Terrel Seltzer: Intro to Screenwriting: The Five Essentials

5 Sundays, July 10 – August 7, 7-9:30pm  Berkeley
$215 members/$245 non-members 

Testimonials for Terrel

The basic premise behind almost every successful feature film can be stated in one simple sentence: Someone we care about wants something badly and is having a terrible time getting it. “Pretty simple, right?” says Terrel Seltzer. “But how do you make a character sympathetic? How do you establish a compelling goal and desire (two important, related, but very different story elements)? How do you structure rising tension so that the Hollywood Reader keeps turning the page? That’s the art and the craft of screenwriting.”

The class will devote a week each to exploring five essentials of writing a screenplay:

  • Breaking Story:  Take an idea, build from the premise, and find the structure
  • Developing Character:  Who is a character we care about?  And that an actor wants to play?
  • Maintaining Conflict:  It’s absolutely essential, from page one till the end
  • Constructing Scenes and Sequences:  What is the difference between the two, and how to make them dramatic and entertaining
  • Writing Visually:  Format, word choice, tone, and technique — what makes a script a great read?

Terrel Seltzer is a self-taught screenwriter. She learned the craft by watching and outlining literally hundreds of movies. Her career started in the Bay Area, working with SF director Wayne Wang, for whom she wrote the screenplays for the independent films Chan is Missing and Dim Sum. Her two produced Hollywood screenplays are How I Got into College (with Lara Flynn Boyle and Anthony Edwards) and One Fine Day (with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney). Currently, she has two scripts in development: Magick, written for director Robert Zemeckis at Dreamworks, and Foolproof, a spec script recently optioned by Warner Brother Classics.

Terrel Seltzer: Screenwriting – The Fun Beginning, the Dreaded Middle, the Dynamic End

Five Tuesdays, May 17 – June 14, 7-9:30pm  Berkeley 
$215 members/$245 others  Cancellation Policy
Testimonials for Terrel

 COMBO SPECIAL: Intro to Creative Writing + Screenwriting

“In this class we’ll look at each of the three acts of a well-structured, emotionally fulfilling screenplay,” says instructor Terrel Seltzer.

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Screenwriters Roundtable – You’re not alone!

Terrel Seltzer Friday, Feb. 26th, 7-10 p.m.   Berkeleyregister_off-70x18
$35 members/$45 non-members

“Are you working on a screenplay?  I know from experience what a lonely, confusing endeavor that can be,” says Terrel Seltzer. “So come have a good time talking it over with others who have chosen the same boat, rowing up that turbulent stream.  Bring a synopsis of your script, an outline, a treatment, a scene, a premise, an idea you want to try out.  Plus all your questions:  Read the rest of this entry »

Terrel Seltzer: Getting Past the Slush Pile – A Screenwriter’s Checklist

Terrel Seltzer 1 Saturday, September 24, 10am-4pm 
$130 members/$145 others
Testimonials for Terrel

“I swear, if have to read another script that begins with a hero waking up in the morning after a pan of the junk in his room, I’ll gag.” – quote from Hollywood Reader One.

“Uh-oh, is that the opening you just wrote for your script? What are the other ‘red flags’ that cause a Reader to toss a script by page 10? If character introductions are not done artfully, the odds of anything else in the script being great are slim.” – quote from Hollywood Reader Two.

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Screenwriting Seminar: Know your ending before you begin

Terrel Seltzer Saturday, Feb. 21st, 10 am-4 pm;  San Francisco
$95 members/$110 non-members


“There’s a deep DNA structure for a good movie idea,” says screenwriter Terrel Seltzer. “Someone we care about wants something badly (Act One), and is having a terrible time getting it (Act Two).”  So what about Act Three?  “It’s the answer to the question:  Will they get it… or not?” says Terrel, “and it’s crucial.  A story’s ending needs to stick in the mind.  It pretty much determines whether the audience likes the movie or not.”   On script level, it’s also decisive. An otherwise great script will likely be passed on if it doesn’t end well.  Luckily — and regardless of the type of story you’re telling —  there are common elements in a successful third act.

“A screenwriter needs to know the ending of the story before they start writing,” says Terrel.  “Every word in your script is building to the climatic battle scene.”  In this seminar, we’ll analyze the structure of a compelling third act by using writing exercises that help clarify the question/answer nature of good, dramatic screenwriting, and by discussing and watching movie endings that worked, and some that didn’t.   Students can prepare by watching films from this list:  Good Will Hunting, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Thelma and Louise, Fatal Attraction, Million Dollar Baby, Lost in Translation, Diner, Rain Man, Road to Perdition.

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Screenwriting Seminar – How to see, hear and WRITE visually

Terrel Seltzer Saturday, Feb. 21st, 10 am-4 pm;  San Francisco
$95 members/$110 non-members

“Most beginning screenwriters have trouble determining where the writing ends and the directing begins,” says Terrel Seltzer. “They “see” a scene in their head, but they don’t know how much detail to write down on paper, or leave out.  They usually end up with a pretty cluttered script.”

Screenwriting is the craft of writing visually and succinctly.  “It’s a very poetic form,” Terrel says, “much closer to writing a sonnet than a novel.  And rules apply.”  In this class, you’ll learn ways to think visually and then get the picture in your head down on paper. “We’ll analyze how a screenwriter breaks down a scene into pivotal beats, and then builds that scene with the interplay of description and dialogue. We’ll compare script pages to actual scenes in movies, and also use writing exercises to discuss ways to write vivid, concise description and dialogue.”

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Terrel Seltzer: Screenwriting, Webisodes & More

 I was in your Intro to Screenwriting class with Terrell Seltzer.  I wanted to provide some feedback.  I enjoyed the class very much. Terrell was so good and a wonderful teacher and resource. The six hours flew by. She is supportive, insightful, experienced and very intelligent. I could tell she was a good screenwriter.  I wanted to thank you for providing this opportunity to the community.  I really appreciate your school and what you are doing by bringing these talented people to come and teach.  Thank you for that!

And thanks again for having the Writing Salon. It’s a very special place!

Warm regards,

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