Review: So You Want To Be a Writer?

I turned off of a sunny, chaotic Cordova Street on April 2 to enter Vancouver Film School’s animation building. I was there for “So You Want to Be a Writer?”, the second of six free Why Story Matters lectures put on by the school’s writing department. Presented by various VFS staff, the series brings together aspiring and professional writers to discuss writing for film and television.

The building itself was bold, geometric, and disorienting, nothing like the dry, dingy halls of the university English departments that sheltered my academic endeavors. I took my seat in the small classroom, pulled out the little desk top beside me, unfolded it, and placed my notebook and pen down. As I waited, a steady trickle of people of various ages and backgrounds started to fill the room, all of them ready to hear lecturer Rick Drew speak. By the time the session was underway the room was almost full.

I knew I was in the right place as soon as Drew started talking. “You must all really be writers," he told us, "or you’d be somewhere else doing something useful, like enjoying the sunny day.” He made remarks like this throughout the session, and I followed his self-proclaimed “rambling” intently.

For the next two hours, we discussed everything from developing action in a script to the concept of a story ‘midpoint’ (the moments when the protagonist undergoes a change and the story shifts to bring us to some sort of resolution). Drew showed us a few of his favourite short films—an animation (Balance) and a live action short (Our Time is Up). We also learned how to go about writing specs, or sample scripts, for shows that already exist as a way to build our personal portfolios.

But what I most enjoyed was how, throughout the lecture, Drew would always return to the idea that writing is something we each do differently. I left the lecture with a renewed love of the art and a renewed appreciation of good writing. Feeling inspired, I went home and re-watched Tootsie—one of Rick’s favourite films (and mine)—soaking up every minute of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest scripts to come out of Hollywood.


Why Story Matters is hosted by Vancouver Film School and runs until May 28, 2016. The series is open to the public, but classes cap at 75 seats; you can sign up here.