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By April Wright · April 16, 2018
Once again, we’re bringing you a recap from the 2018 ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta – where despite the rain yesterday, the hundreds of attendees and dozens of Hollywood panelists were out in force. The secret panel was awesome with former development exec Danny Manus talking candidly with writer and actor Lamar Woods, who’s from Atlanta but moved to LA, and is now a filmmaker and television writer who has worked on a number of big shows like Fox’s New Girl and Survivor’s Remorse in addition to having a film playing here at the Atlanta Film Festival on Monday night called It’s a Party.
Here are my quick takeaways from a very informative panel with a packed room of attendees:
Lamar highly recommends improv classes for comedy writers. He said most of his classes at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) were with writers, not actors. He highlighted the social aspect of the job: because you’re always working in a room with other writers. You’re talking more than writing. The improv skills will help you to pitch in the room and sell your ideas.
He was also joking about how surprisingly few black people are involved with improv. He formed a comedy group with other black guys, because individually they were always the token black guy on a comedy team of white people. But when you have a group of black guys (and I think the same idea applies to a group of women too), it takes the race out of it and then they can be more authentic individual characters and not there to represent their race.
Danny underlined – do not take material out until it’s ready. Take the extra time to make it right first. If it’s not good, they remember. Lamar said he really worked hard on the pilot he used as a writing sample; it was so specific to him, that it’s still getting him jobs today. It was about a pothead whose preacher father passed away, and he has to take over the congregation and re-find his faith but stay true to himself. The pilot didn’t sell, but it’s opened many doors.
He also reiterated what we heard yesterday: everyone bombs in the room sometimes. He explained that in the writing room, he was watching and learning from his favorite writer. And it was a big revelation for him when he realized sometimes that person was pitching things that didn’t land. So then he knew, hey it’s ok. Everyone bombs. And also, sometimes people don’t laugh in the writing room. So you can’t tell if it’s landing. So they always come up with a lot of alternate jokes. It’s a muscle you build in your mind to keep coming up with new and better jokes. Speaking of “bombing” – there was an incredible panel at the ScreenCraft Summit called “The Failure Panel” in which some of Hollywood’s top screenwriters talked about some of their biggest failures. Unfortunately it was a “no posting” panel – which means I can’t share video or photos here – but just one more reason to attend this incredible event in person!
They can smell it on you. Get your life right. Take your time. Getting the first job is the hardest. It’ll be easier from there. He also strongly believes in building a community of other artists and bringing each other up! Build your network.
So if you’re writing comedy, the bottom line from Lamar is to keep developing those muscles. Take improv classes, join improv groups, keep writing, build your network, and keep asking, what’s the better joke?
And if you’re writing a feature film screenplay and so inclined, the 2018 ScreenCraft Comedy Screenplay Contest‘s early deadline is today! Enter by 11:59 PM PST.
April Wright, guest blogger, 2018 ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta attendee.