August 2017 FAIM SpeakEasy: Screenwriting

In Case You Missed It...

For my final FAIM SpeakEasy as Arlington Independent Media's Membership Coordinator, I wanted to cover the subject I have loved since I was young - writing, specifically Screenwriting.  I invited three women in the field of filmmaking to speak on the subject - Jane Barbara, television and feature film writer/producer for Testa Dura Media and Chair for Women in Film & Video -DC's annual filmmaker conference ScriptDC; Giovanna Chesler,  the Director and Associate Professor in the Film & Video Studies Program at George Mason University, and Director and Producer of documentary and fiction film through her production company G6 Pictures; and finally Monica Lee Bellais, (who unfortunately could not attend due to family emergency) Screenwriter/Producer and world-class media expert with experiences in Hollywood, Washington DC, and international markets.  Monica hosts WIFV's program Spotlight on Screenwriters, the next event is on Friday September 15th discussing The Reality of Film Financiers.    

The turnout was fantastic and I was so pleased to see such enthusiasm within the membership.  Each attendee's questions gave Giovanna and Jane a lot of material to discuss.  We discussed resources, other than AIM, within the community to meet other filmmakers and writers: WIFVDC Shorts, and TIVA - Television, Internet, & Video Association of DC.  In order to learn more about screenwriters, across the nation, check out the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West for membership, events, and even script registration.  A few resources that were mentioned for finding news, information and other sources for creators and movie lovers, check out IndieWire. To learn about actors, directors, and screenwriters opinions on film topics, Hollywood Reporter Roundtables.  Another great website for educating yourself about film work without having to pay a hefty bill for a masters degree is the No Film School website, a worldwide community of filmmakers, video producers, and independent creatives. No Film School is where filmmakers learn from each other - "no film school" required.
Giovanna mentioned that writing screenplays can be difficult for many reasons but a big reason is getting the format correct - she talked about the Final Draft Software, which professional screenwriters and filmmakers around the world use for their scripts. The software, however can be pricey, so she recommended a free downloadable basic screenwriting software from Celtx. Both Jane and Giovanna advised that as a writer, you should watch films in the genre you enjoy and that relate to the plot of your own screenplays: mockumentaries, rom-coms, fish-out-of-water, etc.  Another suggestion for figuring out what you need for your screenplay, after viewing films in the genre you are writing, take a look at the Bibles for Film and Television programs. Screenwriting bibles are reference documents used by screenwriters for information on a television series' characters, settings, and other script elements.
Both panelists suggested books/articles to read for those interested in understanding beat sheets and sound design within scripts, so you don't have to keep writing "A loud banging is heard" in your script. The first book Save the Cat states it is "The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need", there is even a website to accompany it - Save the Cat.  Randy Thom is the author of the article on the entitled "Designing A Movie for Sound".  As always, look into local and national Film Festivals, such as Independent Film WeekSundance Film Festival, and AIM's own Rosebud Film Festival to grasp what is being independently made across the country. 
Our filmmaker panelists encouraged attendees to utilize your local resources - AIM, TIVA, WIFV and local universities to meet filmmakers and learn about film projects in the area.  WIFV runs several different roundtable events that are open to everyone, including Jane Barbara's WIFV Screenwriters Roundtable. Also think about finding groups of people in your area to read your scripts, during the event Giovanna even found a Meetup group for Script Read-Throughs in Arlington
Remember at AIM, we have a fantastic community of over 700 members, all with their own ideas and desires to create media, to be "the voice crying the darkness;" but you are not in the dark, by being a member at AIM, you are part of a community who can inspire and motivate you to see your ideas in video or audio. We have people in this community who want to help each other and want to create programming.  By coming to events like the FAIM SpeakEasy and taking workshops at AIM, you are making great strides in your career as a Media Producer. 
Thank you for attending this FAIM SpeakEasy on Screenwriting and good luck in your future media career! 
- Elaine Coates
  Membership Coordinator