Screenwriting Masterclass Review – Guillaume Laurant

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    Damian Mc

    This was the ad in the programme for the Cork French Film Festival:

    [i:jo25txme]Masterclass with Guillaume Laurant Oscar nominated & Bafta award winning screenwriter of Amélie. In this screenwriting masterclass he shares the secrets behind writing for a director with such a unique visual language. Using clips from their films Guillaume Laurant will demonstrate how certain scenes were written and directed and the transformation from page to screen.[/i:jo25txme] [/color:jo25txme]

    Sold! 50euro – a big chunk for someone on the dole but as I’m currently working on my first feature script I decided it would be worth it. I have a big collection of screenwriting books – for every 50 pages of nonsense there is one good tip – so I would have been happy with the class if I came away with one good piece of advice.

    I went to a screenwriting masterclass once before with Jeffrey Caine who was nominated for an oscar for The Constant Gardener. This “Masterclass” consisted of this unenthusiastic, jaded writer telling everyone that they should give up. That it was impossible to succeed. That if they really had to write they should write books and maybe someone would adapt them into a screenplay – but this was unlikely. He went on to tell us that even if we do finish our scripts that no one will ever read them and if they do read them they won’t buy them and if they do buy them they won’t ever make them and our scripts will sit in a drawer- forever. Good practical advice on writing there so.

    The second half of the class was filled with name dropping – Ralph Fiennes and he discussed a scene once. “No Way!” He also drove it home that he and Richard Attenborough were very close and how he and Dicky – as he kept referring to him – were working on some new film together. “Wow! Tell us more master!” Then he told us what he didn’t like about the Clint Eastwood film Absolute Power (?) before putting on his coat and refusing to take a look at the poor bastards trying to get him to appraise their scripts. It was inspirational stuff. Yes, it’s hard. It can’t be impossible. This guy did it. And what about writing because you enjoy it? I wish I had walked out in protest.

    I decided Laurant would be better. I coughed up the 50 euro and went along for the 2 and a half hours. Right at the start we were told that Laurent didn’t speak English. He understood it but he didn’t speak it – like the Asian guy in the new series of Lost. I could tell right away I should have taken my 50 euro and bought dvds. I would have learned something from the commentaries at least. It went downhill from there. Laurant would speak for 5 minutes in French. The French speaking people in the room would laugh and then we would be given what felt like a very quick sketchy translation of what he had just said which wasn’t really that interesting or informative or funny. The job of translator was obviously not assigned to anyone in particular beforehand. Sometimes it was by the man sitting next to him, sometimes by a woman sitting at the top of the table. It was a mess.

    A man in a red shirt stood behind Laurent for the entire class trying to get the DVD player working so Laurant could talk us through the writing of certain scenes as was promised. The dvd player failed to co operate so his translators would do their best to keep talking to fill the awkward silence, telling us what they thought of scripts while Laurant assisted the man in the red shirt, pointing at various buttons on the remote control which might get the scene playing. It felt disorganized, unstructured and you got the impression that they just wandered in hoping to have a conversation or a discussion about writing as opposed to giving a class. He did seem like a nice fella though but that’s little consolation when i think of all the dvds or decent scripwriting books i could have bought for 50euro. A fool and his money are easily parted I suppose… Anybody ever been to a good masterclass / read a good book on screenwriting or know of a screenwriter that gives a good interview on the subject?


    Sounds like a dose alright.
    I’ve been lucky insofar as the seminars/masterclasses I’ve attended have been pretty good .
    A healthy dose of realism is fine but sounds like they really set out to discourage rather than offer advice of the pitfalls.
    It’s a tough road for writers but you’ve gotta be in it to win it I guess.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Lenny Abrahamson’s talk goes down in UCC Monday night.

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