“…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