Sherwood Oaks Experimental College has a long standing reputation as the “Go To” place to learn about screen writing and the movie industry. In addition to the many references of Sherwood Oaks by established authorities in the screen writing world, many former students of Sherwood Oaks classes are now some of the most respected mentors in the industry.
“… Sherwood Oaks Experimental College. ‘Experimental College’ was really a misnomer; in reality, it was professional school taught by professionals: producers taught producing, writers taught writing, … The purpose of the school, which didn’t give credits and had no university affiliation, was to provide an opportunity for the professionals of Hollywood to share their experience and expertise with the community. [For example,] … Lucille Ball [taught a] weekend seminar on TV comedy? … Michael Crichton talking about the art and craft of screenwriting? Not a bad lineup. …. The people [students] were interested in screenwriting and liked hearing stores about the difficulties of breaking into Hollywood. They wanted to know what kind of scripts Hollywood was looking for, how to get an agent, how much money could be made selling a screenplay, how difficult it was to sell a treatment (a short, narrative synopsis of the story) and so on. … As I walked out the door [after teaching for a few hours], several people told me they’d learned more in this one class than they had in a full semester at UCLA.”
– Syd Field, Going to the Movies
“One school for aspiring screenwriters stands head and shoulders above all others for continued excellence over the years, and more graduates that have gone on to large careers. Sherwood Oaks has no fixed classroom at all; rather, its students meet in hotels and often share lunch around a table with someone who can buy their work or sell it for them starting that very day. Here’s an example. On August 15, 2000, I went to a “Pitch Day” Sherwood Oaks event at the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood. It was part of an entire week costing $750, so one day was $150. In a group of less than 10 people, I met: the story editor for Nicolas Cage’s Saturn Productions; Kent Kubena, the director of development for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s company and the man who dreamed up their ‘Project Greenlight’ Internet-driven feature film production contest; and Rob Carliner, the producer/manager of Butchers Run Films, actor Robert Duvall’s company. How does that sound? Schoolteacher Gary Shusett started Sherwood Oaks to help people break into Hollywood. His brother Ron is a very successful screenwriter (Total Recall and others [Alien, Minority Report, etc]). I first came across Sherwood Oaks in the 1980s, and so did people like James “Titanic” Cameron. That’s why you can meet people like him at Sherwood Oaks events.”
– Skip Press, 2002-2003 Writer’s Guide to Hollywood
“What a terrific event [Screenwriter’s All Access Weekend] — this was my first year as a panelist, and I hope to be back again and again. Every panel’s packed with names and knowledge, and the screenwriters I’m speaking to can’t believe what they’re getting for the price.”
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“To all those who have helped me in both my film and teaching careers, with particular gratitude to Gary Shusett and Sherwood Oaks Experimental College for getting me started…”
– Michael Hauge, Writing Screenplays That Sell
“…I enrolled in a screenwriting course at the very independent Sherwood Oaks Film School. …Many of the successful writers in the business were [teaching there]. They did this out a belief that their experiences might somehow help the next generation of writers. … the Schraders, Dan O’Bannon, Robert Towne, writers from Saturday Night Live. In the dark age before VCRs and fax machines and the Internet, Ernest Lehman arrived, carrying cans of film marked North By Northwest. We propped a projector on the table and watched and listened as Lehman described his journey with Hitchcock. He would stop the reels mid-scene or run the reel back to repeat some business or dialogue. It was spellbinding, absolutely the best film lesson I ever lucked into. Most of the guest writers didn’t talk about how to “make it.” They spoke on the subject that most intrigued them: the creative process. They told stories. They revealed themselves. Their passion, their commitment to the craft conveyed the sense of a spiritual calling. Alexander Jacobs, writer of my favorite noir, Point Blank, adapted to our tiny class of four. While struggling under contract to Paramount to write a Godfather III that would persuade Francis Ford Coppola to come back to the project, Jacobs once confided urgently to me, “You must let the work consume you.” Soon after that comment, the relatively young Jacobs died of what I suspected was heartbreak over Coppola’s decision not to direct a Godfather III at that time.
…Those Sherwood Oaks visiting screenwriters had communicated an invaluable lesson purely by example. With every spoken word, they inhabited the art of writing. Writing’s what mattered and if the screenplay form didn’t fit, find another suit. It’s not the script, the money, the contacts, the contracts: It’s the life of writing. You must let it consume you.”
– Richard Stayton, Editor, Written By