Vancouver Film School: Term 1 Recap

Hello Loved Ones (and Strangers Who Only Know Me Through the Internet),

Here I am, typing away from my balcony overlooking the west end of Vancouver, enjoying the unexpectedly sunny Sunday. Fall’s in the air, trees are changing color and shedding leaves (not to a Northeast degree, but still), and the sky is clear over the mountains! In short, it’s pretty damn gorgeous here.

The girlfriend is out having coffee with a friend, but we walked to a nearby place for eggs benny this morning. I may not adjust to the Canadian lingo like “eh?” and “aboot,” but I have really taken to eggs benny. The nickname makes the deliciously fattening breakfast food seem less terrible for you, no?

Eggs Benny

Anywho, it’s been a long 4-day weekend for me, since my first term ended on Wednesday and my second term starts tomorrow. I thought I’d write to recap a bit of what I did over the past eight weeks, and what’s coming up.

So, the first term (of six) really focused on feature film structure – not a waste, even for this future TV-track gal. We read screenwriting theory, watched a crap ton of movies, and then broke them down to study how they were constructed. Besides having a beginning, middle, and end (Acts I through III), films also have inciting incidents, first act turning points, second act midpoints, second act turning points, climaxes, and resolutions. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to learn the point of these structural fenceposts. They applied in every single class I took.  Speaking of which, there were a few class highlights.

I wrote a short film about a woman visiting a nursing home patient with Alzheimers called “Visitation,” which went through a few minor revisions but was overall well received. I’ll be submitting it to the Film Production students to possibly produce. I think the more credits I have in my portfolio at the end of this year, the better. It also qualifies as a strong “port short,” or portfolio short, so I could film it later in the year.

I took two Pitch classes as well – one focused on confidence and personal presentation in pitch, while the other was more technical. I feel fairly confident with my ability to present story ideas in three minute pitches now.

I also had a Style class that was more focused on short fiction. Despite one insanely boring class on grammar review (boring for me, incredibly necessary for some of my fellow students), we moved into writing short stories and eventually created screenplay adaptations of one another’s stories. I cannot describe how fantastic they were. I think adaptation brought out the strongest writer in each of us, and I was incredibly pleased with my friend Erik’s humorous take on my story about an airport cosmetics salesgirl, “A Lush Life.” I myself wrote a short film called “Sky Father” about a child trapped in the middle of a divorce, who loses her sense of wonder and innocence when her loving but troubled father lashes out at her.

We did look at the structure of some television shows in my Format class, which was basically a primer in what scripts should look like on the page. The instructor was a very no-nonsense British lady – extremely connected within the industry but also tough on us! Not a bad combo. The best impersonation I heard of her was (in a British accent), “Thank you and fuck off.” I think I’ll have her again much later in the year.

Ultimately, the big thing that capped this term was my story board, where I presented a panel of instructors with two of the story ideas I developed in Story and Character classes, and they recommended a project to pursue through feature development. In Term 2, I’ll start outlining and beating out (sounds dirty, yeah?) the storyline of Best Friends For Never, a wedding comedy. Here’s the logline:

Marilyn Hearst, an uptight and jobless law school graduate, must find common ground with her worst frenemy when her widowed mother gets engaged to the father of her ex-best friend.

Best Friends For Never Screencap

 Think something along the lines of Bridesmaids or Wedding Crashers (which both grossed over $280M!). I think it should be pretty fun to write compared to the more serious sisters drama that I pitched.

I just checked my schedule, and am very excited to have TV Spec class and Crime Genre class tomorrow. This term with include a ton of television watching as we study current shows to write speculative scripts for them. I’ll also be in a small ongoing workshop with three classmates as we develop our features. Should be good!

Classes mostly run 9-4, but sometimes I have mornings off. It’s a lot of time in a chair, but still exactly what I needed to be doing. Overall, it’s an experience to be here. I have no doubt that this is where I’m supposed to be this year, focusing on a craft that I have always loved. It’s a massive gift to myself. Let’s just hope there’s some form of employment further down the road. I won’t worry about it now!




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