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Novel to TV series | Screenwriter Nina Sadowsky | MWW17

Midwest Writers Workshop 2017 is offering a NEW Part I Intensive Session on “Screenwiriting,” and we’re pleased to welcome screenwriter and novelist Nina Sadowsky.

This class will provide an in-depth overview of writing for film and television. A mixture of lecture, in-class exercises and screenings will give the participants an understanding of how material is pitched, developed and produced in Hollywood as well as tips for successful screenwriting.

Spots to Nina’s intensive session are limited and we expect this one to fill up fast.

Register now!

A New York City native, Nina R. Sadowsky is an entertainment lawyer (in recovery) who has worked as a film and television producer and writer for most of her career.  Just Fall, published by Ballantine in March 2016 is her first novel, and is now in development as an original series for STARZ. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations and done rewrites for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television.

She served as President of Production for Signpost Films, a film financier and foreign distributor, where she worked on such projects as the Academy Award nominated “The House of Sand and Fog,” starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. Prior to joining Signpost, she served as President of Meg Ryan’s Prufrock Pictures for over five years. During her tenure, Prufrock landed first look feature deals with Fox 2000 and Castle Rock Entertainment and an overall long-form television deal with Polygram/Universal Television.

Sadowsky served as executive producer for the hit film “The Wedding Planner,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey for Intermedia and Sony, produced “Desert Saints,” an independent film starring Kiefer Sutherland which premiered on Cinemax, and has served as executive director for numerous other films.

She is also currently serving as adjunct faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program, teaching both writing and producing. Her students have been the recipients of many awards and accolades including best scripted series at the College Television Awards and inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival Shorts Corner. Sadowsky is also currently serving as a mentor for the Humanitas Prize’s New Voices Program, and is a member of Humanitas’ Woolfpack, an organization of women writers, directors and showrunners.

MWW: What’s it feel like to have your debut novel being adapted for a television series?

NS: It’s thrilling that we sold Just Fall to STARZ, particularly as premium cable allows creators to push the limits. I’m especially excited that the network wanted me to write the pilot as they felt the work was so particular to my voice. As far as I know, the title will remain the same. And I wish I had a timetable, but I don’t!

MWW: You’ve said the opening scene of your psychological thriller was inspired in real life when your husband was lying in bed with one arm flung over his head. You imagined him dead, just for a moment. Why do you think people like yourself, a happily married woman and a mother, write and read dark, crime-filled stories?

NS: Actually, I am a mother of a 21 year old daughter and a 18 year old son and stepmother to other kids (one girl, one boy) now 22 and 20 years old. And the incident you correctly describe happened shortly after we blended the two families (the kids were all teenagers then).  Blending the family created all kinds of tensions between my husband and I that we never anticipated.  We believed “love will beget love” and were gobsmacked when our rosy predictions weren’t fulfilled. It got me thinking about all the couples who throw themselves into love and marriage and then have to get past the romantic idealism and slog through whatever real life throws at them.  In writing Just Fall, I wanted to take those very ordinary, universal feelings and inflate them to a thriller level.  As to why I like to write or read about crime, it comes from my desire to understand human nature.  Why we connect with other people. Why we don’t. Why societies create norms of behavior and what it means to an individual to step out of those norms. When is it right to do the wrong thing? Wrong to do the right thing? I’m trying to make sense of the confusing moral world that surrounds us and I think readers are too.

MWW: What are some ways your work as a film and television producer have influenced your novels? Might novelists benefit from learning screenwriting techniques in your course at MWW as well?

NS: I’d say the biggest influence is in the way I start any scene. I close my eyes and I think about what each production department would need to do in order to bring a scene to life. What are people wearing? What’s the quality of the light? What does the location look like and how do its details reveal something about the characters in the production design? These questions help me envision any scene for a book or a screenplay in a way that serves the narrative.  It’s my philosophy as a film maker that every inch of the frame should contribute to the story, so I think similarly about writing a scene in a book. Every element should be meaningful to furthering character, plot, theme and/or story. And I definitely think novelists can learn from screenwriting techniques. While film and television have highly codified and specific structures, good storytelling is good storytelling!

MWW: Just Fall seemed to be about taking risks as a writer, from the overall structure, to the sentence structure, to setting description, to characters that behave in unexpected ways. Do you have a tip or five on why authors wanting to break in or break out should take risks?

NS: Truth be told, when I started Just Fall, my sole hope was to finish it. It was a personal exercise borne out of the personal marital tension I was wrestling with as well as some frustration with the film and TV business. Because my expectations were so minimal, I felt very free. I played with structure partly because I wanted to shuck off the highly rigid structures of film and TV. I also wanted to play with structure as a way of revealing character, as opposed to solely using it to advance plot.  I subverted the stereotypes common to the thriller genre like the “damsel in distress.” I describe the writing of the novel as sort of a “howl,” one that came from a very deep place. No one was more shocked than I was when I exposed the book and very quickly found myself selling it to Ballantine/Random House!  I think one must always take risks.  Writing for the “perceived market” or writing something to which one doesn’t feel authentically connected is in my mind a mistake. Be bold or go home!

MWW: Tell us something distinctive about your writing process?

NS: I create an index card for every scene or chapter with a one line description about the scene. This reminds me to keep the main thing the main thing when I go to write.

MWW: As an adjunct professor in screenwriting at UCLA, what mistakes do students make? Besides reading Just Fall, is there a craft book you recommend your MWW students read in preparation for your course?

NS: I love SAVE THE CAT, which is a great primer on structure. Also when writing for film and TV one must adhere to proper format (if no other reason than improper formatting pegs you as an amateur). And if my students can read Just Fall before the course, I will be able to discuss how we approached its adaptation for TV.

MWW: Anything you would like to add?

NS: I’m looking forward to the MWW!

Quick hits:

1) Plotter or pantser (no pre-planning)?

A bit of both. I start usually with a theme and a visual and then begin to work up characters. I rewrite myself constantly, rewriting the last day’s work before I start on the new day’s work. And outline only once I’m deep into the first draft.

2) Critique group/hired editor or go it alone?

I have a couple of trusted readers, but my brilliant editor at PRH is the one I rely on the most.

3) Scrivener writing software, Microsoft Word or other?

Microsoft Word

4) Early bird or night owl?

Best in the morning, but can write all day and night if on a deadline!

5) Fast, messy drafter or slow and methodical?

Fast. Gut it out. Don’t obsess on every word. Writing is rewriting!

 

NOW AVAILABLE from Ballantine/Random House
Just Fall

COMING SOON also from Ballantine/Random House

The Burial Society

www.ninarsadowsky.com

https://www.facebook.com/nina.sadowsky

https://twitter.com/sadowsky_nina

Building Blocks of Spec Screenwriting: March 21, 2015

There’s still time to register for Midwest Writers Workshop’s ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN

Cost: $155 (includes lunch)

 One of the four sessions is The Basics of Compelling Cinematic Storytelling” taught by Matt Mullins. His session will run the gamut of the basics of storytelling for film, beginning with the building blocks of spec screenwriting format and style, how to approach it and what to avoid, and then moving on to the core elements of visual/cinematic storytelling structure and content. This includes, among other things, how plots are shaped and how they arc, how characters are constructed and why/how they change, how scenes work, and how/when to use dialogue versus/along with visual exposition.

Matthew Mullins is a writer, experimental filmmaker, videopoet, and multimedia artist. His videopoems have been screened at conferences and film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online literary journals including Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, and Hobart. His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist forForeword Magazine‘s 2012 Book of the Year. And his work in screenwriting has won awards from the Broadcast Education Association. Matt teaches creative writing at Ball State University where he is an Emerging Media Fellow at the Center for Media Design. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com.

MWW board member Cathy Shouse caught up with Matt to discuss his intensive session on screenwriting.

MWW: What should those attending your intensive session expect? Should they have an outline or idea for a screenplay? Will they be writing or will you be sharing your ideas?

MM: I’ll be talking about how to write in proper spec screenwriting format and style and I’ll be talking about the basic principles of good storytelling for the screen. So it’ll be mostly sharing ideas. They don’t need to come with an idea for a screenplay or any kind of outline.  If we do any writing it would be simple exercises. But I think it will mostly be lecture and watching short films and clips that illustrate the points I’m trying to make.

MWW: What are some benefits that attendees will take away from the day?

MM: I would hope that they learn the very basics of format/style and get a sense of what’s required to tell a compelling story for the screen.

MWW: How would you rate the level of the class, such as aimed at beginning writers, those who have completed a manuscript or others?

MM: I’d say it’s beginning to intermediate in terms of format and style and beginning to intermediate in terms of storytelling principles, maybe with a touch of advanced in that area.

MWW: With so much pressure to “grab attention,” can you give a hint at something that adds creativity to a story?

MM: Be yourself. Think about what it means to be a human being and how creativity/storytelling/art can comment on that condition in ways that allow us to see life’s ironic complexities. Go for endings where something is lost or gained at the cost of something meaningful (literally and/or metaphorically).

MWW: What are some awards that you have won? Which one holds special meaning for you and why?

MM: Winning the Broadcast Education Association’s Best Feature-length Screenplay Award (for a collaboration with Rich Swingley) meant a lot. We put that script (“Nerdvana” a kind of geek road trip comedy) through twenty drafts. Winning Ball State’s Creative Endeavor Award was also special. It was really nice to have the breadth of my work recognized.

MWW: Is there anything else potential participants should know?

MM: We’ll be talking about format and style. We’ll be watching/analyzing short films and various scenes and discussing how they work from a writer’s perspective.

REGISTER NOW!

Announcing One-Day Intensive Sessions: March 21, 2015

Midwest Writers Workshop invites you to join us for one of our most popular offerings: ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS. This spring take advantage of the opportunity to attend one of four amazing sessions. Choosing which of these dynamite professionals to spend the day with will be a challenge. Look at these helpful sessions:

Manuscript Makeover, Nonfiction, Screenwriting, or Building Your Author Platform. These one-day intensive sessions will be held at the Ball State University Alumni Center, Muncie, IN on Saturday, March 21, 2015 (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Each session is capped at 20 participants. Cost of each intensive session is $155 (includes a brown bag lunch so the work continues to flow).

So here’s how it works:

1) Register for the mini.

2) If you’re signing up for Manuscript Makeover, you must submit the requested number RECEIVED by MARCH 6, 2015.

3) Come to Muncie, IN on Saturday, March 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for personalized instruction and a chance to network with other writers.

Payment and registration close on March 16, but if you’re signing up for Manuscript Makeover, get registered NOW, pay, and send your pages RECEIVED by March 6.

Choose ONE of these four sessions:

Manuscript Makeover – Dennis Hensley & Holly Miller

This intensive session is limited to 20 participants who have book projects–either fiction or nonfiction–in progress. The six-hour workshop is led by Holly G. Miller, author of Feature and Magazine Writing and consulting editor to two national magazines, and Dennis E. Hensley, chair of the professional writing department at Taylor University and author of Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 hours. After registering for the class, each participant should e-mail a one-page synopsis–with a working title–plus the first nine pages of his/her book project to Dennis and Holly. Please double-space and format in 12-point Times New Roman font. Holly and Dennis will personally edit all pages to return to the authors at the workshop. In addition, the instructors will display on a screen and discuss portions of each student’s manuscript. Students will receive folders filled with handouts plus their edited manuscripts midway through the day. As time permits, Miller and Hensley will discuss plots, character development, editing techniques, finding an agent, and marketing a published book. The instructors have co-authored seven books–including a series of novels–as well as completed several solo book assignments. Dennis just signed a multiple-novel book deal, co-writing with Diana Savage, with Whittaker House Publishing Company. Don’t hesitate; this workshop always fills up quickly and is offered only once a year.

Shaping the Real World: The Non-fiction Writer’s Tool Kit – Lou Harry

The non-fiction writer’s task is to shape and frame a piece of the world, whether that’s in an opinion column, a travel tale, a review, a celebrity profile, a news story, or a feature story. At this workshop, the Indianapolis Business Journal‘s Lou Harry, recently seen on CBS News Sunday Morning and the author of more than 25 books, helps you maximize the impact of your stories and increase demand for your writing. The Society of Professional Journalists award winner will open up a tool kit collected from penning

hundreds of stories in more than 50 publications, from Writer’s Digest to Variety and from Men’s Health toThe Sondheim Review. He’ll guide you through exercises to improve your interviewing skills, shape opening paragraphs, find your rhythm, and develop a passionate curiosity about any subject. Manuscripts up to five pages can be submitted two weeks ahead of the workshop for critique and use in class. Bring your laptop, your questions, and your open mind for a lively day of working with words.

The Basics of Compelling Cinematic Storytelling – Matt Mullins

We’ll run the gamut of the basics of storytelling for film, beginning with the building blocks of spec screenwriting format and style, how to approach it and what to avoid, and then moving on to the core elements of visual/cinematic storytelling structure and content. This includes, among other things, how plots are shaped and how they arc, how characters are constructed and why/how they change, how scenes work, and how/when to use dialogue versus/along with visual exposition.

The Best (and I Mean BEST) Way to Build Your Author Platform – Linda Taylor

Authors don’t like to think about the importance of building a platform. They want to just write their books and watch them climb best-seller lists. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. But building your platform isn’t about tooting your own horn or getting people to buy your book. Instead, it’s about finding your “tribe,” appreciating others’ work, connecting, and being interested in what others are doing. This is important (even vital) for all writers-published or not-because we’re all part of the literary community. In this all-day session, we’ll learn about blogging and tweeting and connecting–all to join the literary community and build a platform in a non-scary way. Come if you’re published; come if you’re not. It’s about “literary citizenship.” Bring your laptop and be prepared for a day of encouragement and hands-on training.

Meet the Faculty:

Holly picHolly Miller is an editor with The Saturday Evening Post and co-author of Feature & Magazine Writing. She and Dennis Hensley have collaborated on four novels and three nonfiction books. Holly’s byline has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest and TV Guide. She is the author of 14 fiction and nonfiction books. She has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of American Travel Writers and Society of Professional Journalists.

Hensley DDennis E. Hensley, Ph.D., is a contributing editor for Writers’ Journal and the author of eight textbooks on writing, including How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It. He has written 51 books, including  Millennium

Approaches (Avon), Uncommon Sense (Bobbs-Merrill), and Money Wise (Harvest House). He directs the professional writing major at Taylor University. His 3,000 freelance articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Success, People, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and Downbeat, among dozens of others.

Lou Harry‘s wildly eclectic output includes books on creativity, sports, drinks, movies, life lessons, gadgets, guilty pleasures, voodoo, excuses, crop circles, Santa Claus (and Martians), curse words, parenting, trivia and, this year, squirrels. The co-creator and editor of Indy Men’s Magazine and current Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal (www.ibj.com/arts), Lou has written for more than 50 publications including Variety, Mental_Floss, and This Old House. While on journalistic assignments, he has profiled CEOs, escorted a spiral-cut ham into a movie theater, took a pie in the face from Soupy Sales, attended Broadway openings, exposed tarot readers, sat on the Full House couch, gotten attached to a Velcro wall, and turned his honeymoon into a travel story. He hopes one day to have a book for every category in the Dewey Decimal System.

Matt Mullins is a writer, experimental filmmaker, videopoet, and multimedia artist. His videopoems have been screened at conferences and film festivals in the U.S. and abroad. His fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online literary journals including Mid American Review, Pleiades, Hunger Mountain, Descant, and Hobart.  His debut collection of short stories, Three Ways of the Saw, was published by Atticus Books in 2012 and was named a finalist for Foreward Magazine‘s 2012 Book of the Year. And his work in screenwriting has won awards from the Broadcast Education Association.  Matt teaches creative writing at Ball State University where he is an Emerging Media Fellow at the Center for Media Design. You can engage his interactive/digital literary interfaces at lit-digital.com.

Linda Taylor has been working in publishing and doing writing and editing for the last three decades. She also loves teaching about social media for authors, editing, and publishing at writers’ conferences and at Taylor University where she is an instructor in the professional writing department.