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12/11/2009: SCREEN WRITING TO SLAY THE DRAGON

Los Angeles based Australian filmmakers Steve Turnbull and Lynda Heys are running Slaying the Dragon, a masterclass in screen writing & screenplay development on Saturday, November 28, at the Uni of NSW in Sydney, supported by the Australian Writers Guild and other industry guilds; “this is the session we have been running for studios over here in LA, as a side gig to developing our own projects,” says Turnbull. Details & registration ($250) on www.slayingthedragon.net

Last year Turnbull and Heys ran a session over six weeks at Pixar Studios in San Francisco. “Many of the participants who attended - including everyone from the story department to animators - described it as the best approach to story they ever had. We were invited back this September for an evening Master Class with participants including the co-director of Up, in preparation for a follow up series to the original course to be run in early 2010, “ Turnbull explains.

“Based on the Pixar feedback, Disney brought us in for sessions in Nov/Dec 2008. They recently booked another 10 sessions for 2010, with their only negative feedback from the first course being that it wasn’t long enough.

“Based on the Disney word of mouth, DreamWorks has now decided to try us out and has organized an abridged one-off Master Class that will be open to their entire staff. We are also in discussion to bring a series of sessions to them. Our objective is to use these courses as an in-road to what we offer as a writing/directing team.

“The last time we ran our 12 hour Master Class in Los Angeles (in July), one of the producers who attended flew Lynda back from Australia one week later so we could all work together on his project. At which point he declared our few days together had saved him and his writing partner many months of development time and wanted to know why we didn’t keep this approach to story a very big secret.”

A session at the LA Screenwriting Expo last month “on route to the airport to fly back to Oz!, we had well over 100 writers, many literally sitting on the floor, standing at the back of the room, and flooding out into the hallway – where they stood, captivated for the entire session. I think even the Expo staff were surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response,” says Turnbull.

Over one marathon day it:
•focuses on heroes and their flaws, fears and needs that build their worlds;
•unlocks the secrets to the Second Act, giving participants clear and practical
tools they can use for their own projects;
•combines worlds, plot and journeys to illustrate how to give your heroes one
last chance to achieve their potential and inspire us all.

The masterclass follows the high profile Metro Screen forum exploring why Australian films don’t connect strongly enough with Australian films. “We watched the podcast from Metro Screen with great interest,” says Turnbull. “I believe the answer to why Australians don’t see Australian films, even the good ones, is because they don’t trust our filmmakers. Quite frankly they have been let down too many times with stories that just don’t engage, or move emotionally in a way that today’s audiences expect.”

“Slaying The Dragon is not about rules, it’s about choices,” according to the website for the masterclass. “It’s about being honest to your characters, and understanding their behavior and the journeys they are on. Only then do you earn the freedom to go in any direction, guarantee to make it real for your audience and ensure they care.”

Steve Turnbull co-developed and manages the team’s sessions in screenplay development around the world. A working screenwriter for fifteen years, Steve completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Media Studies at Deakin University and was writer and AP on the award winning ABC doco Black Gold Kindred Spirit. He joined forces with Lynda on Tackling Romeo working on re-writes to secure financing, and going on to form Faraway Films in the late 90s. Faraway Films actively develops feature projects for the US, Hispanic and Australian markets.

Lynda Heys, an Australian director and international speaker, has presented sessions on screenplay development to over 80,000 students, teachers, lecturers and professional filmmakers. Lynda studied at AFTRS (The Australian Film, Television and Radio School) and received a Masters in Fine Arts (Film Producing) from the University of Southern California. After working in development within the Hollywood studio system, she returned to Australia to co-write and direct the $4 million Australian feature, Tackling Romeo (co-starring Radha Mitchell and Martin Henderson).

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