Finding a Writer

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As I continue to move forward in putting together my project for this semester (which is currently titled “The Last Race”), I’ve had plenty of opportunities to experience a facet of producing that is an essential part of the role: working with writers.

Over winter break I had written a draft of the script myself, carefully constructing certain scenes in order to convey and do justice to the issues the story addresses.  “The Last Race” is about sexual violence, which is a notoriously touchy and sensitive subject, and so it is very important that the story walk a fine line – to go too far would alienate the audience and potentially do more harm than good.

I was happy with my draft and confident that I had a good story in my hands, but I knew that there were certain areas of screenwriting (drafting good, engaging dialogue, for example) that I didn’t have much experience with as a writer.  So I decided to reach out to screenwriting students at Columbia, to see if I could find someone to help me do a “polish” of the script – to work with the story as written and incrementally mold it until it is locked and ready for production. I pitched several screenwriting classes and had no luck.  I got used to being met with blank stares after describing the story (probably because its topic is so heavy – talking about sexual violence can throw people off, and understandably).  But I knew, of course, that the right writer would be intrigued by the story as well as the issue, and would want to offer their voice to help.

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I hit the jackpot when a professor allowed me to speak to her class of students who needed as part of a class requirement to work with a producer to polish a story.  My short pitch of the story spawned an in-depth class discussion about how the story operates and how the plot and characters could be improved or taken in new directions.  I quickly went from having no writer at all to four who were interested in working with me!  I agreed to take all of them on, believing that having more writers looking at the script would ultimately make the story better.

I am now in the midst of a flurry of working with four very different writers, with very different backgrounds, all on the same story.  Read on next week for more on how this is going!