Translating Your Idea to the Big Screen in NYWIFT’s inaugural Masterclass program
By Jean Criss
Introducing critically-acclaimed writer Amy Fox, who led a three-week consecutive NYWIFT Masterclass on creative practice, storytelling fundamentals, and developing your TV pilot script. If you haven’t ever written a script, or need a refresher course, tips, coaching, or guidance about how to translate an idea to the big screen, information about how to produce your TV show, series, or film, what technology to use, etc., this masterclass was for you.
Powerful television can shape hearts, change minds, and expand worldviews with memorable characters and riveting plots. You have your story idea – the difficult part is learning to translate that idea to the screen. This three-part masterclass broke down the building blocks that help you focus on the foundation to write an original narrative TV pilot.
Writers at all levels were encouraged to register. Those participating gained marketable skills and renewed passion, from those writing their first script to more experienced writers looking to dive into their next project and refresh their approach.
NYWIFT Masterclass Series: Writing for Television – with a summary of tips, takeaways, and topics.
SESSION 1: CREATIVE PRACTICE (Monday, October 16, held 6:30 – 8pm ET)
Session 1 focused on creative practice. Do you have a process that gets you writing and keeps you on track? How do you stay accountable? Do you know how to set realistic priorities for the work that really matters to you and your career? How do you get started to begin the process of taking an idea from imagination and notes to create a script, a pitch document, or a TV pilot?
Amy highlighted the types of things to think about when creating a show. The form and length, episodes, genre, network/streaming/cable, and structure. She focused on honing your craft , engaging the audience, and the business and market conditions that affect how you write.
SESSION 2: CRAFT FUNDAMENTALS: BUILDING STORY (Monday, October 23, held 6:30 – 8pm ET)
Session 2 focused on craft, with a review of story structure and character development, and actionable concrete tools to apply the lesson to the script you’re writing now.
She provided the group a sample script from Netflix ’s Dead to Me as a guided assignment to the participants for the workshop. She discussed that a pilot script is an introduction to your show or series, and the message you will communicate is a bigger story. Your pitch or deck is the intro to get someone interested in your idea.
When developing material there are many things to consider. Where will the show be set? What is the theme? Who are the characters? What is the form and tone? Who is the ideal audience? How do the characters differ? Who are the characters you will see, week to week. What is their conflict and where are you leaving them in the story? Think about sample story lines, series arc, and beats..
What is the most persuasive – pitch or script? Her advice is to prepare for both. It’s best to have the pilot written in case you are asked to show it to someone. The pitch may simply highlight the entire series or show and not dive into the detail as much.
SESSION 3: DEVELOPING YOUR SCRIPT (Monday, October 30, held 6:30 – 8pm ET)
Session 3 gave you a chance to dive deeper into your specific project, as you work out the beats of your pilot and the voices of your characters to bring your story to life.
In our final session, we discussed that your outline does not need to be neat or complete. Write and follow your gut to get it on paper, then apply more craft afterwards. Know why you are writing a pilot. Is it a creative writing practice, or do want to sell a show, or get staffed on a project? Producers are looking, your voice, your, POV (point of view), your perspective on the story.
Plot vs Story. Plot is a series of events. Story is where the plot meets character (more depth and choices that affect characters along their journey).
Amy also discussed developing the character’s mindset, what external/internal forces of conflict they struggle with.
She gave the creative writers a chance to share their pilot stories and gain feedback. Writers were guided in their descriptions via the following questions:
- Tell us three things about the character and finish the sentences with adjectives (e.g., they are . . . ).
- What does this person want MOST in the FIRST SEASON of this show?
- What INTERNAL and EXTERNAL forces are they battling?
- In one oversimplified sentence, summarize how your character changes (if they do change) by the end of the SEASON.
Check out our Masterclass Series full house!
Amy closed by sharing her Q4 2023 mini-script workshop series which costs $600. Sign up here: https://forms.gle/g4DRNoMNDJG9H98H9
About the NYWIFT Masterclass Series Program
The NYWIFT Masterclass Series offers in-depth virtual multi-class workshops that explore various aspects of the film, television, and media industry. Led by award-winning experts, the classes will teach students about the craft, content, and business strategies involved in each creative pursuit, building a solid foundation for artistic fulfillment and commercial success.
2023 NYWIFT Masterclasses will include TV Writing, Podcasting, and Budgeting, with more to be announced soon. Again, thank you for joining us on the Masterclass Series with award-winning, innovative leaders to guide us, help improve our skills, and advance our knowledge together in order to build a stronger more inclusive industry together.
The next NYWIFT Masterclass is Feature Film Budgeting with producer Sirad Balducci! In this three-part masterclass, we will demystify the budgeting process, offering insights into script breakdown and shoot schedules and covering fundamental budgeting basics. We’ll explore how to effectively collaborate with producers, directors, and department heads, and impart strategies to align your movie’s production plan with the creative vision of the project. The program starts December 4, 2023. Learn more and register here!
About the Instructor
Amy Fox brought a wealth of knowledge as an acclaimed screenwriter who has written for theater, film, and TV, known for her sharp sense of humor and gripping storytelling. Most recently, she was a Co-Producer on The Conners on ABC. She wrote the script for the financial thriller Equity, which stars Anna Gunn. The film premiered at Sundance 2016 and was released in theaters nationwide. Amy’s first film, Heights, also premiered at Sundance, and was released in 2005, starring Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden and Glenn Close.
Amy’s scripts have been honored by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Eugene O’Neill Center, and The Creative Coalition. Amy is also a widely respected educator and mentor. She has helped hundreds of emerging filmmakers bring their stories to life during her decade as a faculty member and Head of Writing at NYU’s Tisch Graduate Film Program. Amy is a passionate advocate for elevating diverse voices in the arts, and serves as a mentor for several writing labs, including NYWIFT’s The Writers Lab and Cin story.
After nearly 25 years in New York, in 2020 Amy lured her husband and two children away from their home in Brooklyn with the promise of a sunnier life in Los Angeles. Having grown up in Colorado, she feels right at home in a place with beautiful mountains and no decent bagels.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Aisha Amin! Aisha is an NYC-based writer and director. As a director, her work expands across narrative, documentary, and experimental forms to tell authentic stories built from real experiences. Her past film projects have explored and highlighted overlooked communities particularly in New York City, including formerly incarcerated mothers and communities struggling with the presence of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Amongst her directing, Aisha is an emerging screenwriting and was selected to participate in Cine Qua Non’s 2022 Screenwriting Lab. She is a 2022 recipient of NYFA’s Tomorrowland Grant and a 2021 recipient of the NYFA Women's Fund grant. She was a recipient of the 2019-2020 Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Film Center where she directed two short documentaries. She is also a recipient of The Shed's Open Call Fellowship where she expanded her film practice to installation art. Aisha spoke to us about her favorite styles of storytelling, the intersection of narrative and documentary, and her latest projects.READ MORE
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Welcome to NYWIFT, Victoria Duncan! At age 12, Victoria began making films, struck by her power to engage an audience using her imagination. This led her down an exciting path to SNL, The Blacklist, The Sinner, Vice, and branded content for huge companies like Wells Fargo and Amazon, just to name a few. Her LGBT+ ballet film I Am Enough was adapted for the stage and performed at New York City’s iconic Lincoln Center. She is currently working on the screenplay for a feature film. Victoria walks us through her incredible journey, from her childhood favorite movies to presenting a piece to the United Nations.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT Pallavi Bakshi! Following an incredible career in investment banking and equity research, Pallavi Bakshi is now part of Disney Streaming’s Strategic Finance team. Any given day might include reporting to executives, preparing data sets or market research. She has worked on projects for iconic brands in the Disney portfolio, including Marvel and Pixar. Pallavi shares more about her dynamic days here!READ MORE