"The greatness of a film is out there at a point beyond the lines," says novelist and sometime screenwriter Robert Stone. "It's really how those lines are made to play in terms of photography, in terms of so many other elements. Writing for the movies, I think, is something relatively few people do very well. It's a very special kind of talent." Stone's comments might be disheartening for would-be wordsmiths ready to storm Hollywood, but the acclaimed writer nevertheless believes a formal education in filmmaking has its benefits.
The author of books such as Dog Soldiers (made into the 1978 movie Who'll Stop the Rain, which starred Nick Nolte) and Damascus Gate, Stone will lead two seminars on screenwriting as the finale of the University of Miami's Communication Week, a nine-day extravaganza of workshops, discussions, and screenings highlighting film, television, journalism, advertising, and public relations. Stone will discuss writing screenplays from print at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Afterward a trio of workshops will be offered by UM professors Fred D'Aguiar, Rafael Lima, and Paul Lazarus. D'Aguiar, author of Dear Future and The Longest Memory, will cover adapting novels to features. Former television journalist turned playwright/screenwriter Lima, whose credits include episodes of Seinfeld, Wiseguy, and an upcoming miniseries dramatizing the Elian Gonzalez saga, will address transforming biography and press into compelling television. Lazarus, known for directing Beverly Hills, 90210 and for writing, producing, and directing the 1999 movie Seven Girlfriends, leads a workshop in fashioning fiction and nonfiction into television shows.
Anyone who has a story and thinks it's a cinch to get their characters' inner world onscreen has a rude awakening in store, says Lima. "Adaptation is probably the single most difficult task that a screenwriter can be asked to do," he explains. "I think it's one of the things that most people want to do. They have stories of their grandmother or their grandfather that they'd love to write but they don't know how to translate fact into fiction, and they don't know how to translate the fiction into a movie." Maybe after this weekend, they'll have a good head start.