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Emerson and Writers Guild of America partner

Carole McFall
November 09, 2011

Five Emerson College students have been selected for a Mentoring Program with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) Foundation for screenwriting, television writing, and playwriting. Emerson faculty chose eligible upper-class students and recent graduates based on their individually submitted scripts and synopses. Then, WGAE identified five professional writers based on their writing specialties to mentor the students.

The five teams of professional and aspiring writers will meet for four 90-minute, one-on-one, online sessions over the course of the semester. Based on notes and feedback from their mentors, the students will complete three drafts of their screenplays, teleplays, or theatrical plays by the end of the semester.

Emerson College has three departments that offer writing concentrations: Visual and Media Arts (VMA), Performing Arts (PA), and Writing, Literature and Publishing (WLP). Daniel Tobin, Interim Dean of the School of the Arts, sees the Mentoring Program as a natural extension of Emerson’s relationship with WGAE. “The idea came from alumnus and writer, director, and Guild member Richard LaGravenese '80, H '11” said Tobin. “It’s an amazing opportunity for our students to interact with professional writers in the Writers Guild—an organization that emerging writers strive to be accepted into because it can open so many doors.”

Richard LaGravenese '80, H '11, who helped create the WGA/ Emerson mentorship program, is the writer of numerous screenplays, including The Fisher King, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1992, The Ref (written with Emerson classmate Denis Leary), The Bridges of Madison County, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Horse Whisperer, and Beloved. He has also written and directed several films including Living Out Loud, Freedom Writers, and P.S. I Love You.

A nonprofit organization, the WGAE Foundation’s mission is to perpetuate the art and craft of storytelling, by professional and amateurs, through education and practical experience on local, national, and global levels. “Writers guiding writers; the collaborative jam sessions of ideas between storytellers—these are the basics of the Writers Guild East Foundation Mentoring Program. Professional, working writers in the fields of film, television, and theater, meeting online with students who will soon become the original voices of our culture,” said LaGravenese, who’s mentoring Jamie Spetner '12, a senior, majoring in Writing for Film and Television at Emerson. “I'm proud and grateful to Emerson College for helping us launch this unique program, whose benefits will reach beyond the classroom and across borders.”

The other mentoring teams are:
• Screenwriter Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married) and Andreas Ignatiou '12, Writing for Film and Television, VMA
• Writer, director Adam Brooks (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Definitely, Maybe) and Bryce Fallon '13, Writing for Film and Television, VMA
• Playwright (Rounding Third) Richard Dresser and Emily Skeggs '12, Theater Studies/Acting and WLP
• Writer, producer John Markus (The Cosby Show, Taxi, and The Larry Sanders Show) and recent WLP graduate Maria Cristina Lalonde

In October, Fallon had his first conversation with his mentor Brooks. The aspiring screenwriter was shocked when he learned that he’d been chosen to participate in the first year of the Mentorship Program. “It’s such an amazing opportunity that it was hard to process at first,” said Fallon, who shared the first act of his screenplay with Brooks. “He’s going to give me notes and I’ll keep sending him changes and more pages until I have a completed script. It’s just incredible to be getting one-on-one attention from such an accomplished filmmaker.”

Skeggs says her mentorship with playwright Dresser is off to a great start. “After our first online meeting, his guidance helped me really deepen into the play and look forward at its future as a production. I was in extreme writer's block for a couple of weeks, but now I'm well on my way to another draft.”

In December, at the conclusion of the Mentoring Program, the mentors will provide a written evaluation to an Emerson faculty member and their student.

The program will be offered again in the Spring 2012 semester.
 

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