Writer Panel (2020): USA

Reviewed By Lily Papke. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020.

This years Writers Panel included Greta Gerwig for Little Women, Stephany Folsom for Toy Story 4, Noah Harpster for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Christopher Markus for Avengers: End Game, and Lulu Wang for The Farewell. This panel included a variety of information from tricks for screenwriting to challenges they faced during the creation of these movies. I went in with little information of what screenwriting truly is and how screenwriters go about starting a script that actually ends up getting produced. I came out with a lot of details for this side of the film industry and very helpful tips.

Greta Gerwig got an Oscar nomination for best adapted screen play for the film Little Women and if you have seen this revamping of the book then you would surely understand why. Her style of writing shines throughout this film and brings you into the March Families life. She’s able to make you like all of the March sisters which hasn’t been done before. Instead of painting a single person as a villain she makes everyone easy to relate to and understand their struggles, especially the character Amy. She explained at the panel how she would read the novel all the time and that she had wanted to work on a new adaptation of it for years before after re-reading it at 30 years old. She starts by writing very rough drafts of the intended film and then revises her way until she’s happy with the outcome. She learned how to write by reading other people’s screenplays, watching the movie and seeing how it goes from paper to screen. She also discovered what it was that made a screenplay get sold and used that knowledge while writing. To make insanely great dialogue, Greta reads out loud to hear the sound of the words come together and make sure the rhythm in the language is how she wants it.

Another great writer featured was Lulu Wang. She received an EDA nomination for best writing, original screenplay. She based this story off of real life events that occurred within her family. Lulu described how she learned to write screenplays and what works for her when writing one. She didn’t go to film school and instead learned from books and a brief bootcamp course, otherwise she is self-taught. For this film, she didn’t want any written comedy and instead have the audience laugh at a situation more than actual “jokes.” She likes to move around different places because it helps her write. She also analyzes each scene by putting them all onto a wall and then think about what each scene is about, what it is, and its purpose.

This panel was incredibly insightful for anyone interested in a career for screenwriting or even someone just wanting to learn more about behind the scenes, which explains why it sells out so fast! I recommend attending this panel at least once, you definitely won’t regret it.

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