I attended one of Gordy Hoffman’s BlueCat 10-Page Screenwriting workshops this past Saturday in Kansas City. For those unfamiliar, these workshops involve exchanging the first 10 pages of a screenplay with nine other writers in preparation for reading them aloud and commenting at the workshop.
I came away with a number of lessons.
- Sometimes it’s impossible to judge the potential of a script by its first 10 pages.
- People will do it anyway, so you’d better do everything you can to make sure those first 10 pages are good.
- Writers who appear to be beginners can still offer excellent advice to writers who have been at it a bit longer.
- As an aspiring writer (in addition to many other time in life), writing people off before you’ve fully heard and understood what they have to say is a mistake.
- As Gordy himself said, all the how-to guides out there are simply solutions to the problem of how to tell a compelling story. There’s really not a wrong way to do that, per se. If you’re keeping people interested, you’re on the right track.
Now, with those four lessons, I also have a confession. It’s not an easy one because I really strive to have humility regarding my writing and myself in general. But the fact remains that, when you work very hard at learning a craft, the ins, the outs, the technical aspects, the theoretical aspects, all of it… Well, you’re bound to develop a bit of an ego, even if it’s a realistic one in which you know you don’t know everything but you know you do know a little because you’ve worked and are working your tail off to learn everything you can. And sometimes that little bit of ego is all the reward you have in a given moment: the knowledge that you are doing everything you can. And by “you,” I mean “me.” So, that being said and perhaps unnecessarily justified, here is my confession.
After receiving the nine other screenplays, I was highly skeptical about how the workshop was going to go.
There was some solid stuff, but there was also some stuff I deemed not so solid. I don’t need to go into detail here about any specific thoughts, but what I will say is that I was ridiculously impressed by Gordy’s ability to dig out the potential — and offer suggestions on how to start down the path to reaching that potential — in each of the 10-page samples. It’s a quality that I always considered to be one of my own strengths, but, I must say, whatever ability I have in that area pales in comparison to what Gordy showcased.
I do realize that this presents a certain caveat venditor, though: If someone who actually strives to be open-minded and seek out potential is thrown off by nonstandard formatting, spelling and grammar issues, and nontraditional structure, then think how much more turned off an industry reader who must sift through any number of scripts a day will be. So, it’s probably wise to do your research regarding those things.
Here are a few resources I’ve found wildly helpful:
- [A gift to all aspiring screenwriters] John August’s blog
- [A solid go-to style guide] The Hollywood Standard
- [Advice from the trenches of Hollywood] The Rouge Wave
- [An easy-to-understand guide to structure] Save The Cat! and Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies
- [A blog to pick you up when you’re feeling down] Blake Snyder’s blog
I really enjoyed the BlueCat workshop, and I’d highly recommend attending one if the opportunity is available to you. Gordy is realistic without being harsh, and he played a big part in making everyone feel at ease throughout the day. We all shared a lot of laughs and a lot of great advice, and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with my fellow workshoppers.