After a morning in the Traverse office, I booked it (read, biked it) over to the Centerpoint building on north M-22 for the first of the festival’s Film School seminars. I was excited about this; I’d written about it beforehand, this is the first year the festival is offering these classes and the topic (screenwriting) appealed to me.
The truth is that anyone who writes for a living: technical writers, Bloomsberg financial news reporters, or PR specialists, thinks they have the capacity to write a great novel or a great screenplay. Sometimes both. This is absolutely true. If they don’t have notes hidden in a desk drawer, they have at least thought up some character names. This also applies to editorial interns at Traverse Magazine, so you should understand my excitement for the seminar.
I was not disappointed. Jim Burnstein, screenwriter and U of M film professor, spent the first section of the 3 hour plus class going through the basics of plot, character, dialogue, etc. and using well known movies as illustrations. I imagine this is a lecture he delivers to his own students, or the concentrated essence of several lectures. Either way, my attention was held, and the exposition of meat and potatoes narrative techniques was well received, I think.
Burnstein went on to tell his own story, an abbreviated autobiography that explained how he started writing and how he has sold his scripts. The personal information hooked his listeners, and his account of the slog from writing to production, I’m sure, had everyone in the room imagining themselves hashing out an ending with Michael Eisner.
After the film school and about an hour’s downtime, I took in Big Fan, which was attended by stars Patton Oswalt and Kevin Corrigan, who played the film’s central pair, Oswalt as the protagonist and Corrigan in the best friend role.
The film was great, and will be discussed elsewhere, but I must admit that whatever internal alarm gets people much too excited in the presence of celebrity went off, and I found myself thrilled to tell Patton Oswalt I enjoyed his film and shake his hand as the comedian walked back to his hotel. I then ended the day on that effervescent, celebrity-culture-affirming note and headed for home.