Class

Creative Writing for Documentary Filmmakers

Use and improve your creative writing skills to develop subjects into characters and describe the action of your film in a more dynamic, readable way

6:30–9:30pm (Classroom 1)Note: This is a 2 part class (6 hours)

This two-part, six hour workshop is for all levels of documentary filmmakers, ideally with a film in development or production. Participants will use and improve their creative writing skills to develop their subjects into characters and to describe the action of a film in dynamic, readable ways that make audiences want to engage more with the project. Filmmakers will write, and through peer collaboration, come away with writing that can be applied to grant applications, letters of inquiry, crowdfunding campaigns, pitch meetings, dinner parties and even the structure of the film itself.

The instructor for this course is Rose Vincelli Gustine, a film advisor and programmer who guides filmmakers on how best to finish and present their films, and how to write and talk about them. She is a producer, and on faculty for the MFA Social Documentary Film program at School of Visual Arts. 

Before class begins, your assignment is to increase your reading. Start thinking about the writing as though you are a student. Read fiction and non-fiction, news, and essays. Consider how the sentences convey their meaning instead of what they say. In what way is the information conveyed? Is it overt or implied, clear or convoluted? Start to think about how you want to use these methods to describe your film. 

Day 1 will include writing games to help you get loose, and then we’ll dive right into imagining the action and scene exploration through free-form cluster-writing. Learn to focus on a scene you will film through the lens of your goals for story development and what you want audiences to understand about your character. Day 1 will also cover how to write a good film description based on character, action, location, conflict and resolution / outcome. You’ll end the day by breaking into groups for peer feedback on what you’ve written. 

Day 1 homework: Write a three act structure for the film you will make. Don’t spend more than an hour or two on it. Don’t overthink it! Set a timer to incite you to do the work in the time allotted. Daydreaming can be helpful, but we’re busy people, too.  

 On Day 2, we’ll review and discuss your homework assignment. You’ll continue editing your peers’ work with care. You’ll take some time to consider and discuss the group’s feedback with your writing partner.

What You Will Learn

  • Writing games, like free-form cluster writing, to help you get loose and imagine action and scene exploration.

  • Learn to write a better film description with character, action, location, conflict, resolution/outcome.

  • Come away with writing that can be applied to grant applications, letters of inquiry, crowdfunding campaigns, pitch meetings, dinner parties and even the structure of the film itself.

  • Story development for an in-progress project.

About the instructor

Rose Vincelli Gustine

Rose Vincelli Gustine

Rose Vincelli Gustine is a film advisor and programmer. She is Director of Operations for SVA’s MFA Social Documentary Film program, where she guides her graduate students on how best to finish and present their films, and how to write and talk about them. She is co-producer of the feature documentary BUSY INSIDE (DocNYC 2019), among other films. As a producer, Rose specializes in story and grant writing for documentary; distilling wide-ranging stories into spicy bites, and engaging audiences with multi-faceted slices of real life. Prior to her current work, Rose was curator and producer of IFP’s programs including Labs and Film Week; and a programmer for AFI Docs Festival. She has served on selection committees for Venice Biennale Cinema College, Southern Circuit Tour, as well as for NEA and New York Foundation for the Arts media arts grants. She lives, walks, and cooks with her family in Brooklyn.

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