Narrative Structural Analysis in Screenwriting, Writing and Rewriting the Feature-Length Screenplay, The Art and Craft of Film-Telling, The Voice of the Filmmaker
Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont, Thelma & Louise by Callie Khouri, and The Hurt Locker by Mark Boal
Favorite thing in your office
Besides the picture of my daughters, Shayna and Melissa, the bronze typewriter statue awarded me by the Austin Film Festival for a screenplay I wrote.
Technology you can’t live without
iPhone and MacBook Pro
Books on your nightstand
The Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler, In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch, and The Poet by Michael Connelly
Nachos, mocha lattes, and craft-brewed beer
What do you love about Sarah Lawrence students?
I’m always amazed at how much I learn from my students and how they help me see art in a new way. Students at Sarah Lawrence are uniquely wired; they like to push limits and question everything. In their intrepid exploration, they wind up doing things that should not work, but do.
It happens all the time in class: A student breaks a rule that the screenwriting/filmmaking "gurus" say is hard and fast, but instead of ruining the work, it enhances it. For example, it is usually considered death for a script to start with a talky scene that takes place in one location and goes on and on. One of my students wrote such a scene, which was 12 pages long. It shouldn’t have worked, but it was so well constructed, so perfectly paced, and the characterizations so strong and true that we became completely lost in the film. In these situations I have to say to myself, "I’ve been telling students that tactic doesn’t work, but in this case it does. How is that possible?" And we get to reevaluate the established rules and principles and really examine the creative process.
What do you love about teaching at Sarah Lawrence?
The seminar/conference model affords me the opportunity to talk very specifically with students about their work—I get to actually see the connection of the creator with the created. I’m sure it can be intimidating for students to have someone that far inside their creativity, but obviously it works, and it becomes liberating for students because we develop a strong sense of mutual trust. Navigating the seas of my students’ creativity also triggers thoughts in my brain about my own work. We form a symbiotic relationship, where my students and I learn from one another.