Will Akers, the chair of Belmont’s new Motion Pictures major, lectured last summer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China as part of a screenwriting conference. His attendance came as a result of the strong sales success of the 2011 Chinese release of his book, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great.
In the copy below, Akers summarizes his trip, and the connections he made with film students and other screenwriters while overseas.
In late 2011, my book, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great, came out in Chinese. Turns out, it is a popular book, despite its (with a $7 cover price) being very expensive, and the publisher has sold a LOT more books in China than in the United States. I was invited to lecture at the Beijing Screenwriting Conference. I’d never been west of Venice Beach, so this was quite an opportunity.
Beijing is not Nashville, Los Angeles or France, the places I’ve spent the most time. It looks a lot like France, actually — a forest of brand new, cool-looking buildings — but with Chinese signage. The Conference was at Tsinghua University, which was vast and impressive. The Harvard of China.
I was a guest at the Conference along with Robert McKee (who wrote the book Story and was the subject of the movie Adaptation) and Viki King (who consults with film professionals and two Presidents and wrote the book How To Write A Movie In 21 Days.)
I had given a copy of my speech to one of the translators the day before my speech, so he knew what film clips I was showing and was able to go over the speech ahead of time. The lecture was in a huge room with around 300 people in attendance. I spoke for four hours, and the translators were amazing. One would work for 20 minutes, and then take a break. I never had to slow down. I could barely see them, on the far side of the room, in their glass booth… a tiny red light showing which one’s microphone was active.
The next day, I participated in a smaller Screenwriting Forum, where screenwriters would tell their stories to the speakers and the other attendees, and we’d give them notes. That was a fascinating experience because Viki and I are so different. My notes were very story-driven and analytical, while Viki zeroed in on how the story came from the writers’ own lives. The writers seemed very appreciative. We also did a panel discussion on professionalism with Lu Wei, the most famous screenwriter in China.