168's 1st StoryLab with Derrick Warfel

168 Film Project Update: 31 teams from 6 states, USA, Kenya, England and Israel. See website for next StoryLab on Oct. 2nd.

Write of Passage Screenwriting Competition now open: Deadline Oct. 18th, 2009

Friday nite was the 1st StoryLab with Derrick Warfel, Grad of Princeton, Dallas Theological Seminary and USC Filmschool. Derrick is a real wealth of information, due to this and his extensive study of screenwriting and his personal foray into Indie Filmmaking. StoryLab is designed to help writers and directors improve their craft.

Derrick's film was called "The Fall of Night," but he is astutely re-marketing it to react to market conditions. See www.fallofnight.com. He is a wealth of knowledge and a true benefit to the 168 Filmmakers, who get to take his A-Z one-day crash course in filmmaking for free in February! (see schedule www.168project.com). StoryLab is sponsored by the Peter Glenville Foundation.

Here are some quotes from attendees:

"...an eye-opening experience. It (shows) how Directors and Writers should approach filmmaking, whether they are experienced professionals or just getting their feet wet." -Ed Shin

"My only problem was that I couldn't take notes fast enough! UCLA would charge $500 for a class like this!" - Erik Jacobson

"Thanks for putting on the Story Lab last night. I thought it was amazing!" -Luanne Mohr

"... an excellent example of positive criticism! It is a safe place to learn how to improve your craft! I am honored that our film was chosen to be critiqued and I look forward to growing from the experience!" -Amber Deegan

"We're looking forward to having our film deconstructed. It can only help us in our quest to become better filmmakers. Thanks John, Karen and Derrick for all you do for us to make us better at our craft." -Susan Shearer

Why is StoryLab so good? The structure was a huge reason. Derrick started with just enough basic theory to give a refresher for the experienced folks and enough to to whet the beginners appetite for more.

Then we watched "The Test." This film has good and bad, strengths and weaknesses as you might imagine in a made-in-a-week movie. We took an interview scene where the hero is interviewing for a Harvard grant and compared it to a scene in "Flashdance," where the main character Alex, a welder by day and exotic dancer by night, whose dream is to someday be accepted at an illustrious school of dance (played by Jennifer Beals).

She goes to apply for a spot at the ballet conservancy. She rides up on a bicycle. The camera looks down on her as she stares up at the massive edifice of conservancy building. She navigates a gauntlet of revolving doors and impersonal legs and arms and torsos of the dancers, all unconcerned with her and unwilling even to straighten up as she asks for directions to the office.

As she enters the office, there are 3 girls in line to apply for the school. They all look like ballerinas and have their hair worn up. Alex's hair is free flowing and the girls whisper about her as she enters. The secretary repeats instructions to the applicants in an impersonal monotone and the camera reveals the applicant's ballet shoes in sharp contrast to Alex' welder's boots. In the end, Beals runs out and disappears into the crowd on her bicycle past a sign that says END, ONE WAY (comma added for effect).

It's a study in good choices that were made by writer and director, no doubt agonized over for weeks. From the background actors to the camera angles and shot selection, all of these choices converge to make the stakes higher, the odds more stacked against the heroine.

Please make sure to RSVP for the next StoryLab. Seating is limited to the first 25 RSVPs.

The other scene from "The Test" was the one where the hero is tempted to cheat on his college ACT test. We compared this to a scene in "Slumdog Millionaire," where the hero is tempted to cheat by using the answer provided to him by the corrupt game show host. He writes the answer in the steam on the mirror in the bathroom.

If you would like to participate in the exercise, get the films: "Best of 168" for 2009, "Flashdance" and "Rudy." The "Rudy" scene is the one in which the hero breaks into the football stadium he so desperately wants to play in. He later intrudes on Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian for a forced "interview" with the coach to further his dream.

Your homework is to take and rewrite the scenes mentioned in "The Test" and bring them to the next StoryLab on October 2nd. You are encouraged to meet with friends (wherever you are) to discuss these films and how to improve your storytelling.

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