by Gina Sestak
Well, I did it again. I signed up for another labor-intensive class at Pittsburgh FIlmmakers. Keep in mind that I'm still striving to get my regular fiction published, not to mention recovering from recent surgery, holding a job, and taking a few other short classes for fun. A rational person would focus on polishing all those manuscripts and stories cluttering up my house, or on locating an agent. Instead, at the age of 59, I'm studying screenwriting. You can go into any bookstore and see the huge number of novels that are published every year. Compare that to the much smaller number of movies made and the even smaller number that actually get distributed. I have to be nuts.
Making movies is a different world. When we write novels, we are on our own, sitting alone in front of a keyboard and a screen, creating stories out of nothing. In contrast, it takes a village to make a movie - dozens if not hundreds of creative people acting, directing, dressing sets, designing costumes, operating cameras, recording sound, editing, etc., etc., not to mention financing the production, scouting locations, feeding the cast and crew, etc., etc. Instead of having to convince one agent or editor to accept your work, you have to hope to excite a multitude!
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Pittsburgh Filmmakers, I recommend a visit. The very building itself manages to convey an atmosphere of technical proficiency and creativity combined. Just being there is stimulating. And the classes are hard, with weekly assignments and in-class critiques -- not for the weak of heart.
Last fall I studied Introduction to Screenwriting, which required writing a short script every week, to be read aloud and critiqued in class. The following semester I took two core classes: Introduction to Digital -- yes, I am technologically challenged, but I learned to use Photoshop and Final Cut Express to make posters and short films -- and Motion Picture Fundamentals, in which i created or collaborated on several short films, including writing, filming and editing.
The biggest thrill, though, was when I story-boarded an idea that was made into a short film by an enthusiastic group of classmates.
This term, I'm taking a more advanced screenwriting class, Script Development, from which I hope to emerge with a competed screenplay. Please wish me luck.