I (figuratively) was just yesterday, when Joan Tewkesbury led me and ten other fellows in the first ever Sundance Screenwriters Intensive to be held in Charlotte. And boy, were they not kidding when they called it an "Intensive." By the end of the it I was feeling emotionally drained—darting furtive glances at the clock and hoping I'd survive.
The day started with breakfast (boy-oh-boy, did they feed us well). Then Joan led us through a series of writing exercises where she'd first ask us to list things like "three times I lost my keys," and "three times I made a mess of things." Then, after we'd shared our lists and the stories behind them, she'd have us do a writing exercise using one thing from each of our lists. Writing a letter of apology, for example, or scribbling an enter in a diary as one of our characters.
The first exercises centered around a character she'd had us create by showing us a picture of a car and asking us to describe the owner. Then we moved to a secondary character from the screenplay we'd submitted to get into the workshop, and finally on to our central character.
We shared a lot of laughter and even a few tears in an escalation of emotional intensity, with a group of incredibly brave writers.
The unifying element in all our work was that we were clearly writing about and from our most difficult life-experiences, and it was beautiful to share in that painful commonality. I maybe-kinda-sorta cried a little bit as I read my last piece of writing.
The evening ended with a reception in the beautiful McColl Center for the Arts, where we'd had our workshop. More great food, and a wonderful mixing of local artists and filmmakers.
I'm intensely grateful for the experience, and happy to be a Sundance Alumni.