The first participant in the second track of our Veterans Writing Project eagerly arrived at the Writers Guild of America, West headquarters an hour early for the weekend retreat that kicks off each session of the program. Decked in a crisp summer dress and a smart fedora, Lashunda Smith exuded excitement as she waited and watched as other early birds trickled into the room. By 10am, the room was bustling with anticipation as vets adjusted their nametags and combed through the weekend's agenda. On that weekend of September 26 and 27, we welcomed 64 veterans from across all branches of the military. One vet, Khalid Saleem, flew in from Hong Kong to participate in the program. Others had traveled from states as far as Florida and throughout California for the chance to learn and write with seasoned TV and film writers. Now in its fifth year, the Veterans Writing Project pairs military vets with a passion for storytelling with WGAW members, who serve as mentors. Together, they explore the art and craft of telling stories for the screen as well as discuss the process of getting these stories noticed by the entertainment industry.
Along with workshops focusing on the craft of screenwriting, from developing characters to formulating premise and concept, the weekend also included a powerful full-cast table reading of Ken LaZebnik's screenplay STERLING (which will be reprised as a benefit for the vets program on October 18). On Sunday, WGF President and program mentor Larry Andries moderated an industry panel, which included executive producer Brannon Braga, Gersh Agency agent Eric Garfinkel, producer Brad Kervoy and Disney Channel development executive Sheila Walcott.
The weekend retreat was only the beginning of the yearlong program that includes a 10-week session of intensive workshops starting next week. Stay tuned for more updates on the Veterans Writing Project and keep up with the participants on social media using #WGFvets.
Check out some snapshots below and more in our Facebook album!
ALPHA group pose in the WGAW lobby with mentors Larry Andries and Marlana Hope. Photo Credit: Glen Golightly
Mentors (far left) Michael Jann (THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON) and (far right) Saul Turteltaub (THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW) flank participant Michael Williams. Photo Credit: Glen Golightly
Participant Lashunda Smith describes her story in her group. Photo Credit: Glen Golightly
WGF Programming Director Chris Kartje poses with Khalid Saleem, who flew in from Hong Kong to participate in the retreat. Photo Credit: Glen Golightly
The industry panel. From left, Larry Andries, Eric Garfinkel, Sheila Walcott, Brad Kervoy and Brannon Braga. Photo credit: Kimberly Ray.