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In October of 2015 I entered the McKee Cartoon writing contest.
I actually had some faith and confidence in my submission. Some time went by and when I received the email I had actually forgotten about it. I WON 1st place and the prize was this a trip to this seminar for free plus my one page comic panel would be illustrated (as of writing this, it still hasn’t been published.)
April 19th, 2016 was the last day of my job which I’ve gone into that ad nauseam on my podcast so I’ll skip the details of that for now. The very next day I would depart and head to New York. As promised here is my experiences during the McKee 3 Day Story seminar in April 2016 in New York.
We sat together in Famous Originals Ray’s pizza (I’m not sure if this is the one Kramer was referring to)
and we had just came from the third and final day of the McKee Seminar. Neal, and Howard placed #6 & #2 respectively in the 2015 ISA Emerging Screenwriters Competition. So the three of us attended the seminar for free. We sat around, ate okay pizza (as I mentioned on my podcast I thought it would be a lot better than what it was), and talked about two main things:
What did we learn?
Would we do it again?
So who is Robert McKee exactly?
Robert McKee is renowned as one of the top (if not THE top) story analysis in the world. McKee started this Story Seminar in 1983 while at USC.
I remember having lunch with a respected Yale screenwriting professor and attorney, and McKee’s name kept coming up as THE guy. There are several well known screenwriters including John Cleese who have expressed their admiration for McKee, and Cleese himself has taken the seminar three times before writing, ‘A Fish Called Wanda‘.
What is the Story Seminar
The Story seminar is a 3 day seminar dedicated to telling stories with a main focus on writing movies.
McKee Seminar Outline
The writer and the art of story
The decline of story in contemporary film
Story design: the meaning of story, the substance of story, the limitations and inspirations of story structure & genre, the debate between character vs story design
Premise Idea, Counter Idea, Controlling Idea
Story Structure: beat, scene, sequence, act, story
Mapping the Story universe: Archplot, Miniplot, Antiplot
Shaping the source of story energy and creation
Putting the elements of story together
The principles of character dimension and design
The composition of scenes
The text: description, dialogue, and poetics
The spectrum of story genres
Act design: the great sweep and body of story
The first major story event (the inciting incident)
Scene design in Story: turning points, emotional dynamics, setup/payoff, the nature of choice
Ordering and linking scenes
Exposition: dramatizing your characters, the story setting, creating back story
The principles of antagonism
Crisis, climax and resolution
Scene analysis: text and sub-text; design through dialogue versus design through action
The writer’s method: working from the inside out; the creative process from inspiration to final draft.
How it all works: the principles of the previous days applied in a 6-hour, scene-by-scene screening and analysis of CASABLANCA
Would I recommend this seminar? Yes.
Is it for beginners? Yes
Is it for advanced? Yes
What were the biggest strengths? Definitely the third day. That’s when I felt everything really came together especially as McKee discussed Being and Becoming. Also I thank god McKee didn’t go over formatting. (Side note I find it odd that there are still webinars on screenwriting formatting. Why would anyway pay for that when all you have to do is use Final Draft?)
What were the biggest weaknesses? We agreed that since McKee has taught screenwriting to so many people, and since Neal,Howard, and myself aren’t beginners there were bound to be some information that was repeated.
What to bring if you decide to go;
A small bookbag
Energy drinks – I brought four Red Bulls. These are great to drink during the breaks. All other foods were banned.
Notebook & Pen (people do get too distracted by devices)
Story by McKee: A lot of the Story Seminar comes right from the book as McKee has memorized it in it’s entirety. Some find this helpful as they can ask questions during intermission about anything as McKee makes himself available.
McKee has a sequel to this seminar, called ‘Genres‘, which is one day that I’m strongly considering attending in October 2016 back in New York. If you decide to go please make sure you find me to say hi. This is what I look like:
Really Helpful & Interesting Resources
Master the Art of Storytelling with Robert McKee on the Bulletproof Radio
Buy Story by Robert McKee
Dialogue by Robert McKee (pre-order)
Big Think Interview with Robert McKee
Click to see Sunni Brown’s illustrated notes about her time taking the McKee seminar in April 8 -11, 2011 in London.
Writer – Director – Producer- Podcaster
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