By Joann Cole Webster, VP, ChristianMensNetwork.com
“The most powerful thing you can do in life is to create an image. The next most powerful thing you can do is to destroy an image.”
Stories are the building blocks of history. The Bible was first a story before it was put it into a book. The stories handed down to us, oral or written, and visually spread across the canvas of our minds, shape culture and provoke action, for good or for evil.
For years, I have looked for ways to tell stories. I have written 45 non-fiction books, but my passion has been the story, not just the lesson of the story. To move into fictional storytelling, I have attended many seminars plus courses at major universities like Stanford, Southern Methodist University, University of California Irvine. However, I have never attended anything, for any length of time, that equaled what I learned at MOVIEGUIDE® in just one week at the HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) intensive filmmaking class.
The Screenwriting & Filmmaking Class was a definite “intensive,” since we studied together in 12-hour days and then had homework each night, but I left less exhausted than exhilarated, and here’s why:
The content stretched from the philosophical to the practical. We covered cultural impact, starting with the historical underpinnings of today’s film culture to the international impact film is making on every socioeconomic level, in every sphere of every society on earth. For anyone who has traveled internationally, we know that television sets and movie theaters all over the world are filled with images “Made in the USA.” The course provided statistics that would make any American cringe in shame as well as swell with pride.
The course taught the business of film and television. We touched on contracts and royalties, and nuances in the esoteric world of copyrights and intellectual property. We heard firsthand accounts from top industry insiders about the dirty underbelly of their business, as well as the soaring heights of their successes. We learned about movie financing, how studios work, pitching, how to keep from losing time in unproductive meetings, how to make money and the all-important question, how much money to expect to make.
The greatest thing I took away from the course, however, were the practical building blocks of storytelling. Premise. Character development. Structure. Beats. Dialog. Subtext. It wasn’t news to me that if I saw an adverb, I was supposed to kill it, but how to be humorous, how to set plot points, how to deliver the meaning of the scene were all lessons of tremendous value. It felt as if the instructors had attended the same writing classes I had attended and were saying, “Now, here you go, here’s how to put it all together.” To have an instructor shape all the elements into a single visual target can be summed up in one word – Encouraging.
Besides business and the art of writing came some intangibles that were also of incredible help, such as the high caliber of the students that were attracted to the course. We began communicating with each other online even before leaving Southern California. Their creative energy was stimulating. We were all there because of the caliber of our two instructors – genius professors, masters in their arenas. Stimulating, creative, impressive. Their intellects towered over mine, but their lessons were not all highbrow. Memorized movie scenes, both famous and obscure, rolled off their tongues.
I came to the class worn out from working a string of 20-hour days. It did not matter. They taught at a gallop, with fascinating facts and surprises that kept the ideas and information moving. The course was riveting. I never felt tired until I left.
The generous hospitality of our MOVIEGUIDE® hosts was superb. They kept serving food! The entire staff took meals with us to get to know us, to share stories and swap information. The final evening was spent with Ted and Lili Baehr at their home with dozens of their friends. It’s one thing for a person to give you their time, another to give you their money, but even greater to give you their friends.
Images are power. The person who creates the images creates the atmosphere in which the rest of us live. May God help the image-makers of today become influenced by the great vault of wisdom at MOVIEGUIDE®. May the image-makers of tomorrow be the students of Ted Baehr.
Editor’s note: If you have the desire write excellent scripts and make excellent movies, please contact us at [email protected] or call 1-888-248-6689. The next four-day scriptwriting class starts Wednesday November 28 in MOVIEGUIDE®’s Camarillo, Calif. office.