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A Bible for Budding Screenwriters

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Years ago, while in the process of making the transition from Hollywood screenwriter to psychotherapist, I taught classes for UCLA Extension's Writer's Program. I remember being very impressed by the teaching methods, dedication and produced credits of my fellow instructors on the screenwriting faculty. I wished that, when I'd been a budding screenwriting many years before, I could have taken a class from each and every one of them.

Well, for today's aspiring screenwriter wanting to do just that, there's a new book called Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers' Program. Edited by program head Linda Venis, the book is a state-of-the-art collection of articles by some of the best (and most prolific) teachers on the faculty.

Each article covers some crucial aspect of screenwriting, from plotting and creating memorable characters to building suspense and delivering a satisfying ending. In other words, the "nuts and bolts" of screenwriting. However, these chapters also demonstrate the wisdom of seeing these "tips" for what they really are. Not "rules to be obeyed," as one of the authors points out, but as "tools for you to try."

In addition to practical information on craft, the reader also receives some pithy, entertaining and frank advice on dealing with the realities of a screenwriting career. As a former screenwriter myself, I can attest to the fact that it's not for the faint of heart. That's why I was pleased to see chapters dealing with the issues involved in launching and maintaining a screenwriting career, the care and feeding of literary agents, and even some of the psychological stressors with which new writers struggle.

I really enjoyed Cut to the Chase. I found in it the practical tools and even more practical advice I wish I'd had access to when beginning my own screenwriting career. However now, as a therapist who specializes in working with creative people of all stripes, I appreciate even more the book's wisdom and common sense.

Plus, it's a lot of fun to read.