Thursday, November 25, 2010

Writing Gurus Tooting Own Horns a Sour Note For Some

Woody Allen
 Woody Allen famously stated, "Those who can't do, teach. And those who couldn't teach taught at my school."
Screenwriting teachers abound, not only in L.A. but most everywhere in the free world. And by "free world" I mean anyplace where you can get a laptop, a copy of Final Draft and a seat at Starbucks. A space at the ubiquitous coffee shop, with its now free Wi-Fi and unlimited supply of caffeinated beverages, is essential for aspiring screenwriters, you see.
The question many ask is whether anyone can really teach screenwriting. There are those who point out that most of the better known screenwriting teachers have never had any of their scripts produced. The doubters say that those who truly understand the craft and business are writing and selling their work, not lecturing and writing how-to books.
Fair enough.
But screenwriter John August, whose credits include "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Charlie's Angels" and "Corpse Bride," offers a different view. In sports, some of the best coaches were unspectacular players during their on-field careers. However, they are able to bring out the best in the athletes whom they train.
The same may be true for screenwriting teachers. A good teacher may not have an impressive IMDB page, but just might offer insights that can help you write better scripts or improve the ones you're rewriting.
There are, no doubt, some who collect fees from aspiring screenwriters yet are unqualified to teach. The good news is that word gets around about scam artists--although perhaps not quickly enough to warn all potential victims.
If you're looking for an instructor, ask others who have attended lectures and seminars with those you're interested in learning from. Find out what they learned and how that particular teacher helped improve their work.
In all, simple word of mouth can be the best tool to help you sort out the sages from the charlatans.
What are your experiences with screenwriting teachers, good and bad? Write them in the comments section below.

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