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Posts Tagged ‘University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop’

Captain Kirk isn’t the only Star Trek person with an Iowa connection. Nicholas Meyer who directed Star trek II; The Wrath of Khan (1982) and co-wrote the screenplays for Star Trek IV; The Voyage Home (1986) and Star Trek; The Undiscovered Country (1991) graduated from the University of Iowa in 1964. 

He worked as a Unit Publicist on the 1969 film Love Story. A few years later he wrote the novel The Seven Percent Solution which became a best selling book as well as a movie. Meyer also wrote the script based on that book and received an an Academy Award nomination for his script. 

You’re writing a play, a play for the sceen—a screenplay. What are the elements that make a play? I was trained by Howard Stein at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He said that everybody had to read Aristotle’s Poetics, which we did, in the Francis L. Ferguson translation.  These are my antecedents. When I taught  I would point out that in writing drama for the screen, we first decide what drama is, then worry about how to put it on the screen. That sounds deceptively simple.

According to Aristotle, who in fact was only offering his observations, not setting them down as rules, the skeletal structure of a drama means that a question is asked at the beginning. The process of asking that question is known as exposition. I formulate the problem. Act One: The ghost tells Hamlet, ‘I was murdered by my brother, your uncle, and I want you to get revenge.’ So here’s the question: Will Hamlet kill the king? The job of the dramatist is to raise as much suspence as possible as to the outcome of that question, and when the question is answered the audience goes home. End of play. What will happen if? That’s dramatic structure.”
                                  Nicholas Meyer
                                 Quoted in Screenwriters on Screenwriting
                                  by Joel Engel 
                                  Pages 89-90 

 

Scott W. Smith

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