Screenwriting can be a time-consuming and creatively exhausting process. When writers have trouble getting motivated or can’t get over their writer’s block, it is helpful to have fellow screenwriters to whom you can turn; you know, people who have experienced the same demands of the creative process. At NYCscreenwriter.org, New York-based scribes will find a group of fellow writers who are eager to share their experiences (and their work) and learn more about their craft.
MovieMaker spoke to NYCscreenwriter’s founder Steven Arvanites about how his organization came into being and how it provides screenwriters with a sense of community.
Samantha Husik (MM): Why did you start NYCscreenwriter.org? Why do you think it is important for screenwriters to build a community?
Steven Arvanites (SA): In 2009 I Googled “New York City screenwriting” and came up with zilch. As a New York-based screenwriter, I desperately wanted to belong to a dedicated community of writers. But there was no community. Of course I could have moved to L.A., where there are thousands of screenwriter coffee shop klatches. But as a native New Yorker and die-hard Yankees fan, I was determined to remain in the Big Apple.
Knowing there must be dozens of New York-based screenwriters searching for the same thing, I founded NYCscreenwriter.org. Screenwriting is ultimately a solitary and sometimes lonely exercise; it’s just you and Final Draft. So my goal was to start a community where screenwriters can network and learn from each other in order to develop their own writing.
MM: The members of your community range from accomplished screenwriters (like yourself) to first-time writers. Why should professional writers participate? Why should new writers participate? How can non-members join?
SA: Whether you’ve been nominated for an Oscar or you’re typing “FADE IN” for the first time, it’s never easy to put your ideas on the page. Being part of a community will provide you with a support system and the motivation you need to complete your screenplays.
No matter how advanced the writer, it’s essential to keep learning and growing. Our monthly screenwriting workshops are just as beneficial to professional writers as they are to new writers. In addition to learning more about the craft, amateur writers can profit from the wisdom of accomplished writers who have already gone through the ups and downs of the process and the industry.
Membership is free and open to all. You simply have to go to http://nycscreenwriter.org/MEMBERSHIP.html and fill out the short form. Your information is never sold and is 100 percent confidential. Guaranteed.
MM: What resources can writers find on your site? Do you hold workshops/panels/courses? Are there any other community events on the horizon?
SA: If you go to NYCscreenwriter.org there is a plethora of information (I love the word plethora!) for writers. There you can find legal advice, downloadable feature scripts and a multimedia page which chronicles NYCscreenwriter’s participation in several film festivals. We’ve recently added a “podcasts” page where you can purchase podcasts hosted by professional writers on topics like “writing second drafts.” Also, on the event page you’ll find info on our monthly workshops. These workshops are terrific as they feature speakers from Columbia professors to industry professionals, and cover topics from “how to get a producer to read your script” to “creating unforgettable dialogue.” And if your script needs some TLC, you can visit the “Script Consulting” page of the Website to learn how to engage me as a script analyst.
I’m thrilled to announce NYCscreenwriter.org’s largest event ever: NYCscreenwriter Pitchfest, which will take place this October. It is the first screenwriting event of its kind in New York City. For a nominal fee, participants get to meet and pitch to three top-level film executives. Think of it as speed dating for screenwriters. Learning your craft is essential, but making the right connections is paramount.
MM: As a screenwriting teacher, what’s the best piece of advice you offer your students on the how to get through the screenwriting process and how to break into the industry?
SA: Structure and high-stakes! If your story is not “cookin’ with gas” in the first 10 pages, the Hollywood gatekeepers are not going to read on. You must engage your readers in a page-turning story and have your characters sizzle from their first word of dialogue. When the stakes are raised and conflict is manifested, the story always sizzles. Do not be polite to your characters. Put them in jeopardy and make them uncomfortable no matter what the subject matter—whether saving the world from an alien invasion or telling their spouse they want a divorce. Either way the emotional stakes must be sky high! Only through this heightened state do they really engage a reader and subsequently a producer. And remember, keep writing!
MM: Any current or future projects in the works?
SA: I’m very lucky! My career is kicking into high gear. The Cartoon Network is actively developing my tween animated series. Animation is a whole new skill set and it’s really exciting. Also, I am co-producing and directing a script that I’ve written entitled Beaner Jumping. It chronicles the murder of an illegal immigrant in Long Island. It is based on true crime. It touches all bases: Immigration, bullying and hate crimes. I hope to be in production in spring 2012.