From the Desk of Richard Walter: Fire, Bloodshed, and Parking

It’s not an official faculty meeting, a former dean remarked at a UCLA film department gathering, until someone complains about parking.

For me, having joined the faculty forty years ago, the cost of parking has risen from about ninety bucks a year to about twelve-hundred. That’s a hike of more than a thousand percent.

If that’s not bad enough, faculty are supposed to consider ourselves fortunate for the privilege of attaining any spot at all, at any price, on our largely commuter campus in Westwood.

A major reason for the success of UCLA’s screenwriting program, in my never-humble opinion, is the fact that all of our faculty are experienced, professional writers. None gives up writing for teaching but, instead, integrates one into the other and the other into the one. Instead of presenting a vantage that is purely analytical and intellectual—though we provide that too—all our teachers possess also an insider’s hands-on conversancy with the nuts and bolts of screenwriting art, craft, and business…a working writer’s appreciation for the way screenwriting actually unfolds.

Some of our instructors are superstars; others are working-stiff writers like me. But all of us are Writers Guild of America members with professional screenwriting experience in film/TV and/or digital-media. Among the superstars is, for example, UCLA alumnus Dustin Lance Black, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Milk. Lance, as friends call him, didn’t care how much the University paid him to teach his course. He had only one requirement: that the Department pick up his parking.

Please understand that the University of California picks up the cost of parking for nobody. Janet Napolitano, President of the ten-campus system, pays for her own parking. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and all the others pay for their own parking.

As stated, I pay for my own parking.

Nevertheless, given Lance’s prestige, covering his parking seemed like a reasonable step. Getting the Regents to do so represented no small bureaucratic challenge. When Lance’s parking was ultimately approved by the administration, I considered it the single greatest administrative achievement in all of my years as an educator.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with some friends at a West Hollywood eatery when I ran into Lance. I introduced him to my lunch-mates. Awestruck, one of them said, “Wow! You won the Oscar for Milk!”

I said, “Never mind that. He got the Regents of the University of California to pay for his parking.”


Richard Walter is a screenwriter, author of best selling fiction and nonfiction, celebrated storytelling educator, associate dean, entertainment industry expert and longtime professor and chairman of the graduate screenwriting program at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. In February 2018, Professor Walter will offer an exclusive online 6-week course. Here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train with the world’s most accomplished screenwriting educator. And, he’ll read your script if you complete it within 1 month of the class! Reserve your seat at: http://richardwalter.com/workshop/To join Richard Walter’s email newsletter list email him at rwalter@tft.ucla.edu.