Guest Post by Paul Chitlik

paulA UCLA Screenwriting Professor colleague sent me this description of his workshop in Spain.  Interesting possibilities to rework your script.

It’s no secret that every script that makes it to the screen gets rewritten multiple times.  In an informal poll I took at a WGA conference on rewriting, most screenwriters (among them Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe winners) said it took an average of 25-30 drafts before the script reached the stage floor.  So, you know you have some work ahead of you after you reach that glorious moment when you first type FADE OUT.
But then what?  There are few courses in rewriting and fewer books (Yes, I do have one – “REWRITE, A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in Your Screenplay,” but we’re not talking about that here.) on how to approach this sometimes daunting task.  You might have the guidance of your trusted advisors or your writing group when it comes to what’s wrong, but who do you turn to to figure out how to fix that?  Or even how to go about fixing that?
That’s why I created the residential workshops I’ve been giving in Europe for the past few years.  Here’s how it works.  Eight writers who have completed at least a year in the UCLA Professional Program for Screenwriting or the MFA in Screenwriting program, or have reached an equivalent level in their writing, gather in a villa (yes, a real villa) with me in a remote part of a friendly host country.  The Villa There we live and work for two weeks, most meals provided, and we dig into their screenplays and figure out what to do about them.  We meet for three hours a day in a seminar format, we talk at meals, we have informal seminars during long walks in the countryside, and I meet one on one with everyone in “office hours.”
In my way of looking at things, writers usually lose their way from first draft to rewrite because they don’t know their character well enough or their structure needs strengthening.  The first thing we do, then, is focus on the character’s flaw.  From the flaw comes the necessity for change.  From the necessity for change come the goals – the inner and the outer – that drive the story.  So we must know the character inside and out so that we know how that character must change and what he or she must do to achieve his or her goals.
Then we take a look at the overall story in its most basic form – what I call the seven points of the story.  For the seminar, we send these story points out to each other before we arrive in Europe (this year it’s Spain, last year it was Italy) so that we can discuss them during the first seminar meeting.  The seven points all have something to do with the flaw – in the ordinary life (1) we see the flaw and how it affects the person’s life – the necessity for change; in the inciting incident (2) we see something happen that will eventually cause the protagonist to want to change now; at the end of act one (3), we learn of the goal and plan to bring about that change; at the midpoint (4), the character shows us a change in that goal as well as a realization of his flaw; at the low point (5), we see the character as far from that goal as possible; in the final challenge (6) we see the character overcome his flaw and reach his/her goal; and in (7) the return to the now changed forever normal life, we see the character enjoy the fruits of his/her labor in the new life.
You can see how the whole story is flaw and goal oriented, but sometimes, in the original writing process, you lose track of that.  Following up on clarifying these essential ideas, we write a new beatsheet and discuss it at length in seminar, private meetings, walks, trips to town, whenever.  We’re always talking about food (we have a cook or a special deal with a local restaurant), movies, or our scripts.  We’re unhindered by interruption from work, friends and family calling (though there is cell reception), or annoying phone solicitors.  We do have wi-fi this year, but it will be on a limited basis.
As the first week progresses, the story blooms in sometimes unpredictable ways, but always improves.  Then we begin rewriting scenes, adding new scenes, taking away old scenes that don’t move the story or have been superseded by new directions in the story.  This is a very exciting time as we read portions of new work in the seminars so we can hear if the dialogue works in the mouth and feel the pacing of the scene.  We also work on scene structure and scene dynamics so that writers can get the best out of their pages.
Did I mention that we get two days off during the two weeks so that people can travel, rest, write, whatever they want to do?  This year we’ll be within an hour’s train ride from Barcelona, forty-five minutes by car to the beach, and ten minutes from Gerona, a lovely old city dating from the middle ages.  Rewrite Retreat in Spain
Then it’s back to work.  We usually schedule things so that both night and morning writers can get their work done in time for all to read it before the afternoon session.  I have found that when all eight (plus me) participants in a seminar are familiar with everyone’s work, great things can come of the ping-ponging of ideas.  I’ve found seminar participants to be very generous with their thoughts and very supportive both in and out of the workshops.  It’s one of the things I nurture as much as possible because, while I do contribute my own ideas, I’ve found that nine people working on the same story together can come up with things that nine people working separately cannot.  It’s one of the great things about the workshop.
And did I mention the food?  Spain has some of the best seafood in the world, and we’ll also be in the middle of their cava region – cava is what they call their sparkling wine, very much on a par with Champagne in my book.
By the end of the workshop you can have, with diligence, a completed draft or, at the very least, a very good roadmap to your next draft.  You will also have had a heady creative experience with your peers (which is why there are always several people repeating from the year before).  And, surprisingly, little change in your weight since anything you may have added from the food is usually subtracted by the long walks after lunch and dinner.
For more information, visit the site http://rewritementor.com/retreats/spain.htm or contact me directly at paul.chitlik@gmail.com.
It’s no secret that every script that makes it to the screen gets rewritten multiple times.  In an informal poll I took at a WGA conference on rewriting, most screenwriters (among them Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe winners) said it took an average of 25-30 drafts before the script reached the stage floor.  So, you know you have some work ahead of you after you reach that glorious moment when you first type FADE OUT.
.
But then what?  There are few courses in rewriting and fewer books (Yes, I do have one – “REWRITE, A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in Your Screenplay,” but we’re not talking about that here.) on how to approach this sometimes daunting task.  You might have the guidance of your trusted advisors or your writing group when it comes to what’s wrong, but who do you turn to to figure out how to fix that?  Or even how to go about fixing that?
.
That’s why I created the residential workshops I’ve been giving in Europe for the past few years.  Here’s how it works.  Eight writers who have completed at least a year in the UCLA Professional Program for Screenwriting or the MFA in Screenwriting program, or have reached an equivalent level in their writing, gather in a villa (yes, a real villa) with me in a remote part of a friendly host country.
.
The Villa There we live and work for two weeks, most meals provided, and we dig into their screenplays and figure out what to do about them.  We meet for three hours a day in a seminar format, we talk at meals, we have informal seminars during long walks in the countryside, and I meet one on one with everyone in “office hours.”
.
In my way of looking at things, writers usually lose their way from first draft to rewrite because they don’t know their character well enough or their structure needs strengthening.  The first thing we do, then, is focus on the character’s flaw.  From the flaw comes the necessity for change.  From the necessity for change come the goals – the inner and the outer – that drive the story.  So we must know the character inside and out so that we know how that character must change and what he or she must do to achieve his or her goals.
.
Then we take a look at the overall story in its most basic form – what I call the seven points of the story.  For the seminar, we send these story points out to each other before we arrive in Europe (this year it’s Spain, last year it was Italy) so that we can discuss them during the first seminar meeting.
.
The seven points all have something to do with the flaw – in the ordinary life (1) we see the flaw and how it affects the person’s life – the necessity for change; in the inciting incident (2) we see something happen that will eventually cause the protagonist to want to change now; at the end of act one (3), we learn of the goal and plan to bring about that change; at the midpoint (4), the character shows us a change in that goal as well as a realization of his flaw; at the low point (5), we see the character as far from that goal as possible; in the final challenge (6) we see the character overcome his flaw and reach his/her goal; and in (7) the return to the now changed forever normal life, we see the character enjoy the fruits of his/her labor in the new life.
.
You can see how the whole story is flaw and goal oriented, but sometimes, in the original writing process, you lose track of that.  Following up on clarifying these essential ideas, we write a new beatsheet and discuss it at length in seminar, private meetings, walks, trips to town, whenever.  We’re always talking about food (we have a cook or a special deal with a local restaurant), movies, or our scripts.  We’re unhindered by interruption from work, friends and family calling (though there is cell reception), or annoying phone solicitors.  We do have wi-fi this year, but it will be on a limited basis.
.
As the first week progresses, the story blooms in sometimes unpredictable ways, but always improves.  Then we begin rewriting scenes, adding new scenes, taking away old scenes that don’t move the story or have been superseded by new directions in the story.  This is a very exciting time as we read portions of new work in the seminars so we can hear if the dialogue works in the mouth and feel the pacing of the scene.  We also work on scene structure and scene dynamics so that writers can get the best out of their pages.
.
Did I mention that we get two days off during the two weeks so that people can travel, rest, write, whatever they want to do?  This year we’ll be within an hour’s train ride from Barcelona, forty-five minutes by car to the beach, and ten minutes from Gerona, a lovely old city dating from the middle ages.  Rewrite Retreat in Spain.
.
Then it’s back to work.  We usually schedule things so that both night and morning writers can get their work done in time for all to read it before the afternoon session.  I have found that when all eight (plus me) participants in a seminar are familiar with everyone’s work, great things can come of the ping-ponging of ideas.  I’ve found seminar participants to be very generous with their thoughts and very supportive both in and out of the workshops.  It’s one of the things I nurture as much as possible because, while I do contribute my own ideas, I’ve found that nine people working on the same story together can come up with things that nine people working separately cannot.  It’s one of the great things about the workshop.
.
And did I mention the food?  Spain has some of the best seafood in the world, and we’ll also be in the middle of their cava region – cava is what they call their sparkling wine, very much on a par with Champagne in my book.
.
By the end of the workshop you can have, with diligence, a completed draft or, at the very least, a very good roadmap to your next draft.  You will also have had a heady creative experience with your peers (which is why there are always several people repeating from the year before).  And, surprisingly, little change in your weight since anything you may have added from the food is usually subtracted by the long walks after lunch and dinner.
.
For more information, visit the site http://rewritementor.com/retreats/spain.html or contact me directly at paul.chitlik@gmail.com.

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