Well I went to my first screenwriting class. I worked late and did some fine dining at the Taco Bell, and got to the community house way too early. What can I say, I was excited!
I've always liked the vibe of Birmingham, and when I got to the Community House the lady at the desk told me that my class would be in "The Library" and I could go in there and wait.
The room was like something out of a movie: wood paneled walls with a fake bookcase, chandeliers, and a gnarled wood conference table polished to a high shine. I loved it that we would be in a place with atmosphere, and I settled into one of the pointy-backed chairs and set up my notebook and papers with the work I'd already done on my screenplay.
I sat there and looked at the empty chairs and imagined what kind of people would soon come in and fill them. Maybe some super-cool Quentin Tarantino types, or the undiscovered genius of a Charlie Kauffman. I wondered about the instructor. There was a short bio of him in the course catalog, it said he has written award-winning screenplays and had many things produced. He could be my link to the Hollywood insiders. I hoped to make a good impression. Maybe I shouldn't have brought my Taco Bell cup in here.
The first person to join me in the room was an older man named Pete. He was telling jokes that didn't make sense and talked too much, in a nonsensical way. I could tell that he was the kind who distracts the teacher and dominates discussions to lead them off topic. Great. Crazy Pete.
Then the teacher and the rest of the students started to fill the room. There were all kinds of problems with registrations and late-comers, and lots of confusion before the class finally got going, way late.
There was a round-table of introductions and of course I was far off in my predictions of the kinds of people who would be joining me in this class. The majority were senior citizens. Bobbling old ladies and stern old men. Some unemployed people, a security guard, and an unusually large amount of lawyers. None of them were glamorous Hollywood types.
The instructor seemed like he knows his subject but kept getting distracted and had no idea how to keep control of the too-large group. I guessed that I may have over-interpreted his Hollywood connections and later went and looked him up. It turns out that he has done writing for documentaries but the one screenplay he wrote was never produced, and I think the award it won was one of those contests that you pay to enter so that you get enough credentials to qualify to teach an overpriced community ed screenwriting class.
Towards the end of the session he had us go around the table and tell about our main character and what their motivation was. He started on the side where Crazy Pete sat, so I would go next to last. I listened patiently as each person droned on about the sort-of idea that they kind-of had for their story. None of them had a main character or any idea what motivation was. Or any knowledge whatsoever about plot structure. Which I know for a fact is taught in the fourth grade. I decided that they ALL were crazy, and that if the teacher kept letting each of them blabber on like that they would never make it to me before the class time was up.
With just minutes left on the clock it was finally my turn to talk and I proudly stated my main character's clearly defined motivation, and then as a bonus I showed them the line chart I'd made that plotted out all the major turning points of my story. They all looked at me like I was crazy. And then we were out of time.
OK. So maybe their vision of a glamorous future Hollywood screenwriter hadn't been of a super-geeked middle-aged housewife/former engineer who eats at Taco Bell. I guess we'll all just have to accept each other for who we are, (crazy) and get on with it. That's alright.
Even though this class didn't live up to my too-high expectations, I am still excited about having the motivation to finish this screenplay I am writing. I have to write a treatment and character outlines for next month, and I'm looking forward to doing it.