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Writers on the Verge: Always Be Learning for Screenwriting Success

Last night, I had the good fortune of being a fly on the wall at the sort of event most aspiring writers would give plenty to attend: An afternoon for Madhouse represented writers as well as executives with the one and only Michael Hauge. Having done some work with the indelible Hauge, I had the good fortune of facilitating the introduction which led to the event: Over lunch a few months back I learned that my good friend Chris Cook, manager at Madhouse Entertainment, was a great fan of Hauge's. Having connected the two, Madhouse went on to set the date, frame the event, and invite their top writers as well as a few executives from their partner company, Alcon Entertainment, to attend.

Michael Hauge

Michael Hauge

For those not in the know, Madhouse is a prominent management company, who has a stellar roster of literary clients and a number of producing credits to its name. It is considered one of the most consistent management boutiques out there. In fact, it had more writers on 2012's The Black List than any other management firm. So the writers lucky enough to populate their client rosters are ones who are there: working, getting meetings, and consistently having their material read. And for the rare few who are not there? They are this close, an inch away from their big break.

Point is? On this Tuesday afternoon in West Los Angeles, gathering in the back room of an upscale watering hole, the writers in attendance were the sort who didn't have to choose a day job over the event. Not because they are trust fund babies, but because they WORK. And part of working is keeping your screenwriting craft fresh.

When Chris Cook introduced Michael, he told the audience something to the tune of, "I have a podcast of Michael's, which I've been listening to every Christmas. We all work with story every day, reading, writing and developing scripts, and listening to this podcast has been helping me keep my skills sharp." At this point, he handed over the floor to Michael.

Michael Hauge, just to refresh, is an amazing story and script consultant, author and lecturer who works with writers and filmmakers on their screenplays, novels, movies and television projects. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors on projects for Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman, as well as for every major studio and network.

What impressed me most about the event was this: As soon as Michael started speaking, everyone in the room, EVERYONE, started scribbling away. They took copious notes on their laps from the time he opened his mouth, until the last word was said. And for all of his brilliance, Michael did not reinvent the screenwriting wheel while he was there; Instead, he talked, steadily and methodically, about his approach: The intersection of story and character. Whether or not what he had to say jived with the writer's and executive's view of their craft, the point is that they were there. Ready and eager to learn.

Despite what you might think, and despite my affection for the man, this is not a Michael Hauge advertorial. This column is written simply to impress upon you, the reader, that even working writers are constantly learning, constantly reading, constantly finding new perspectives on writing and new ways to keep their chops from getting stale. The fact that you are here and reading this column already sets you apart from the rest. But for fun, I thought I would share some of the books, blogs and podcasts, outside of the great stuff on, that might be worth you taking a look at, if you're not familiar already:

  • Books: Writing Movies for Fun & Profit by Garant & Lennon Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge Save the Cat by Black Snyder Good in a Room by Stephanie Palmer
  • Blogs & Podcasts Pilar Alessandra's On The Page Podcast John August's and Craig Mazin's ScriptNotes Blog & Podcast The Business (KCRW's industry Podcast) Go into the Story (Scott Meyers' blog) Bamboo Killers (Screenwriting blog)

There are dozens, even hundreds, more out there for you to read and explore. This is just the tip of the iceberg to hopefully whet your appetite and make you hunger for more. Get out there, investigate, and find the ones that jive with you and resonate. After all, the more excited you are about screenwriting, about new approaches, about new understandings to help push the material to the next level, the more likely you are to build the sort of screenwriting career that will generate prolific exciting material, and keep you working for decades.

Note from the Editor: Michael Hauge will be joining our family at as a regular columnist soon! Stay tuned!
If you're looking for online screenwriting classes, check out Screenwriters University.

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