WARNING! This Seminar Will Kill You

poisonI debated a while before posting this, however I must warn people about a very dangerous screenwriting seminar.  This is no joke, and all figures I’m about to give you are real.

Out of all the graduates of the screenwriting seminar in question:

  • 800 have died in auto accidents
  • 90 have died of cancer
  • 2 were murdered

For legal reasons I can’t tell you the name of this dangerous, deadly seminar.  But don’t be afraid, because there is a seminar out there whose graduates have won dozens of Oscars, Emmys, and other awards.  This one seems like a safer bet, doesn’t it?   There’s only one problem…

…it’s the same seminar.

The promoters of this seminar list how many attendees they’ve had over how many years and how successful they’ve been, however given enough years and enough attendees, one can generate all sorts of statistics.   Hence the ability to generate fatality rates for graduates as well as Oscar winners.  It’s called “data dredging.”  

So, which numbers should you pay closer attention to, the success rate or the mortality rate?   My suggestion?  Neither.  A seminar can no more take credit for the success of its attendees that be blamed for their untimely deaths.

Screenwriting seminars, books, software, and gurus often make all sorts of claims when trying to get you to take them seriously.   Write a movie in an hour and a half!  Sell your story without a script!  All you need to know about the movie and TV business!  Make money!  Sell your spec!  Learn the secret!  NO…learn MY secret!!

It’s not that you can’t learn something from these books and seminars,  but I want to encourage people to use their heads (and I’d like to encourage the authors and seminar givers to dial back the rhetoric.)  

Isn’t Contour just more of the same?  I hope not.   The closest I’ve gotten to hyping the software is “Get your story idea from brain to page in the shortest time possible” and “Minimum theory…maximum results.”  Both comments happen to be demonstrably true.  

At the recent LA Screenwriting Expo I did a presentation of Contour where the audience generated an idea for a movie and then after 30 minutes of explaining what Contour is and the underlying theory (“Minimum theory) we took the remaining 60 minutes and beat out the whole story.  And not 15 brief broadstrokes, but 44 specific plot points that someone could actually use to write the script from FADE IN to FADE OUT.   That’s not too shabby for an hour’s work. 

So, beware of wild claims of secrets and magic formulas for success.  During the gold rush, the only people who consistently made any money were the people selling the shovels.

As the old adage goes: if something sounds too good to be true, it is.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply