This blog is basically one big fraud. The day I put up my first post, I had that freak-out that all bloggers have: “Why should anyone listen to me? What authority do I have to talk about anything?” And so I gave in to my moment of weakness and put a bio in the sidebar that assured my readers that I have an MFA in Screenwriting from a hoity-toity university. And I never took it down. It’s still there today.
And so, on more than one occasion, fans of the blog have said to me, “I feel like reading your blog gives me all the benefits of a Columbia education!”
[record scratch sound] Um, no.
Of the 102 rules I’ve covered on this blog, I can think of maybe two that I was taught at Columbia. Almost every other rule is the exact opposite of what they teach there. In fact, anyone trying to teach these rules there would be fired.
It’s time to admit the real reason I started this blog: because I suddenly realized that almost everything I learned at film school was dead wrong, which is why far too many of my fellow graduates have careers that are dead dead. This blog is my attempt to unlearn almost everything they taught us, and forcibly re-educate myself from scratch by re-examining the movies that made me want to make movies.
My school was run like a summer camp, rather than a professional program. We were encouraged to dabble in everything and specialize in nothing, to follow our muse wherever it led us, content in the knowledge that we were in a “safe space”, free from serious criticism. The following concepts were verboten in most of my classes:
- Compelling Characters
- Universal Structure
- Selling a Screenplay
- And the most verboten concept of all: Pleasing an Audience
Instead, we were supposed to talk about:
- Executing Our Own Perfect Vision
- Big Ideas
Yeah, sure, okay, you say. Art school is arty. That’s no surprise. But at least it helps your career, right? We’ll pick up there tomorrow…