Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Shari Goodhartz! Shari is teaching a NEW course, Seasonal-Arc Structure for TV (Reg# 377575) on Saturdays (2pm– 5pm PT) this Winter. She sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.

What sparks my creativity?
I think it’s my curiosity, my commitment to being a lifetime learner. There’s an endless supply of intriguing ideas and behaviors all around us, and inside us. In fact, having so many options can be overwhelming. I call this “the hell of infinite possibilities,” and I don’t like it. So, I choose to set smart boundaries, which have sustained my creative energies across decades. Turns out, lots of screenwriters need help setting these kinds of boundaries. Discerning what’s truly useful to crafting a particular story and what’s not can be really hard when you’re deep in the psyches of all the characters, or caught up in the momentum of a gripping plot. Helping other writers figure out what works creatively, and why, is one of my specialties. Their progress – getting what they really want to say on the page with clarity and passion – brings me joy, and renewed inspiration. It’s a curiously delightful feedback-loop!

What do I rely on when it’s difficult to find time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
Mainly, three things:
(1) Re-watching the stuff that inspired me to come to Hollywood in the first place: emotionally satisfying films & TV shows. My creative batteries are recharged by re-seeing the specific choices some of the most skillful people in the history of the industry made when crafting the stories and characters I love the most.

(2) I know I’m never truly stuck with a blank page. I’ve been blessed to learn from many insightful writers and creative executives, and they’re all kinda always with me. Experience has also confirmed that quality film & TV shows tend to embody vital patterns that are rooted in human psychology. These structural rhythms reliably get me through the challenges inherent in the business of visual storytelling.

(3) Talking to other screenwriters about (1) and (2), as well as sharing/discussing our work. I belong to a marvelously supportive writers group, where everyone is seen and appreciated for who they are, their unique vision and voice. This group’s priorities are keeping all of us learning/working the craft at a professional level and producing new material. Each person in this group inspires and motivates me.

What are my favorite book and movie? The Tao Te Ching and Singin’ in the Rain.

What’s your favorite quote about writing? “Just take it bird by bird.” (Anne LaMott in Bird by Bird, about setting small, achievable goals)

What excites me most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I moved to LA in the mid-1980’s to run the West Coast Corporate Communications office of Columbia Pictures Industries, but I really wanted to write & produce episodic television. I’d already been a Summer Intern with the TV Academy, where I found I had a lot of technical expertise to acquire and a bunch of spec scripts to write. To do that, I needed targeted stimulus to write at night, since my day job was very demanding. That stimulus came from classes I took at UCLA Extension. One of them was pivotal to my understanding of the real job of TV writers at that time – being a great mimic of a series creator’s voice and style, as well as capturing the distinctions each actor brings to their part. Best of all, the class was a blast! I’m thrilled to have been asked to teach at UCLA and share what I’ve learned, and continue to adapt for the 21st century, with other people who find themselves driven to write TV.

What do I hope my students will get from my course?
– The fun of developing their own material with high expectations of improving their craft
– Functional awareness of the power and flexibility of story structure
– Experience giving and receiving respectful feedback/notes
– Enhanced clarity of expression, especially in their writing.

Thank you to Shari for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!

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