a real cross section of life and not just well off entitled little brats. Meanwhile, his kids will suffer for having had  inferior schooling.

His work history is intermittent and he still has dreams of “making it” on a more glamorous stage than the one on which he currently lives. He and his wife took out a $15,000 credit card based home equity loan to pay for a much needed bathroom renovation. Circumstances intervened and the renovation was delayed and the money banked. When tax time came, he sheepish admitted he had been drawing on the loan with his own credit card and the whole amount was now gone. He had frittered it away on himself and small presents here and there to make himself feel better. No new bathroom and a new $15,000 debt.

How does this relate to Dexter? At the end of the day it isn’t enough that Dexter admits he is a monster or now that he has feelings he can’t bear them. He is a serial killer. He wants to kill. He might have channeled this through training and adherence to “the code” but it’s a compulsion like drink, drugs, or pedopfilia.

Dexter’s excuse or justification is that he experienced a childhood trauma and only kills bad people– oh, except those whose deaths directly or indirectly were caused by their getting too close to his secret or those who died mistakenly or accidentally. The truth is he enjoys killing.

He loves the building desire and the pent up release that comes from stalking and murder. He loves it more than he loves his son. He wants it more than he wants the woman he loves. He is more strongly bonded to it than he is bonded to his sister. Explaining this, justifying this, naming this, or intellectualizing about this is not revelation. It is exposition. Dexter is as self-deluded in the finale as he was in the first episode. Don’t get me wrong, much about this series was brilliant. But, like my friend’s charming narcissist husband, at the end of the day the justifications, excuses, and explanations just get tiresome and tedious. The Dexter finale feels empty because it is empty.

In contrast, Walter White has a revelation in the Breaking Bad finale. He realizes he didn’t do what he did for his family but for himself, for the thrill of living on the edge, and for feeling really and truly alive when in danger. I suspect that given the choice, even knowing exactly what the end would be, Walter White would do it all again. He is the worm that turned. Pushed around, cheated, and abused by the system, he rebels. White’s moment of clarity in the finale reminds me of the line from Paradise Lost— “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” No excuses. No justifications. It was a fitting end to a brilliant series.


It all started pleasantly enough. The sun was shining, it was warm, and I was hurrying along the tree-lined road. The concrete island in the middle of the street was not exactly where I should be crossing but… I was in a hurry and the regular crossing was further down the way.

As I rushed across intersection, my foot slipped and I took a tumble toward the pavement. My head hit the pavement so hard it shattered my sunglasses. The plastic pieces cut my forehead above and near my eyebrow. Blood ran down my face. I tried to break my fall with my left hand. My fingers were forced into an almost right angles to my hand. In other words, two fingers were now in an an “L” shape! My knee was slammed and skinned.

But momentarily, almost as my head was hitting the pavement, several people rushed to my aid. A nurse showed up out of nowhere who checked my vital signs and made sure my neck wasn’t broken. Then the ambulance drove up. I was whisked off to A&E or the emergency room.

One of the burly young ambulance EMTs had his name written in elvish on his arm. How nerdy is that– and how nerdy is the fact I recognized it as elvish. He’s the dad of small daughter and has a job that daily points out just how fragile the human body is and the staggering variety of ways in which it’s possible to injure it. So he has a guardian angel prayer on his inner bicep. Then he’s got a full guardian angel on his upper shoulder. I felt very protected.

Now the irony of all this is– next week I am going to work with the writers, directors, and producers of Casualty. The show is a long running drama on the order of ER. I’d never been in a British emergency room before and my bed was placed with a full view of everyone coming and going. It was the perfect vantage point. In came the young and old, the critical and the minor accidents, like me.

I had an X-ray to make sure my fingers weren’t broken. They weren’t, only severely dislocated. Then a doctor who specialized in anesthetic injected my fingers and joints and the bone doctor snapped them back into place. I didn’t feel a thing except a small pop. They were straight again! I had another X-ray to make the bone didn’t when the fingers were repositioned. While I was waiting I was served a selection of sandwiches and a very nice milky tea. The report came back from radiology, all was okay. My fingers were taped, I got a few stitches and I was sent on my way.

I asked the doctor who administered the anesthetic why he chose that particular specialty. He said there was great variety of cases. You are only responsible for one patient at a time. And when you are done, you are done. You leave your work at work.

That brings me to the point of this post. There are a number of ways to approach being in the medical profession —

1. It’s a job. Being a doctor is solid professional employment and a good way to make a living or support a family. The doctor does what is expected and punches out. He or she puts in the time and is concerned and responsible when on the job. But the doctor doesn’t take the job home and retires as soon as is age-appropriate and financially feasible.

2. It’s a career. Being a doctor is a good opportunity for getting ahead in life. The doctor is working to achieve advancement either in the organization (or hospital) or in the specialty. The job is a means to an end (rising through the ranks, achieving greater recognition, becoming a sought after expert etc.) It is a stepping- stone to something else and worth the hard work, discipline, and extra effort to achieve a larger goal.

3. It’s a vocation. Being a doctor is a life mission or a higher calling. The doctor is there to make a difference and impact people’s lives. The work is a consuming passion for the doctor. There is no dividing line between work and personal life. Work is the doctor’s life.

4. It’s a mistake. Being a doctor is not a good fit. The individual is in medicine for the wrong reasons, the wrong motivations, or to please someone else. Or the reality of the job doesn’t conform to the ideal of the job or the fantasy of being a doctor. In any case, the individual puts in the time and effort, got the job, and now feels trapped.

Any kind of employment, but particularly in medicine, has a variety of people who look at the “Why” of doing the job very differently. All individuals naturally assume their “Why” is the most valid reason or, if everyone else was honest, is the real motivation “Why” anyone works at the hospital. This is a great area of opportunity for personal conflict in a story. Too often in medical shows, or shows about other professions, everyone is doing the job for the same reason. That isn’t the case in life and it shouldn’t be the case in a drama.

$ $ $ $ $ $

As a side note, the whole experience cost me exactly nothing. No charge. Zip. Zero. Nada. My care was prompt, professional, and very concerned and personable. Despite paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment for health insurance in the US our deductible is $1600. The whole bill including ambulance would have cost several thousand dollars– or my deductible at the very least. When I tell this to my British friends they shake their heads and mutter softly, “Madness. Absolute madness.”

Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield UK

The Children’s Media Conference is the only gathering in the UK for everyone involved in developing, producing and distributing content to kids – on all platforms.

The CMC welcome delegates from TV, interactive media, games, licensing, toys, radio, book and magazine publishing and the arts and culture sector – with speakers from all those areas and beyond.

It’s the only time when delegates from across the whole industry get together and, in the UK, it’s the best and most cost-effective way of meeting people relevant to your business.

My Character Map session is on Wednesday July 3, 2013

Register now for the full Conference, for the popular Wednesday Workshops and for the new International Exchange – and of course don’t miss out on the Pizza Express Networking Dinner.

The list of speakers is growing daily in over 50 sessions and workshops, including a whole strand of “Focus On…” international business issues at the International Exchange.

A Few Observations About Life in Europe & the UK

I’ve been living in Bristol for about three months now, interspersed with frequent trips to the Continent.  Here are some general observations on a few key differences with the US.

1.  Men here wear red pants– if you are in the UK that will read as underwear– so I mean trousers.  They also wear orange, bright green, pink, and turquoise trousers.  Men here are much more sartorially adventurous.  They also wear silk scarves, wool scarves, and cotton scarves which are meant to be decorative as well as warm.

2.  If someone tells you– “Oh it’s just 5 minutes further on” expect it to be about a 20 minute walk.  People here walk much much more than in the US.  They always vastly underestimate how long a walk it is between here and there.  Buy comfortable shoes.

3.  They also smoke more– much more.  Perhaps the walking counter balances this. But expect smoke to be wafting everywhere people gather outside.  Most places do forbid smoking inside restaurants and other public venues but the walking includes walking past lots of smokers.

4.  People live at much colder temperatures, especially in the UK.  Central heating is still an advertised special feature in apartment ads.  Maybe that’s why they smoke– to keep warm.  It could also be why they drink.  People drink way more, especially in the UK, than in the US.  I am talking about middle-aged professionals here– not kids.  Black-out drinking is not uncommon.  I’ve overheard several conversations between colleagues about this in my travels.  Or maybe it’s just the people in the entertainment industry?  Or just people I know.

5.  Whenever there is the least glimmer of sun people sit outdoors in cafes, etc.  It can be freezing cold but people still dine and drink outside if there is any spot of brightness.

6.  People actually take vacations.  Yes, they turn off their mobile phones, their email, and are unreachable– for weeks!  It’s called relaxing.  This is a concept Americans seem to have trouble grasping, especially in the television business.  I am getting used to it.

7.  Things are more expensive here.  People tended to have fewer really nice things and not all the cheap crap that Americans tend to horde.  What they do have they use a lot and enjoy.  Yes yes there is cheaper crap over here but there is somehow a different mind set about things.  Physical evidence is the general lack of gigantic closets and tons of storage space.  This is not necessarily a matter of room size.  A good-sized bedroom might still have no closet and a just a medium sized wardrobe– a few shelves and a small single rack to hang clothes.

8.  Dining is a form of pleasure.  It takes much longer to be served at restaurants and no one rushes the bill.  People linger and talk.  There are certainly American fast food places but when having dinner with friends or colleagues it is a much slower process.  Waiters aren’t rushing to “turn over” the tables.

9.  People here are much more knowledgeable about the US and elsewhere than Americans are about anywhere. In general, they understand the mechanics of the US political process better than a lot of Americans or will quiz you on this to improve their understanding.  They are absolutely astonished at the lack of affordable healthcare and mass shootings of children– and the seeming lack of will to do much about either issue.

10.  They are much more energy conscious.  They drive smaller cars.  In the UK they have individual switches to turn off the current for each plug.  They seem to recycle more and don’t have the animosity some Americans have about alternative energy sources.  Germany, for instance, gets the vast majority of its electricity from solar power.  It’s not a particularly sunny country but they have developed the technology to improve on performance.

No things are not perfect here.  We all know about the economic troubles everywhere.  And yes you can complain about “socialism.”  But I am enjoying my time here and it is changing me, in lots of ways for the better.  I find my self collecting experiences rather than things– yes yes I know I did some shopping in Milan– but I bought a couple of really nice, if a bit expensive things.  I am learning a lot about myself and others.  There is nothing like travel to enrich perspectives and broaden personal horizons.  I am doubly blessed to be working on the stories of other cultures and having the deep intimate conversations that storytelling stimulates.  It’s been a great three months.

Join Me In Sweden in April and May

I will be in Stockholm from April 29 to May 5.  I will be meeting one-on-one with writers, producers, and productions executives but there are three workshops open to the public.

Character Map Workshop – April 29

  • What tools are in storyteller’s Emotional Toolbox?
  • What determines a character emotional power in a story?
  • How does a storyteller create fictional characters that always “ring true”?
  • What is the Character Map?
  • What six questions define a character?
  • What are the four dynamic conflicts that motivate any character’s actions?
  • Character Map demonstration/exercise:
  • How does emotion generate action?
  • What key emotion does the hero/protagonist always share with the villain/antagonist?
  • How does the antagonist attack or tempt the hero emotionally?
  • How do heroes/protagonists fall to the ”Dark Side”?
  • What must the protagonist surrender in order to prevail in the story?
  • What important emotional step must a character take to complete his/her emotional journey successfully?

Thriller Workshop – April 30

  • Emotion Power vs Genre
  • What is a Thriller vs a Detective Story vs a Crime Story?
  • How motivation and character determine Story Type
  • What is the Power of Truth?
  • How the Power of Truth propels a protagonist through the thriller plot line and creates an emotional bond with the audience.
  • How great story twists develop Power of Truth themes of loyalty and betrayal.
  • How deceit and deception keeps the audience off balance.
  • How storytellers can increase mistrust and suspicion by turning allies into enemies and enemies into allies
  • What drives a Power of Truth story?
  • How storytellers create a compelling internal emotion dynamic for a thriller protagonist
  • How the motivation and psychology of a male protagonist differs from that of a female protagonist.
  • How non-traditional narrative structure is created through character development.
  • How storytellers can re-imagine and refresh this popular film genre and make it uniquely their own.

RomCom Workshop – May 2

This program will help you get to the heart of one of the most beloved film genres. Great ”date movies” are often the biggest box office hits. Most other kinds of films have a love story or buddy subplot.  The program includes a complete discussion of:

  • How the Power of Love drives the protagonist through the story
  • How to couple and uncouple lovers or buddies in sequences that are both entertaining and emotionally moving
  • How to develop the psychological pairings that create the most sparks and ignite the hottest romance
  • How to use the three key elements that make the romantic journey interesting and worthwhile
  • How to establish the qualities of attraction and repulsion that keep the characters and the audience off balance
  • How the motivation and psychology of a male protagonist differs from that of a female protagonist
  • How to re-imagine and re-invent this enduring film genre and make it uniquely your own


Netta Frister Aaron
0725 – 24 99 85

For more information



Summer Workshop in Italy

Friend and colleague from UCLA, Paul Chitlik, now a clinical assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, holds a residential writing seminar in Europe every summer. This year, the seminar is in Cairo Montenotte, Italy. Here are the details as provided by Paul, who is also the author of Rewrite: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in Your Screenplay.

Are you thinking about how you can get to the next level with a script you’ve been meaning to write or rewrite? Probably you are. You can deal with both at the same time by signing up for a screenwriting retreat coming up June 16-June 29 in Cairo, Italy. Yes. Cairo Montenotte in the Liguria region of Northern Italy.

We’ll be staying in a sumptuous villa with ten bedrooms, a huge kitchen and 2 living rooms as well as a large swimming pool, a tennis court, a separate pizza house and nineteen acres of land with breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. It is a mere 3 minutes drive from the city center of Cairo Montenotte and 25 minutes drive from the beach. Cairo Montenotte lies in the region of Liguria in the North Western part of Italy and borders on the Piedmonte region to the North. Combined, the two regions boast a long shore-line on the Mediterranean, seaside resorts, ancient ports and towns, hills, plains and many places of historic interest. This part of Italy is known for its delicate food and famous wine.

But you don’t go to a screenwriting retreat for lodging or the food, although we will be having our own local chef prepare lunch and dinner. You go for the concentrated writing experience. This year there will again be two seminars at the same time! I will lead one that will focus on rewriting an existing script. If you prefer to write a new script from scratch, Nanou Matteson, UCLA MFA grad, who has been expertly teaching and coaching writers for 20 years, will lead our second annual first draft seminar.

Nanou has worked with hundreds of writers in addition to attending many of my retreats. She knows my method and has always been a leader in my classes. Her students last year were wowed by her passion, wit, and knowledge.

I’ll be focusing on the usual – story, character, dialogue, then more story, then more story (not a typo), then pages until we get your existing script up to the next level. Nanou will take those who face the blank page through the whole process as if you were in a UCLA 434 graduate seminar, only better since she’ll have only 5 in her section.

Talk to a former participant – it’s intense. There are three hours of seminar every afternoon, office hours in the morning, group meals, long walks after – all focused on script work. Mornings, early afternoons, and, if you’re a night writer, nights will be for writing.

If you were not able to get into one of my 434s or Professional Program advanced classes at UCLA, this may be your only opportunity to see why more than one MFA grad has said, “I learned more in ten weeks with Paul than I learned in two years at bleep University.” By the way, I will not be teaching at UCLA again as I am exclusive to Loyola Marymount University now.

The level is always high – last year we had several MFAs, MFA candidates, and alumni of UCLA’s Professional Program in screenwriting, not to mention professionals from Australia, England, and Germany. Oh, and me, the not-tooting-my-horn former UCLA Prof Program instructor and sometime Visiting Assistant Professor in the MFA program, currently Clinical Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University, and author of Rewrite, A Step by Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Character, and Drama in Your Screenplay, now in its second printing. BTW, you’ll get a copy of the book on your arrival.

The villa is about an hour from Turin, about 45 minutes to Genoa, less than 25 minutes to Savona on the Med. Lots of small villages to explore if you rent a car (you can share – we’ll put you in touch with others in the program). And if you’re feeling frisky, Nice, France is 90 minutes up the coast.

You’re wondering about cost. For Paul’s program, if you have a single room, it will be $3745 by check ($3858 if by PayPal). A shared room will be $3245 ($3343 via PayPal). If you go for Nanou’s startup workshop, a single will be $3495 ($3599 via PayPal) and a double will be the incredibly affordable $2950 ($3039 via PayPal). If there is demand, there will be three triples available at $2745 ($2828 via Paypal). There’s a 10% discount for you if you’ve taken one of our private workshops before.

Think about it – 13 days and nights in an Italian villa, room and board plus instruction for a lot less than, say, tuition only for an equivalent course at a private university. My section will be limited to seven, and Nanou’s section will be limited to five, so you’ll get lots of personal attention.

Deadline has been extended to March 1 for Laurie’s readers for the initial deposit of $200 to hold your place. Contact Nanou immediately, though, if you want to make sure you have a spot. We have only one place left in each seminar. First come, first served.