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By David Ganezer
Observer Staff Writer 

"I was a Teenage Screenwriter in Hollywood:" How to Write Awesome Scripts!

Dana Starfield reveals her secrets to writing winning scripts for movies and television

 

August 13, 2016

Starfield writes for children's television. IMDB credits her with writing the script for Welcome to Monster High in 2016, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Welcome to La Fiesta! But she says collaborative projects are stronger. "don't be afraid to share your stuff and take criticism," she says. "It's all a part of the creative process. It's how you find out if you have a winning script, or just think that you do."

Dana Starfield writes for TV and movies. How's that for destiny in a name? She shared her experiences being a female screenwriter in the man's world that is Hollywood. Starfield spoke to an audience of teen girls, Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The lecture was sponsored by School of Doodle. Their contact information is at the bottom of this page.

"Don't worry about walking into a room, and everyone else there is a guy," she said. "Often, they are looking for a female perspective, on how a particular character might react to a situation. So it might actually put you at an advantage," Starfield said.

Starfield writes for children's television. IMDB credits her with writing the script for Welcome to Monster High in 2016, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Welcome to La Fiesta! But she says collaborative projects are stronger. "don't be afraid to share your stuff and take criticism," she says. "It's all a part of the creative process. It's how you find out if you have a winning script, or just think that you do."

Starfield begins writing a script with a strong character and his (or her) motivation. She says it all begins with one sentence. [Character name][description] has to take[action], in order to get [result].

Starfield uses Finding Nemo as an example. "Marlin, an overly cautious clownfish, has learns to overcome his fears in order to travel the ocean and find his son, Nemo," she said, summarizing the Disney Pixar script. "Marlin thinks he's never going to let anything happen to Nemo, but we're going to upset that," she says.

Using Finding Nemo as an example, she said "every movie follows this three act structure. What's the world your character currently lives in that we're gonna up end. What's the A and the B plot, and how do they interact." The bulk of her lecture is how a Three Act screenplay progresses, the interaction between the A and the B plot, and how it resolves in Act III. Please see the video embedded in this article for more information.

"Don't get discouraged!" Starfield says, with the time it may take to progress in the screenwriting field. "From the time I wrote that UCLA script it took 4 years to pass that script along to Disney. So don't be afraid to share, but also don't go straight to the top. Because you might love a project. And you might not see something that could make that script better. Your friends will read your script several times, but a studio executive will only read it once. So it's best to show it to your friends first."

If you finished your script, you might be really excited, you might feel like you just wrote war and peace. In a professional setting, you're going to rewrite that script 50 times. Maybe you're going to pass it to your mom, or to your teacher. To your best friend, to whomever. Get their thoughts. Trust your gut a bit, but don't be afraid to take advice from others

There's writing on your own, but then it's a collaborative process. You pass it along to executives you work with, and they tell you to rewrite it. You may not like it, but it's a process. You will often realize what they gave you has helped you better your script.

Trust your gut but don't be afraid of other people's opinions. You're really close to the material. Don't be afraid of circulating (what one book writer calls) Shitty First Drafts. Don't trust anyone who has a great first draft. You just keep doing it over and over again until you feel good about it."

The bulk of her lecture is how a Three Act screenplay progresses, the interaction between the A and the B plot, and how it resolves in Act III.

Starfield says that TV shows are focused a little more on character, where is movies spend a little more time on plot. She says that animated films like NEMO will begin and end with a striking image, such as an eel eating all the clownfish eggs. Starfield says that the B plot is often intended to add humor when it's introduced in the second act, but in the third act helps resolve the problem faced by the A plot characters.

The single most important factor to your success in the Hollywood is to persevere, Starfield says. "Like Dory, you must keep on swimming; just keep swimming; just keep swimming!" And networking, plus watching a lot of the movies or TV shows in the genre that you want to write, Starfield says. Oh, and reading books, too.

School of Doodle is an organization for young women. It gives girls the tools to discover their passion and turn it into a profession. They host workshops and create content with top artists and musicians and give girls real world opportunities to put into practice what they have learned.

Dana Starfield's lecture was one of their events. For more information, visit http://www.schoolofdoodle.com

 

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