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LA Seminar

The 2019-2020 Jewish Writers’ Initiative kicked off on December 8th in Los Angeles with a rigorous and enriching three-day seminar at the Andaz West Hollywood hotel in the heart of the Sunset Strip. Writers met with renowned studio executives, showrunners and screenwriters who shared their craft and business expertise. Below are some of the sessions from the program.

Mock TV Writers’ Room Workshop

Utilizing an assigned TV show, featured showrunners take our writers through the first stages of “breaking a story,” with an emphasis on utilizing the diverse voices and opinions in a room to be more inventive. The best creative teams are comprised of different types of people coming together to form one unit. Learn how to navigate working on a creative team and creating within a writers room setting.

Presenters: David Sacks (The Simpsons, Third Rock from the Sun), Jenny Klein (Cloak & Dagger, The Tick, Supernatural, The Witcher)

Showrunner David Sacks runs a mock writers’ room for HBO’s “Succession”.

Jenny Klein (center) runs a mock writers’ room for Netflix’s “Dead to Me”.

Television writer and comedian Carol Leifer shared insights for coming up with unique material.

The Art of Creating

Great Dialogue

Masterful dialogue is a crucial part of creating moving and relatable scripts. Guided by a world class dialogue writer, the writers explore methods   in writing exceptional dialogue that brings characters to life.

Presenter: Carol Leifer (SNL, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family)

Elevating The 3-Act Structure Using The Jewish Calendar 

Sound story structure is a prerequisite for compelling narrative. Many of our most cherished biblical tales serve as exemplars of elegantly structured stories. Take a journey through the Jewish holidays, beginning with Passover and culminating in Purim, to reveal the unlikely romantic comedy between the Jewish people and God.

Presenter: Michael Borkow (Roseanne, Friends, Malcolm in the Middle, The Bernie Mac Show)

Screenwriter Michael Borkow discusses story structure.

Showrunner Jeff Astrof shares his secrets for a pitch that sells.

What Makes A Great

Pitch Workshop

It all starts with a good pitch! An effective pitch tells the story you want to sell in a pithy, expressive way. Walk through strategies for a winning pitch with a successful showrunner, learning demonstrable techniques for communicating your story more directly and engagingly.

Presenter: Jeff Astrof (Friends, Grounded for Life, The New Adventures of Old Christine)

New Opportunities In Streaming Media For The Jewish Content Creator Panel Discussion

This panel explores the growth of niche programming in the new streaming media landscape, especially the exciting opportunities to develop and sell programs with Jewish content. Panelists discuss what they look for in a niche project, what makes one idea a “buy” and another a “pass,” and how content creators are adapting to this new model.

Panelists: Julie Goldstein (Proof, Finding Neverland, Old Man & The Gun, Looper, Grey Gardens, Dirty Pretty Things, Bridget Jones’ Diary), Laura Schwartz (Don’t Look Deeper)

Carol Kirschner (left) moderates a discussion on the rise of streaming services with producers Julie Goldstein (center) and Laura Schwartz (right).

Producers Lynn Harris and Matti Leshem explore meaning in commercial entertainment.

Creating Meaning In Entertainment Panel Discussion

Listen to two storied producers discuss their philosophy on what makes for meaningful entertainment, how they’ve explored and incorporated values into commercial projects, and how those projects were ultimately sold.

Panelists: Matti Leshem (Harry Haft, The Shallows) and Lynn Harris (Gravity, Magic Mike, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Clash of the Titans, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Jews As Storytellers

Jews are commonly referred to as “People of the Book.” From our ancient biblical roots as storytellers to the modern moguls that founded Hollywood, this talk explores how Jewish culture, history and character have combined to elevate storytelling as a way of life.

Presenter: Rabbi David Wolpe

(Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple)

Rabbi David Wolpe discusses the intersection

of Jews and storytelling.

Screening at Fox Studios

The Vigil Screening

An exclusive screening and Q&A on the Fox Studios Lot with the filmmakers of a Jewish horror movie enjoying major festival buzz. The Vigil will be distributed by Blumhouse Pictures in the spring of 2020.

Presenters: Keith Thomas (Writer/Director ), Rafi Margueles (Producer )

“You Had Me At Page One” Presentation

Most decision makers form their opinions about a script within the first few pages, compelling a writer to make the reader fall in love on the first page. This class teaches writ- ing techniques that make your script hit the ground run- ning. Through examples from well known films and tele- vision shows, we take a hard look at word choice, scene direction, dialogue approach and the nuances of the page, including tone, genre and subtext.

Presenter: Pilar Alessandra (On the Page, The Coffee Break Screenwriter)

Screenwriting teacher Pilar Alessandra breaks down

the fundamentals of the page.

Studio writer Corey Mandell walks participants through story design.

Feature Story

Design Workshop

This workshop teaches a specific step-by-step process for story structure that’s easier, faster and often far more successful than how most people go about it. Understanding how to Design (as opposed to merely outline) a story al- lows writers to end up with a script that’s not just entertaining and engaging, but also meaningful, impactful and memorable.

Presenter: Corey Mandell (Battlefield Earth)

Improv For Writers Workshop

This two-hour workshop, lead by a renowned improvisational theater coach, takes writers through a series of clas- sic and unorthodox exercises designed to help stir their creative juices, think on their feet and open their minds to become more spontaneous in the creative process.

Presenter: David Razowsky 

Improv coach David Razowsky coaches Kyra Brown

on character development.

Writers are currently collaborating with industry mentors to develop their projects and will meet again in Israel this March for the next Jewish Writers’ Initiative seminar.

Saul Blinkoff presents an exploration on Jewish themes in classic movies.

Entertainment Attorney Craig Emmanuel explains the changing nature of television and film deals

Dinner on the Andaz

West Hollywood Rooftop.

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