Inspiration: 1996 story on being a d.j. in New York

March 18, 2018

Hilton Als has been writing for the New Yorker since 1994. Here is his memoir on being a d.j. Worth reading.



Midterms: S

March 18, 2018

S means satisfactory. No sense in grading a work in progress. I hope you got a chance to rest or work, or both.

The important thing is to dive deep. Don’t hold back in the writing. Don’t withhold.

Tonight: more on the proposal

March 8, 2018

We will look at Blundell’s guide to feature writing.

Especially the last page on how to write a profile.

And we will look at the Middle Way. The basic feature form.

This is my basic advise about the project: follow the directions. Don’t wing it. Plan it. Follow the directions.

A friend of mind who was a great journalism teacher once distributed a one-page handout to his students with one word printed dozens of times in different type fonts and type sizes. The word was:




Mid-term grades: next week

March 1, 2018

By Thursday give me a pitch. About 350 to 500 words.  Make it as specific as possible. You must have some details and plans. I’ll go over this tonight. The pitch has to have some heft to it, some dates and details.

Like I said: salt and lime juice and tequila.

Some passion and some yearning.


Screenplay structure and pitches

March 1, 2018

About the pitches: they tend to be too general. For example: “She faces many challenges.” Well, what are the challenges?

You must be specific in the pitch. Tell me what happens in the story. There must be details. For example, if I pitched my book, The Trials of Eroy Brown this way: “Eroy Brown was a Texas convict who got into trouble but with the help of good lawyers was finally freed.”

No details. But; “When two white prison officials pulled a gun on Eroy Brown at Ellis Prison, he had a moment to decide whether to fight for his  life. He shot one man in the struggle for the gun and drowned the warden in a ditch. The state of Texas wanted to execute him, but he was acquitted by reason of self defense.”

You have got to salt the proposal with facts. You have to tell the story with facts. You must write specifically.

Hence it’s a good reason to think about screenplays and screen play structure. Tonight we will go over Mythic Form (think Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings among other movies) , Syd Field: Screenplay, and Documentary film proposal and Aristotle on Developing Characters.

Wait a minute, you are saying. Film didn’t exist when Aristotle was alive. True. But his observations about theater are timeless. The extract of Aristotle if from Michael Tierno’s Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters.  The three-act model for screenplays is based on theatrical models.

We are practicing an old art. The technology has changed, but not the principles of story-telling.

And we will talk about what you saw in the story-telling of “This is Our House, It is Not for Sale.”


Grants for films

February 26, 2018

Check out this list of grants for films. There might be something here for you when you do your project.


Dear Writers,

February 22, 2018

You are graduate students. I’m counting on your thirst for knowledge tonight, because my lung infection has laid me low and much as I have always wanted to see the film, I’m going to stay at home in bed and take antibiotics. See what you make of the film. The program will last longer that our class. It’s a long film followed by a panel. Post some comments on the blog. See what the filmmaker has to say about making a documentary and how he did it.

Send me your pitches. I will be better by Monday. Remember to put in the juice, the salt and the tequila. All three.


Reminder: we are meeting a documentary filmmaker tonight at six.

February 22, 2018

See the posts below. Please be on time. Ask questions.  Connect to a documentary film maker.


Next week: interview with documentary film maker at Gregory School at 6

February 15, 2018

At 6 pm the filmmaker John Schwartz will discuss his 1987 documentary: “This is Our Home, It is Not for Sale.” We should be done by 8. I am told we will watch parts of the film which is three hours long an most importantly get to talk to the filmmaker about the creative process.

Location of Gregory School, home  The African American Library is a Special Collections Library within the Houston Public Library system. We serve as a resource to preserve, promote, and celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region, and the African Diaspora.

Here is a link to location.

The Houston Chronicle did a podcast about the film. Here is a link. He said he did about 120 interviews without shooting and then shot a hundred of them.


Reminder: next week’s reading and proposals

February 9, 2018

Read “The One Left Behind,” from the readings in the Pages columns and “Feature Form: The Middle Way” and ” Feature Story Form” from the instructional Pages.

Write your story proposal. About a page. Fill it with details. Don’t forget dates and places. Set the story in time and place. If this is nonfiction, explain the research and interviewing your are planning. Make the proposal as detailed as possible. Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.

Tell me about the characters. What motivates them? What are their needs? What are their yearnings?