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A Week at the Squaw Valley Screenwriters Workshop

In May, I received a call from Diana Fuller, director of the Squaw Valley Screenwriters Workshop and was ecstatic to be invited to participate. The workshop has been held every summer in the Lake Tahoe area since 1985 under Diana’s helm. From August 6-13th, twenty-two screenwriters plus ten staff participated in informative workshops, inspiring speeches, eye-opening panel discussions, and getting-down-to-brass-tacks mentoring sessions.

Morning workshops covered topics like beginnings and endings, theme and structure, characters, sub-plots and backstory and panel discussions. Afternoons were reserved for individual conferences with our mentors. I had applied to the workshop with a completed screenplay. My mentor, Lisa Rosenberg, had read the manuscript before the workshop and critiqued it. During the week, screenwriters took time in the afternoons and evenings to revise their work. Lisa and I met five times to discuss my revisions and she helped me take my screenplay to the next level.

One evening, before dinner, we played a pitching game in which teams voted for one screenwriter from each team to represent them in a pitch-off. Four screenwriters then pitched their story before the whole group and participants voted on which screenplay they would most like to see on film. My roommate, Mary Park, won for a screenplay about the Korean War.

For breakfast and lunch, we were on our own for the most part. Dinner was provided at the Olympic Village Lodge where we mingled with fiction and non-fiction writers who were participating in separate workshops being held concurrently with ours. After dinner, we listened to speakers or viewed movies made by participants, staff, or guests. Pamela Gray, screenwriter of Conviction, starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, screened her 2011 movie and spoke about the writing process to a receptive audience.

The week was not all work. If you were not meeting with your mentor or working on your screenplay,the afternoons were free to enjoy the facilities at Squaw Valley. Some people took the tram up the mountain for spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. Others hiked with a naturalist on one of the many trails. Squaw Village is filled with shops and restaurants suitable for all budgets. You could even rent a bike and enjoy many flat trails around the valley.

Screenwriters were given the opportunity to have scenes from their screenplays acted out in front of a camera so they could evaluate whether or not the dialogue worked. Sessions began with table reads of their scripts. Dialogue was changed as needed before filming. A director blocked the scene (decided where the actors would stand) and the actors rehearsed a couple of times before being filmed. My scene was filmed three times. I enjoyed seeing my work on film and learned a better way to end the scene. Unfortunately, the video cannot be given out and was only to be used that day.

Wednesday night, the screenwriters held a pizza party at one of the houses. Friday afternoon, we enjoyed a lunch with producers who came up for the day and had a chance to discuss our projects with them. Friday night, the staff and screenwriters celebrated our last evening together with a sing-along. By the end of the week, I was ready to go home, but eager to implement what I learned into my work. I would recommend anyone serious about writing to check out The Community of Writers at Squaw at http://communityofwriters.org.

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Thanksgiving the Chinese Way, sticky rice and all
GCB: Hell Hath No Fury

About Us

A screenwriter who have written various genres.  I have five completed screenplays and are ready to be optioned or produced. 

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