Monday, October 24, 2005

Students and a Film Update

Teaching screenwriting is fun for me. I love talking about writing, about how to do it, about what I know and what I've learned. I love showing examples of great writing. Today, however, was not a fun day.

We did a writing exercise in class today, something I've done several times before with good results. The students have to write a script scene from a comic book scene. The purpose is to give them some practice in describing effectively, capturing mood along with straight action.

And man, this group is not doing well. One student wrote dialogue with generic actions in parentheses under the spoken words. Um, hello, didn't we cover format for a week or two? What exactly are you writing? He seemed totally confused.

Another student, who admittedly has a disability, couldn't grasp it at all. WTF? This isn't rocket science. Doing it WELL takes real skill and talent. Doing it AT ALL takes, well, quite a few less brain cells. Have you seen some of the crap that gets produced? We're not talking about philosophers and Mensa members here. Some of them are brilliant, and some are trained monkeys (on their good days).

I'm just grousing, but I'm surprised at the amazingly poor level of storytelling skills many of my students have coming in to my classes. I don't expect them to have a superior grasp, and I'm always pleasantly surprised when someone knows their stuff right at the start. But these kids see movies all the time. You'd think they'd understand it a little, since they actually want to write or make them.

And can we talk responsibility level? They were supposed to turn in their detailed script synopsis over a week ago. On the due date, I got roughly half of them turned in. Several of them still haven't submitted anything. At 5 points a day, that's a costly level of irresponsbility, don't you think?

I don't expect them to be geniuses. Not by a long stretch. My standards have gotten pretty low over the last year. I'm just really disappointed in this particular crop of students.

And the film update. We've been continuing to cut. We are down to 95 minutes now, and that makes me pretty happy, because the first rough/assembly cut was two-and-a-half hours! A lot of good material is gone, but I think we are down the best stufff that tells the story (i.e., not the best stuff overall -- some hilarious material is now in the DVD extras timeline in Final Cut Pro -- but the best stuff that actually contributes to telling the story).

I need to toughen my hide up, though. Every time someone offers criticism, I start to get all -- how do I describe it. I don't know. Lousy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I take it very personally, which is understandable because I've been working on this for several years, if you could writing the script and trying to raise money (and, you know, you have to count those things). And there's a lot on the line, not the least of which is that my tenure here depends on my creative work, which -- since I got here -- is only this film.


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