RECAP: MPI’s Winter/Spring Screenwriting Workshops

May 15, 2019


Every great film starts with a great story. And that’s why MPI is committed to supporting screenwriters and documentary filmmakers find, develop, and craft great stories about freedom. This year, MPI is offering seven screenwriting workshops—and we just wrapped the first two.

“Writing the Calling Card Short Film” met weekly from January through April. Along the way, seven filmmakers wrote and revised short film scripts on subjects ranging from moving dramas about political refugees escaping tyrannical states, to comedic takes on online witch hunts, to marijuana legalization. Each participant presented their work twice to the larger group, using the notes received during the first workshop to revise toward their second presentation.

“Documentary Storytelling” likewise met weekly from January through April—with a brief hiatus in the middle so that participants could move their films forward. Some used the time to polish rough cuts; others used it to do field research or capture interviews and new footage. One participant even considered converting his doc into a narrative feature—a thought experiment that proved richly illuminating as he decides how best to frame and produce the story he wants to tell.

Led by MPI chief creative office Erin O’Connor and executive vice president Maurice Black, both workshops received rave reviews. Participants called the workshops “transformational,” “inspiring,” “collaborative,” and “challenging.” Additional comments:

“This workshop is a wonderful opportunity for you to improve your story and also collaborate with immensely intelligent and experienced people.

“To be able develop a project within a community willing to give you honest and forthcoming feedback is a dream for many writers who often have to navigate the limitless choices a story presents without input, affirmation, and objectivity from a group of others skilled in the craft.

“The workshop is an excellent way to develop or improve one’s own writing discipline. Being part of a weekly scriptwriting group, that includes two major presentations of one’s own writing, really helps an individual writer hone their craft and better prepares them for future collaborations with writers, directors and producers.

Later this month, MPI will launch two additional workshops: Concept Development, led by Erin, and a second Calling Card workshop run by Maurice. Both will run throughout the summer.

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