Senior Seminar in Screenwriting

Dec 2006

On Day 1, McKenna makes it clear that only a corpse will not, at some point in the semester, be completely offended by something he says at some time. And then he proceeds to deliver. It's part of his method: uncensoring himself, he's aiming to uncensor the class at large. And it works in some percentage of the students, and it doesn't work in some percentage of his students. You need a certain strength of character to dive into that process and make something of it. You need a certain self-possession to decide what is nonsense and what you're going to chew on for a long time after the class is over. There are diamonds in the roughage. They can cut you in interesting ways. As far as the structure of the class, you'll get out of it what you put in. It's a writing class. If you want to come out a better writer, you should try to be harder on yourself than McKenna will be. He'll tend to be pretty kind, though fanatically provocative. You need to listen to the remarks on everyone else's material as carefully as you listen to the remarks on your own stuff. Finally, for a good grade, it's obvious that you need to do the writing work, but what's NOT obvious is that you need to comment on your fellow students' work. Because of the seminar format, McKenna is looking to provoke what he calls a lively room. It sometimes seems that he could talk for three hours straight without interruption - and he could. But what he really wants is for the participants to pick up the ball and run with it. He expects you to pay attention to everyone else's work and everyone else's comments, and to come up with ideas that demonstrate that you're understanding the class. You might think you can BS your way through that component, and therefore it's not important. But in fact, it's the difference between a B and an A. Women get special treatment. On the one hand, maybe women get a little more slack than guys. On the other, you have to suffer through his amazingly sexist and borderline offensive monologs. He says that in order to get an A, you need to demonstrate professional-caliber talent. I'm not sure it's really that tough, but you should realize that merely doing the work and showing up will not result in an A.