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Why Writers Are The Heroes Of Our Time

Richard VetereBy Richard Vetere

In this age of technology during this reign of science, artists–for me, more specifically, writers–are the true heroes of our time.

The reason being, a storyteller is the keeper of the flame of a culture, the moral compass for a community, the one who sacrifices their own safety in anonymity by putting themselves out there. Stare at your smartphone all you want and relish in its computing capability but it will tell you absolutely nothing about yourself or what your life means. Writers look for the meaning of things and we look to them to tell us about ourselves.

Writers create characters that resonate with us for decades and sometimes for centuries. Hamlet, Maggie “The Cat,” David Copperfield, Gatsby, and Jane Eyre are just a handful and all of them are the product of a writer’s imagination.

Writing is and always will be a vocation. Writers are born and spend their formative years learning the craft with an apprenticeship at the canvas of experience. Science is all about trial and error and never examines what things mean where writers do the opposite – they strive to answer that question by telling the story of a character. They leave it up to us to make sense out of it. And writers dedicate themselves to the complexity of language the one thing that separates us from everything else.

In my new novel, The Writers Afterlife [Three Rooms Press, $16.95], Tom Chillo is a dedicated artist. He writes scripts for movie and TV just so that it can afford him the time to write what he truly wants to write, which are novels and plays where the author owns the work both legally (as in the copyright law) and artistically. However, in my novel Tom dies suddenly at the age of 44 consequently the same age Shakespeare started writing his own great dramas.

Right after his death Tom finds himself in the Writers Afterlife where he must reside in the Valley of the Those on the Verge. It is a sort of limbo where writers wait for all eternity, if it takes that long, for their work to be recognized so that they might dwell on the hill with the Eternals who include Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Jane Austin and the other greats. Who else would spend a lifetime hoping to be recognized? Some inventors, some explorers but in general writers do.

I like writing about artists . I’ve written about Caravaggio, Machiavelli the playwright and in my contemporary work most of my heroes are writers Why? Because writing is what I do, it’s what I have done for all of my adult life. I write movies, plays, teleplays, television shows, poems and novels and in the end, just like Tom, it’s all the same. And in the end most writers are the same no matter who they are — men, women, young and old. Every writer has to approach the blank space in front of them or the blank piece of paper the same way. A writer needs to overcome his own own insecurities and fill the page.

The hard part is always the beginning, the middle and the end. Writers have to wake up, look around, at the world, their friends and themselves and find stories. They then have to figure if those stories are worth telling and then how to tell those they believe are worth telling. And that is only half the battle. After the writing is completed, then they have to wait and see if anyone outside of themselves cares and finds value in what they have spent sometimes years creating.

And writing never ends, meaning writers are always writing even when they are not doing it physically. Their entire being is directed toward working out in their minds and in their hearts the story they want to tell.

In the end, yes, we do know some statesmen, scientist and money makers of the past but when you really dig deep in the annals of human existence, it’s the poets who we know. The writers who told us about the people they were and who their people were. We read them to know about ourselves. That is why they are as relevant as if they wrote today. Smart phones may be new but human nature probably hasn’t changed one iota.

The wonderful writer William Manchester once wrote that heroism is not based on a single moment when a soldier throws himself on a grenade to save his comrades, but acting heroically is the dedication to a purpose through a lifetime. That is my perfect definition of a writer; someone who dedicates his or her life to searching for the meaning of that life and the lives of others through the marvelous and mysterious gift of storytelling.

Originally published on The Huffington Post. Republished with permission of the author.

(WATCH) Jeff Baron on screenwriters writing books and plays

On March 11th, Writers Guild of America, East held a talk with Jeff Baron about screenwriters branching out into writing plays and books.

Jeff has had four original screenplays  optioned by major Hollywood studios and his TV credits include “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “Sisters, Almost Grown (David Chase),” “A Year in the Life” and multiple projects for Nickelodeon.

His play “Visiting Mr. Green” is one of the most produced plays in the past 15 years, with over 500 productions in 42 countries, and his plays “When I Was Five,” “Mothers Day” and “Mr. & Mrs. God” have international lives as well.

His first novel “I Represent Sean Rosen” was published by HarperCollins last March, and is now in its second printing. His follow-up novel “Sean Rosen Is Not for Sale” will be published in March 2014.

Using examples from his work, Jeff apoke about the differences among the forms in terms of the role of the writer, the ownership of the project, the craft, the collaborative process, the contract and ownership of one’s work, how to get your work seen, and how and how much writers are paid.

Here are two video highlights from the talk:

Jeff Baron Discusses Branching Out Into Theater

Jeff Baron Discusses Branching Out Into Books

Win Tickets to the 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference

TSCTo enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference, tweet at @WGAEast with the number of years of protection writers get when they submit a script to WGAE Script Registration.

Don’t tweet? Don’t worry! Simply email your answer to membernews@wgaeast.org with the subject “Toronto Screenwriting Conference Contest” for a chance to win.

The deadline to enter is Monday March 17, 2014, at 4pm ET. A winner will be notified on March 18th.

The 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference (TSC) is a two-day weekend event taking place on April 5-6, 2014, which gathers together the best creative talent, authors and speakers in writing for film, television and media in Canada and the United States. The TSC offers screen-based industry professionals an advanced level of education and skills development unparalleled by any other screenwriting event on the continent. Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) and David Webb Peoples (12 Monkeys, Unforgiven, Bladerunner) have already been announced as speakers for this years’ conference.

Visit the TSC website for more details: www.torontoscreenwritingconference.com

CONTEST: One randomly selected winner will each get TWO (2) tickets to attend the 2014 Toronto Screenwriting Conference. The winner must be a WGAE member. The winner and their guest are responsible for all additional expenses, including hotel and travel.

The Importance Social Media and Cloud Computing to Screenwriters

Justin SamuelsBy Justin Samuels

Hollywood four decades ago was a very different place.  How a screenwriter worked was also very different.  In those days scripts were typed up on typewriters.  It was a painstaking process, scripts went through their multiple drafts and then had to be typed up to checked for errors.  There was no backspace or delete in those days.

A simple flood or fire could destroy your spec scripts.  Making copies of scripts was comparatively expensive.  As was postage.  To make or expand on connections in the film industry, you had to be on the ground in Los Angeles itself.  Even to get a call, you had to be near a landline phone.  Or otherwise you’d miss the call.  But today’s there’s a whole new way of doing things.  Laptops and other computing devices, along with internet service make it possible to store screenplays digitally and safely.  One can e-mail a screenplay to others in the industry from anywhere in the world.  And various forms of social media make it extremely easy to stay in touch.

As for as writing screenplays, the typewriter became obsolete awhile ago.  As computers became standard, Final Draft became the standard way of writing screenplays on a pc.  It certainly saved screenwriters on paper costs and made revising and editing scripts much easier.  And one was able to e-mail files in either fdr or pdf format to others in the industry.  Purchasing final draft was expensive, and your copies of the script were stored on your pc.  Should your pc be damaged you were out of look.  And Final Draft was only available in for Windows and Mac machines.  Still, it was a big improvement.   But technology has far surpassed the Final Draft era.  Celtx, an open source program, was created to have Windows, Max, and Linux versions.  It was an open source program, and free.  Celtx eventually offered a cloud service program allowing one to write screenplays from any browser on any device, whether Android, Iphone, Ipad, Linux, ChromeOs, Windows, or whatever else might be out there.  It’s free, but to get full functionality one must pay $50 a year.  Still, anything typed in your browser is automatically saved in Celtx’s cloud, provided that your computer is online.  The downloadable version of Celtx can be used for offline service (as back up should your connection go temporarily down).  It saved screenwriters from having to worry about what happens to scripts should a computer get damaged.  And as Gmail, Yahoo!, and Outlook all have many gigabytes of storage, one can use one’s web based e-mail as additional storage/back up.

In terms of getting read and staying in touch, the internet offers many options.  Screenwriter Kraig Wenmen broke into the industry by submitting to Inktip.  E-mail queries certainly save writers on postage.  While going to industry events in Los Angeles and New York are still extremely important, today one doesn’t have to hold on to cards or just lock contacts away into a rolodex that is rarely used.

New contacts in the film industry can be friended on Facebook or added on twitter.  Frequently using social media is essential to writers and other artists.  Via social media one can notify others en masse of new projects that you’re undertaking or looking for.  Also, if you regularly chat with friends in the industry on social media, you make it much more likely that they’ll want to work with you and vice versa.

And as many of us have residences and lives outside of LA and NYC, social media enables us to keep in touch with what’s on the ground in the business while we’re doing things outside of Los Angeles or New York.  Also, internet records are permanent.  A quick google on an artist will show work that the artist is done.  This creates a free resume of sort for the artists.  Prolific writers can use this to build up a name for themselves as writers.   It’s also a good way to let a writer’s fans keep in touch with what the writer is doing in between film projects or book projects.  The fact the internet allows a screenwriter to create and manage their own buzz is a huge plus.

The more of a presence one has online, the greater interest is generated in one’s work from producers, agents, and editors (depending on what type of writing the writer does).

Overall, new forms of technology have made it much easier to find ways around traditional barriers in the industry.  As technology continues to evolve, the industry and a screenwriters job will change with it.

Recap: 2014 Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony

The 2014 Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony was held on Saturday, February 1st, at the Edison Ballroom in New York City.

Renowned television star and Emmy Award nominee Colin Quinn hosted the ceremony, which was executive produced by John Marshall. Presenters who appeared at the WGAE’s New York awards ceremony included Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Robert Carlock (30 Rock), Raúl Esparza (Law & Order: SVU), Nelson George (CB4), Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is The New Black), Steve O’Donnell (Late Show with David Letterman), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Keri Russell (The Americans), Danny Strong (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Beau Willimon (House of Cards). Barbara Rosenblat (Orange is the New Black) served as the evening’s announcer.

The Writers Guild of America, East presented several special honors during its ceremony: James Schamus was presented with the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for bringing honor and dignity to writers. His award was presented to him by Dee Rees, the screenwriter and director of Pariah. Schamus co-founded Focus Films, produced the Oscar®-nominated Brokeback Mountain, and wrote award-winning screenplays including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Ice Storm.

Wendell Pierce, who starred as Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire and trombonist Antoine Batiste in Treme, presented The Hunter Award for career achievement to David Simon. A MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow, Simon created the acclaimed television series Treme and The Wire. He also wrote for Homicide: Life on the Streets, which was based on one of his books, and the miniseries Generation Kill and The Corner.

Writers Guild council member Philip V. Pilato was presented with The Jablow Award for his service to the guild by last year’s recipient, Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer of Writers Guild of America, East.

The John Merriman Memorial Award was presented to Rachel Baye of American University by Michael Winship, President of Writers Guild of America, East. The Writers Guild Initiative’s 6th annual Michael Collyer Memorial Fellowship in Screenwriting was presented to Hennah Sekandary of New York University by Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of Writers Guild of America, East.

Attendees at the WGAE’s awards ceremony included Tina Fey (30 Rock), Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight), Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street), Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), Michael Barker (Co-founder, Sony Picture Classics), Emily Mortimer (Newsroom), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle), Jeremy Scahill and David Riker (Dirty Wars), A.M. Homes (The L Word). Mike Schur (Parks & Recreation), Lizz Winstead (The Daily Show), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Gina Gionfriddo (House of Cards) and Joe Weisberg (The Americans), among many other illustrious guests.

Here are the winners of the 2014 Writers Guild Awards:

SCREEN WINNERS

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY

Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley; Roadside Attractions 

TELEVISION AND NEW MEDIA WINNERS

DRAMA SERIES

Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC

COMEDY SERIES 

Veep, Written by Simon Blackwell, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO

NEW SERIES

House of Cards, Written by Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon; Netflix 

EPISODIC DRAMA

“Confessions” (Breaking Bad), Written by Gennifer Hutchison; AMC

EPISODIC COMEDY

“Hogcock!” (30 Rock), Written by Jack Burditt & Robert Carlock; NBC

LONG FORM – ADAPTED

Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, Written by Shawn Slovo, Based on the book by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace; HBO

SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA – ORIGINAL

“Episode 4: The Collected Sylvia” (Sylvia Plath: Girl Detective), Written by Mike Simses; sylviaplathgirldetective.com

ANIMATION

“A Test Before Trying” (The Simpsons), Written by Joel H. Cohen; Fox

COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) – SERIES

The Colbert Report, Writers: Stephen Colbert, Tom Purcell, Michael Brumm, Nate Charny, Rich Dahm, Paul Dinello, Eric Drysdale, Rob Dubbin, Glenn Eichler, Gabe Gronli, Dan Guterman,  Barry Julien, Jay Katsir, Frank Lesser, Opus Moreschi, Bobby Mort, Meredith Scardino, Max Werner; Comedy Central

COMEDY / VARIETY – MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES – SPECIALS

Blake Shelton’s Not So Family Christmas, Head Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts           Writers: Alex Rubens,Charlie Sanders; NBC

QUIZ AND AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

Jeopardy!, Written by John Duarte, Harry Friedman, Mark Gaberman, Debbie Griffin, Michele Loud, Robert McClenaghan, Jim Rhine, Steve D. Tamerius, Billy Wisse; ABC

DAYTIME DRAMA

Days of Our Lives, Written by Lorraine Broderick, David Cherrill, Carolyn Culliton,    Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, Christopher Dunn, Janet Iacobuzio, David A. Levinson,  Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Melissa Salmons, Christopher J. Whitesell; NBC

CHILDREN’S – EPISODIC & SPECIALS

“influANTces” (A.N.T. Farm), Written by Vincent Brown; Disney Channel

DOCUMENTARY – CURRENT EVENTS

“Egypt in Crisis” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria & Martin Smith; PBS

DOCUMENTARY – OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS

“The Choice 2012” (Frontline), Written by Michael KirkPBS 

TIED WITH:

“Silicon Valley” (American Experience), Telescript by Randall MacLowry and Michelle Ferrari; Story by Randall MacLowry; PBS

NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT

“Tragedy at Newtown” Special Edition (ABC World News with Diane Sawyer), Written byLisa Ferri and Matt Negrin; ABC

NEWS – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY

“Lethal Medicine” (60 Minutes), Written by Michael Rey, Oriana Zill de Granados, Michael Radutzky; CBS

RADIO WINNERS

DOCUMENTARY

“2012 Year in Review,” Written by Gail Lee; CBS Radio News

NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT

“Afternoon Drive,” Written by Bill Spadaro; CBS Radio/1010 WINS

NEWS – ANALYSIS, FEATURE, OR COMMENTARY 

“Remembering C. Everett Koop,” Written by Scott Saloway; CBS Radio News

PROMOTIONAL WRITING AND GRAPHIC ANIMATION WINNERS

ON-AIR PROMOTION (TELEVISION, NEW MEDIA OR RADIO)

The Crazy Ones, “Building a Better Comedy,” Written by Erial Tompkins; CBS

TELEVISION GRAPHIC ART AND ANIMATION

CBS News Animations: “Brain Injury,” “Pills,” “Bionic Leg,” “Midland Parade,” “Concordia Salvage;” Animation byDavid Rosen; CBS News

VIDEOGAME WINNER

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEOGAME WRITING

The Last of Us, Written by Neil Druckmann; Sony Computer Entertainment

WGAE Hosts Park City Send Off Party

Last night, the Writers Guild of America, East opened its offices for a send off party for those heading to Park City for Sundance, Slamdance, and the Independent Spirit Awards. The event was sponsored by Variety.

The evening featured short remarks from WGAE’s president Michael Winship and executive director Lowell Peterson, along with acclaimed screenwriters Jeremy Pikser, Mary Harron, Darci Picoult, and Stu Zicherman. The speakers shared advice and stories from their own Sundance experiences with the few dozen local filmmakers in attendance, many of whom will be heading to Park City for the first time.

2014 Writers Guild Awards: Final Voting Now Open

Awards Letterhead 2013.inddThe FINAL voting period to determine the winners for the 2014 Writers Guild Awards begins today for the following categories:

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
COMEDY SERIES
DRAMATIC SERIES
NEW SERIES

Vote online at: https://eballot4.votenet.com/wga/login.cfm (Your login is your last name and your password is your 5-digit member ID number.)

The deadline for casting your votes is FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014

The Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony will take place on Saturday, February 1st, at the Edison Ballroom in New York City.  Tickets are now available here.  Thank you to our sponsor ScreenCraft.

2014 WGA Awards: Screen Nominations Revealed

Awards Letterhead 2013.inddThe Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) have announced nominations for outstanding achievement in writing for the screen during 2013.

Winners will be honored at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards on Saturday, February 1, 2014, at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York City. Tickets for the Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony are now available here. Additional information on the awards show can be found here.

Here are the screen nominees:

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • American Hustle, Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; Columbia Pictures
  • Blue Jasmine, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics
  • Dallas Buyers Club, Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack; Focus Features
  • Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.
  • Nebraska, Written by Bob Nelson; Paramount Pictures

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • August: Osage County, Screenplay by Tracy Letts; Based on his play; The Weinstein Company
  • Before Midnight, Written by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Based on characters created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan; Sony Pictures Classics
  • Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures
  • Lone Survivor, Written by Peter Berg; Based on the book by Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson; Universal Pictures
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, Screenplay by Terence Winter; Based on the book by Jordan Belfort; Paramount Pictures

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY

  • Dirty Wars, Written by Jeremy Scahill & David Riker; Sundance Selects
  • Herblock – The Black & The White, Written by Sara Lukinson & Michael Stevens; The Stevens Company
  • No Place on Earth, Written by Janet Tobias & Paul Laikin; Magnolia Pictures
  • Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley; Roadside Attractions
  • We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, Written by Alex Gibney; Focus Features

The final voting period to determine the screenplay and series winners for the 2014 Writers Guild Awards will begin on Monday, January 6th.

Writers Guild Awards Tickets On Sale

awards INVITE POSTER

The Writers Guild of America, East today announced that members can RSVP for the 66th annual Writers Guild Award East Ceremony. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, February 1st, at the Edison Ballroom in New York City.

The ceremony will be hosted by comedian W. Kamau Bell. Presenters include Robert Carlock, Kate Mulgrew, Lawrence O’Donnell, Archie Panjabi, Wendell Pierce, Frank Rich, Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, and Beau Willimon, with more to be announced.

David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme, will receive the Ian McClellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement.

James Schamus, the award-winning screenwriter of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and co-founder of Focus Films, will be presented with the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for bringing honor and dignity to writers.

The Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony is supported by Screen Craft.

Writers Guild members can RSVP here.

For more information on the awards, please visit wgaeast.org/awards.

Interview: David Guggenheim (2010, 2012 Black List)

David GuggenheimThanks to our partners at The Black List and their bountiful blog, Go Into the Story by Scott Myers.

David Guggenheim broke into the business in February 2010 by selling the spec script Safe House which was produced and has grossed $208M worldwide. Since that time, Guggenheim has sold two more spec scripts: “Black Box” to Universal and “Narco Sub” to 20th Century Fox, as well as the pitch “Puzzle Palace”. With several other projects in development and having made the Black List twice (2010, 2012), it’s safe to say Guggenheim is one of the hottest action-thriller screenwriters in Hollywood today.

Here are links to the six installments of the entire interview:

Part 1: “You know, I just love the craft of constructing a story, coming up with movie concepts. That’s the fun for me. Just you and a blank page and you’re just coming up with stories.”

Part 2: “I love spy movies, and that’s my favorite genre to work in. And what I like doing, is taking a piece of a movie, that’s usually isn’t the focal of the movie, and blowing that up, and saying let’s do the movie from that point of view.”

Part 3: “For me, the best action movies are always the character‑driven action movies and they’re the one’s you always remember.”

Part 4: “Obviously, for the sake of the read, you want the action to jump off the page as much as possible, but what’s more important than the actual choreography is to come up a fresh way figuring out how the characters got into the action scene in the first place and how they get out of it.”

Part 5: “I think in a spec you need to make sure you’re hooking your reader in that first 15 pages, and that it has a strong enough concept. Because your concept it what’s going to set it apart.”

Part 6: “I will take any idea and I will try it. I may not agree with it when it’s given to me, but I always give the idea a chance, and I’ll try it.”

Please stop by comments to thank David and ask any questions you may have.

David is repped by Paradigm and Madhouse Entertainment.