My very good friend Linda Lighthouse wanted a boyfriend. She always wants a boyfriend, and to be fair, she always has one.

Linda is one of those women who is never single for long. This time, it took a whole three weeks. She used a neat little device called a VISION BOARD. Now, I am not saying she got a boyfriend because she made a vision board. I am saying the vision board helped her subconscious mind allow what she wanted to come into her life.  So being the wide open-minded person I am, I am going to create a vision board for 2019 to help my emerging screenwriting career.

Let’s be clear, I’m not getting carried away here. Looking on the internet for guidance, as one does, I see literally dozens of sites dedicated to Vision Board Parties. Say what now?

VISION BOARD PARTY

Yes, apparently this is the new thing for suburban moms looking for a safe girls night out. Vision Board parties have replaced book clubs and wine tastings at your local meet up for fun and friendship.

The idea is, you look at your board whenever possible and reprogram your Subconscious Mind to allow those images to manifest in your reality. An entire cottage industry has grown around the idea of allowing, accepting and receiving. Of course you remember Law of Attraction. It’s not a fad. You (and I really mean Me) may say It won’t work, It won’t work for me, It’s stupid, I don’t have time, I’m doing it wrong, but that’s exactly the conscious No beating the subconscious Yes that keeps the Law of Attraction folks flying private to book signings. Books like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero and anything by Jerry & Esther Hicks or Deepak Chopra all say pretty much the same thing in different ways. And made their author fortunes. No, I will not be cynical. This is a legitimate project and I will put my very best self into it.

For solitary vision board makers like myself I prefer the old school cut, paste and decorate over the digital grab photos and download an app. I think cutting photos, glueing them to a poster board and dousing it with glitter sends a stronger “I really want this” message to my subconscious.

I am not my friend Linda who has had more success and can tap into those happy feelings easier that I can. So this Vision Board Project 2019 will be a challenge. I need to reprogram my subconscious to allow what I want to flow into my space and manifest successfully. How some images in a collage are going to do that, I do not know. This is kind of a leap of faith.

First—I have to figure out what I want my subconscious to allow.

T.U.F.F.

I have created the acronym TUFF to describe what I want to manifest in 2019.

T = Television – as an emerging screenwriter, my new manager that I got last year wasn’t a good fit. So I need someone new.

U = Unraveled – the title of the short film I am in pre-production on. I need help to crowd fund and develop of reliable production team

F = Features – I have been so focused on TV, I have forgotten to peddle my wares as an emerging screenwriter. I need to manifest connections to production companies.

F = Fun – With all the stuck in the mud, my emerging has taken the joy out of my life and I need some fun and (new) friends.

Second – I’ve cut images that each of these areas where I need to manifest successful flow. Here’s the result:

Third – I have also included Affirmations and positive phrases to help my mind reprogram and visualize the success they represent. Each month I’ll check back in and let you know how it goes. I am a successful screenwriter. Not because my Vision Board says so, because I say so.

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.  Cheers!

It’s the holidays so I wanted to express some seasonal joy and gratitude for being alive and well in 2018. I am grateful for my family, friends and opportunities. I am also grateful that I am a screenwriter.  We all know that ups and downs, but more than that — the passion that drives us as storytellers and project creators fills our souls. There is nothing else we would rather do, or else we’d be doing it, right?

Here’s a little inspiration from The Writers Guild back in 2009.  That night the WGA interviewed these men were nominated for their work. Next will be you and me and every other emerging screenwriter with the courage to follow their passion and live their dream. I am grateful for that. I’m sure you are, too.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and THANK YOU, EMERGING SCREENWRITERS FOR 100 POSTS!

 

 

 

Film critic Joe Queenan once proclaimed William Goldman “the world’s greatest and most famous living screenwriter.” The Guardian. 

The Academy Award winning screenwriter of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All The President’s Men” died last week of pneumonia at age 87.  His work also includes “Marathon Man,” “Chaplin” and “The Princess Bride” based on his novel. He is known not only for his screenplays but for writing plays, novels and semi-autobiographical books on the industry.

Anyone looking to Hollywood for a writing career knows William Goldman for his 1983 book Adventures in the Screen Trade, the must-read book for anyone who even thinks about making a living in Hollywood.

“Nobody knows anything.”

The honest assessment is the best-remembered quote of the book, but it only addresses the decision-making skills of the gate-keepers. I reminds emerging talent from all levels that it just takes one Yes to discount a legion of No. For screenwriters, Hollywood is not just an industry providing opportunity, it is a place that peels away layers of your soul. Mr. Goldman addressed that as well with a warning:

“Screenplay writing is not an art form. It’s a skill; it’s carpentry; it’s structure. I don’t mean to knock it — it ain’t easy. But if it’s all you do, if you only write screenplays, it is ultimately denigrating to the soul. You may get lucky and get rich, but you sure won’t get happy.”

Publishers Weekly interview (1983)

So on this Thanksgiving Day I want to say Thank You William Goldman for reminding me what happiness is and is not. Take a moment to remember all of the things you have that make you happy and I’ll bet none of them involve pilot season or pay-or-play contracts. I have clean air, fresh water, family, friends, a roof over my head, chocolate chip mint ice cream and a bottle of Merlot. Who needs Hollywood?  R.I.P. Mr. Goldman

Emerging Screenwriters Extra:  A 2010 interview with Michael Winship for the Writers Guild Foundation

To make it simple, your screenplay theme is the perspective your Main Character has after they’ve finished their journey.

Let’s look at a few examples:

In Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) goes from not wanting to be a single father to learning his greatest accomplishment is being a great dad. The theme? Divorced fathers can be excellent custodial parents. Remember in the 70s, this was a thing as courts always sided with the mothers.

In Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is a strictly by-the-book right vs. wrong kind of man who has to compromise these fundamental principles to allow people who’ve done wrong to go free. The theme being there are no absolutes when it comes to murder. Sometimes circumstances create killers from victims and vice versa.

One more. Black Panther (2018). A film that has so many important social and cultural themes it is hard to narrow it to just one. But the theme of self-identity reflects an African-American culture at war with itself and struggles to achieve in a divided America. This is from a great study guide by Grade Saver:

Writing about Black Panther for The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb describes African-American identity as “two feuding ancestries conjoined by a hyphen.” He posits that there is a fundamental tension in the very notion of being African-American because to be black on some level means being not totally accepted as an American by much of society. And yet they cannot reject this identity because it has been forced upon them by history and circumstance. 

Ryan Coogler was all over that shit in the movie.

So how do you thread your theme?

Watch movies. Compile a list of where the Main Character is at the end. What must they sacrifice? Is it their principles? Their former way of life? Their child?

Know where your Main Character is at the end of your screenplay emotionally. After taking a tumultuous ride for ninety pages, how are they doing? Once you take their pulse you can see their attitude about what’s happened over the course of the story.

In Big (1988), 12-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) becomes 30-year-old Josh (Tom Hanks) after wishing he was “big.” It takes his journey through an adulthood he’s certainly not ready for to realize he’d rather be 12. He has to sacrifice the grown up life including a mature relationship to return to his family and friends. His attitude is relief and gratitude about not being big. Lesson learned. The theme of appreciating where you are in your life cycle is also reflected in his adult girlfriend, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins) who at the end when Josh asks her to become 12 so they can stay together, she refuses stating she was 12 once and that was enough.

Even action movies follow these thematic examples. Armageddon (1998) may be about the imminent destruction of the plant, but through Bruce Willis’s sacrifice it’s really about making sure his daughter gets married to Ben Affleck. His external goal to do his job dovetails with the inner goal to see Liv Tyler happy. The rest of the story serves that goal. Even if it costs him his life.

In addition to knowing your Main Character’s sacrifice and attitude toward it at the end, another key to finding your screenplay theme is to understand your character’s main goal. What do they want at the beginning and how does that goal change in the middle? If you’ve done your job correctly, by the last act, the original goal will have changed to something the character either rejected or did not know they wanted.

Romantic comedies are really great at this. Baby Boom (1987) is not about neurotic go-getter JC Wiatt (Diane Keaton) leaving corporate America to raise a baby she was given responsibility for in a relative’s will. It’s about finding true love with a compassionate, laid back veterinarian Jeff Cooper (Sam Shepard).

One of my favorite rom coms is French Kiss (1995). Kate (Meg Ryan) chases her fiance (Timothy Hutton) who’s fallen in love with someone else and broken the engagement. She tracks him down in France where with the help of a French louse, (Kevin Kline) she is able to lure him back only to realize she doesn’t want a sap so easily turned. She wants real love with a strong man who loves her. Oh, there’s Kevin Kline who fits the bill. Convenient.

That’s a primer. Learning your screenplay’s theme is a necessary evil when creating your outline. If you don’t have an outline, beat sheet, treatment, something, shame on you. You have to know where you’re going before you get behind the wheel.

If you establish the main character’s goal, how that goal changes, what they have to sacrifice to achieve it and the attitude at the end of the journey, you will not only have a solid theme to sell to producers, but a satisfying screenplay for readers.

Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), Terry Rossio (Shrek), Mark Fergus (Children of Men) and David Hayter (X-Men) in one fell swoop talk about writing a Hollywood blockbuster.

I have been a member of the Scriptwriters Network off and on since 2000. The best I can say is they are hit and miss. Some great panels for beginning writers who think they’re advanced and special events for advanced writers who think they’re beginners.  I am neither so I look for interesting guests in the speaker series.  Found this one in the archives.

From way back in 2011 but worth a gander, especially if you’re hoping your script has the chops to become a tentpole feature.

Enjoy!

Quick

The 70th annual Emmy awards were last night hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update co-hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost (with handoffs to seemingly the entire SNL current cast and alumni). I thought it was a snooze overall, notwithstanding the proposal Glenn Weiss (winner for best directing: Variety/Special for the Oscars broadcast) made to his now fiancée– congratulations.  Another highlight was Hannah Gadsby – don’t know much about the Australian comedienne or why she was there, but boy, am I glad she woke me up.

Dirty

A show about TV for TV fans produced by SNL grand master Lorne Michaels should have been funnier and could have been more entertaining.  I don’t mind it being an elongated late night sketch performed by a well-seasoned troupe.  I do mind the constant droning about diversity and lack thereof and assuming people of color (POC) need to stick with the stereotypes. To be honest, I’m on the fence about “Reparation Emmys.” And Donald Glover in whiteface, um– ew? Regina King — all hail– is a queen who definitely deserves her accolades, but c’mon, she won for a race-based story.  The true test of diversity is not in the nomination, victory or even production of racially charged stories — it is the hiring of people who are talented regardless of their race, gender, religion, age, sexual identity, etc.  A rich black woman won an award for played an aggrieved black woman.  Alert the media.  Let her play the lead in the feminist western Godless then I’d be impressed.  To that end– Sandra Oh’s nomination and Thandie Newton’s win prove my point.  Any POC victorious in a role that could have gone to a white person is successful diversity.

Rant

Part of the problem are the stereotypes attributed to POC. And one of those stereotypes was on full display last night.  It is upsetting in general that many uninformed and narrow-minded people see African-Americans as uneducated, ghetto-raised and ignorant.  The current president has set back the country’s cultural progress by at least two generations in encouraging these attitudes. So it is incumbent upon those in the public eye to present the best and brightest of us and show that those who have the stereotypes are the ignorant ones.  Well, when Angela Bassett (yes, Angela-fucking-Bassett) botched Rachel Brosnahan’s name on her Best Actress in a Comedy for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, not only did she neither correct nor apologize for the error, her co-presenter Tiffany Haddish laughed, thus making it worse.  For crying out loud, this is Ms. Brosnahan’s big moment, how dare you ruin it by mangling her name then laughing about it.  Disgraceful!  And fuel for the likes of Roseanne Barr who sees us as apes anyway.  Now thanks to you ladies we are apes who can’t be taught to read.

Then there was Chrissy (Why is she famous again?) Tiegen and her husband John Legend (oh yeah, him).  Two of the thirstiest drinkers in the Hollywood trough.  While I understand your pride at your husband’s accomplishments mentioning his EGOT status was not classy, Chrissy.  This is the Emmys – the award ceremony for excellence in television programming, leave the reality show B-list celebrity conduct on E!’s red carpet.  Then he botched the pronunciation of Merritt Wever’s last name.  “Weaver” not “Wevver.”  Yes, I get on first glance it’s an easy error, but still an unforced one.  Do you know how many people would love to present on that stage?  These presenters have been nominees themselves and should realize the significance of winning in someone’s life. Give them the courtesy of learning how to pronounce their goddamn name!  Tiegen and Legend seem spoiled and feckless to me anyway, so again, my point– if you are trying to dispel a stereotype of feckless, take the time (literally five minutes to read the names and ask for pronunciation) to do due diligence.  It’s a matter of courtesy and respect.

I am horrified that educated African-Americans are considered unicorns.  Look at how the birthers tried to say President Obama couldn’t possibly be American.  Look at how educated and articulate he is– he must be foreign.  Please, all POC who are celebrities, know that it is not enough to get the job.  You must move the ball forward and represent for all of us who do not have the platform to show our intellect and talent.  You have to do it for us.   The lesson last night is don’t take anything for granted, not even your reading skills.

 

Murder on the Orient Express has been one of my favorite Agatha Christie stories ever since I read the short story “Murder in the Calais Coach” as a kid. Sidney Lumet’s 1974 feature starring Albert Finney with Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman (who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for this) and Sir John Gielgud was so tonally perfect it scares the crap out of me every time I see it.

I ignore the TV versions. CBS’s rancid waste of time with Alfred Molina and Meredith Baxter and the ITV effort as part of Agatha Christie’s Poirot series where Jessica Chastain’s secretary was the mastermind. Blasphemy. Although I will shout out David Suchet. Best. Poirot. Ever.

Still, I was excited when the 2017 remake directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as the world’s greatest detective Hercule Poirot came out last fall. Then I saw it. And was disappointed. This month it is all over HBO and with the ability to watch it more closely… I am still disappointed. Despite all of the things I love– the diversity within the storytelling, the cast, the cinematography, it’s a sumptuous travelogue. And Branagh’s Poirot – that mustache is everything. However, there are some things that I t need to be understood and corrected before another mistake is made.

Memo to Mr. Branagh:  You don’t assemble an all-star cast and forget to let them shine. Now that a semi-sequel is a go, I hope your Death on the Nile is as successful as your train trip. By all means open it up, but still– don’t deviate from the theme or plot, especially if it changes the tone.

Screenwriter Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049) updated this version by opening it up visually and changing the focus from the all-star suspects to the detective. That’s where they lost me.

This is a murder-mystery not an action thriller. Claustrophobia is required to maintain the chills and thrills. The Lumet version stays mostly on the train and is grandiose and boxed-in without feeling stuffy or over-stuffed. The actors have fun with their characters bordering on camp without going full-blown farce.

SPOILERS ahead in case you don’t know the plot.

Here the filmmakers create an isolated Eastern European mountain atmosphere. Why? No idea. This is the freaking Orient Express. The granddaddy of luxury train travel in its day. And still has the romance and intrigue of something exciting about to happen. For the love of God, don’t get off the train. The entire plot takes place on the train. Sure, keep your stunning amber sunsets and icy mountain passes, but this movie should be cramped, atmospheric and moody. The audience should feel uncomfortable, not like they could make snow angels under shooting stars.

This update includes a change in theme. The American justice of trial by jury in the Lumet version is replaced by biblical justice of moral vs. right. Green opens his screenplay introducing Poirot in Jerusalem at the wailing wall with religious leaders from three big faiths as suspects. He couldn’t have hit us over the head any harder. Poirot literally steps in horse shit twice to symbolize his need to reach a balance of the two.

Green also added contemporary action scenes in an atmospheric mystery. That feels wrong. In 1935 Hercule Poirot only need his little grey cells and an innocent suspect as muscle. In 2017 Poirot carries a gun. I can only assume because Branagh wants to stress how virile and macho he is. Look, he can chase a suspect along dangerous train tracks. Listen, he had a girlfriend who haunts his memory. Why not just pose in a Calvin Klein underwear add and get it out of your system? Leave Poirot alone. He is perfect as written.

Memo to Mr. Branagh: (Sir? Has he been knighted yet?) the hairy beast resting spectacularly on your upper lip is the star. Keep that, but please, for the love of God, let us know all the characters, not just you and see all the clues to give us a chance to solve the mystery. Do not short change any of the suspects for your egocentric need to indulge the detective. We get it. He’s Poirot. He’s a one-of-a-kind genius.

Can you name any of the characters in this movie? Other than Poirot? Think about it. I’ll wait. Michelle Pfeiffer. What was her character? Are you sure? She was the American looking for a rich husband. Johnny Depp. Hmm. Yeah, what can be said about his acting? His recent characters appear as doppelgängers for his personal life. Which is a nice way of saying he’s become a cartoon and it is difficult to take his characterization of the villainous Ratchett seriously.

Monsieur Poirot’s playing up his OCD never has the fun that both Finney and Peter Ustinov’s (in Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun) immodest geniuses had and takes away from developing the other characters. If Branagh had instructed his actors to kick up the camp a notch then they all would have been in sync. Pfeiffer and Josh Gad, bless them, seemed to get the need to be sassy or droll as the scene permits. The others seem self-serious, or too deferential to Poirot. All of this would have been taken care of had the focus been on the suspects as Mrs. Christie intended. In this version, the stunning cast has nothing to do but occupy space.

We watch mysteries not only to see the detective solve the case, but to participate in solving it with him. This remake took that away from us. We watch the detective rather than join him on the ride. For example, when the body is discovered it is an overhead catwalk shot – are you kidding? This is the big ticket – the murder. I don’t want to see the tops of heads or a bloody sheet from a bird’s eye. Get that camera in there and give me a close-up on the blood-drained face and rigor mortis.

The information we are given is spoon fed as if the filmmakers don’t trust us to solve the murder so we never even get to try. As an emerging screenwriter, I look for the inner and outer story. Here, it’s the morality of murder and finding out who killed Johnny Depp, err– Ratchett. In order to do that the audience needs context. The backstory at the beginning gets the audience involved.

This is something the 1974 film understood very well. The Armstrong kidnapping information. Opening with the immediate consequences of the event then cutting to six years later gives the audience a foundation. When Finney learns Anthony Perkins’ father was the D.A. In the case you think – oh, he could have done it. Then when you learn Wendy Hiller was the child’s godmother, you think – oh, she could have done it. And so one. It gives one pause. And hairs raise as each piece of the puzzle falls in place. That is the spine of the story – not Poirot’s greatness.

One of the fails of Mr. Branagh’s version is the inability to relate to any of the suspects. Because we know nothing of the Armstrong kidnapping there is no way we can even guess their true motives. Not fair, sir. In this version, the context is not up front, but after the body is discovered. That is Poirot telling us, rather than the audience actively participating. We have no way of knowing anything related to the inner story– so it seems to come from nowhere.

Obviously Branagh and Green didn’t trust the source material and added a modern element of keeping the lead character involved. Poirot missed the opportunity to work on the murdered child case and has always regretted not receiving a letter from the child’s father earlier. The insinuation is if Poirot had worked on this case there would be no murder on the orient express because Ratchett would have been found sooner. Heavy sigh. The audience needs information that informs the plot. Poirot is not part of that context.

Mysteries are puzzles to be solved by the audience as well as the detective. Said detective is our representative on the case. He is not one of the puzzle pieces. He does not keep the puzzle to himself and dole out information as he sees fit. So when all the information comes at once from Poirot’s personal involvement. Oh and everyone on board has a connection? There is no mystery to solve. There is no puzzle because there are no coincidences. SPOILER ALERT*** They all did it because they are all connected.

The ending is truly troublesome. Branagh and Green hit us over the head again with a religious metaphor assembling the suspects at a long table arranged like DaVinci’s “The Last Supper”– with Pfeiffer as Jesus. For his Poirot it all comes down to “Thou shalt not kill” because the audience is not smart enough to handle the intricacies of revenge.

“You tell your lies and you think no one will know. But two people will know. Your God and Hercule Poirot.” Murder in all forms is wrong, check. But are these characters akin to Jesus and the apostles? Really, Ken? His revelation is less about how all of the suspects are working together and more about Christian morality, going so far as allowing them to confess. As in “Confession is good for the soul.”

In the 1974 film, the suspects allow Poirot to tell the story but never give it up. They are people with whom we identify as humans. They worked their morality to allow themselves to commit this crime, but Lumet has enough respect for them, Poirot and the audience to not make them say their guilt aloud. By the time Michelle Pfeiffer’s Christ-in-a-Marcel-wave-wig goes off on her “I did it. Punish me not them” rant, I’ve changed the channel.

Memo the Kenneth Branagh – it’s only a movie, darling. Solving the case is enough. Poirot does not need to be related to the past history that leads to the crime. I have no doubt you will do your next Agatha Christie ensemble justice but with Ordeal by Innocence coming out this year Christie stories are big business. For the gravy train to continue, Poirot needs to solve the case and the audience needs to feel like his silent partners. Give us the puzzle pieces to help put it together. Remember, it’s our box office dollars that keep you in mustache wax.

The 14th annual HollyShorts Film Festival will take place Aug 9-18, 2018. Pass it on.

What’s that you say? You don’t need no stinkin’ short film festival? Well, to that I say, my fellow emerging screenwriter, don’t limit yourself to your writing. Watch some shorts then consider making one yourself. You can hit the mark with a unique story, compelling characters and a visceral, visual experience for the audience – all in under twenty minutes. The shorter the better, actually but most festivals have a cut-off of up to forty minutes.

Trust me, you need to see your work produced. We practice our craft in cubbies and hidey-holes far from the red carpets of Sundance and Cannes. That is only partially satisfying. Why? Because screenwriters are visual storytellers. Your audience needs to see your work. So forget that there are no big stars, you’re using your cousin’s old iPhone and the budget consists of a few savings bonds and Chipotle groupons. Your sense of achievement increases exponentially when you see the story you wanted to tell on the big screen.

If the warm fuzzy feeling you get seeing your work doesn’t convince you. Check this out– From a business standpoint, film festivals are a great place to network. Even the small ones like HollyShorts. Those of us who are still emerging may remain toiling in our man caves and she sheds if not for film festivals. Plus, you get to see some great films. Think about the potential inspiration and watch with an open mind.

At the smaller festivals, new voices are promoted, while established talent can showcase their new and/or experimental films. You don’t have to be a big name to attend. Go as a movie fan. Do some re-con as an emerging artist. Then make your own short and apply for next year’s festival. The filmmakers participating are screening their work and generating buzz. That’s the real reward. They are building a fan base that can catapult you into the big time. Over 300 films will screen so whether they win a prize is almost inconsequential.

HollyShorts Film Festival may not be a huge, star-studded event that transforms the town for two weeks, but they are an organization that celebrates the art of short films worldwide. They work to champion the artists who produce these films and, as a bonus, are an MPAA qualifying festival. Which means one of the short films you watch may be vying for an Academy Award next year.

This year’s festival will open films at the TCL Chinese Theater. Scheduled to participate is Jocelyn Stamat’s Laboratory Conditions starring Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver. You can also see Unzipping by actress Lisa Edelstein (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) and The Day of Matthew Montgomery by Jesse Bradford. To show just how international HollyShorts is, Stealing Silver, directed by Mark Lobatto stars Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and her cast mate Nathalie Emmanuel stars in Run, directed by Alex Lanipekun.

Even if you can’t make the opening night or the screenings at the TCL Chinese Theater, there are screenings at Harmony Gold and at other locations in and around Hollywood. Regardless of whether you are going to venture into filmmaking, you’re a storyteller and you owe it to your process and your craft to see how others are making their storytelling dreams come true. Get out of your own head, participate and cheer your global brothers and sisters. Support shorts. You’ll be glad you went.

For film enthusiasts, and I mean real cinefiles who bleed film from tiny editor’s cuts on their fingertips. For you, if you happen to wander over to the east side of Los Angeles there is a lovely little gem of an organization, Echo Park Film Center. Steps from the intersection of Alvarado and Sunset, not far from the millenial artiste enclave of Silverlake. There is so much visual artsy mojo in the air it’s hard to not be swept up. EPFC is a non-profit cinema arts organization that resembles more of a storefront storage shed for film geeks. But don’t let the clubhouse atmosphere fool you. These folks know their stuff and want you to know it, too. They have regularly scheduled classes in everything from working with 16 mm to basic editing. If you are a budding filmmaker you can rent equipment (camera, lights, sound) including telecine if you work with film, You caen even screen your work in their space.

There are no pretentious film buffs here, just hardworking, if cash strapped, Joes and Janes producing their art. The walls are lined with filmmaking equipment and memorabilia. A walk down memory lane includes Super 8 and 16 mm cameras and projectors with DSLRs and This is a one stop shop slide projectors for performance artists.

A VHS tape (yes, they still exist) and DVD library holds hard to find screeners and copies of master work dating all the way back to the silent era – you can see the work of greats like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

This is a one stop shop with coaches willing to help you in every corner of your process. The directors can check equipment at the counter.  The editors can check stock in the back. For film and photo development, the toilet area behind the office doubles as a darkroom.

My god, there is so much. I am not doing this hidden oasis justice. In addition to classes, screenings and resources, there is a filmmobile which is a really great way for EPFC to take their show on the road and introduce film fans in other areas of the city to who they are and what they do.

I took the beginning editing on Premiere Pro class with Will which was a cool intro in general to EPFC and a fun afternoon overview of working with Premiere. To be fair, it was only a four-hour class, but I got the basics and learned enough to be able to do a quick edit on my own shorts. I will have an experienced editor in the end, but I still want to take a stab at it. And now I can.

 

As a non-profit they even have artists-in-residence working on projects exploring visual media and performance art in all forms.

With all they do and how useful it is to LA’s eastside art community consider a donation or membership. It does have its privileges with the free Youth membership allowing access to film and video equipment from before you were born. The individual $45 membership allows rentals and screenings and the small group classes at a discount. There are even family and business memberships if anyone is so inclined to support up and coming artists or to make sure future generations know their film history and can still use Super 8 and 16 mm film when making their breakthrough short films.

Nothing I say can substitute for checking out this group for yourself. It’s summer, so why not enjoy a film than to see a few new and experimental films under a blanket of stars in a park around a lake? Joining Echo Park Film Center may even be the beginning of your beautiful relationship with 16mm filmmaking. And don’t forget to invite me to the premiere

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