Life Rights and Wrongs

Am I allowed to write a movie (or book or article) about you without your permission?

Unequivocally and without hesitation the answer is: maybe.

At the time of this writing, a former television reality show host and NY real estate developer has held the office of President of the United States for nearly a year. There are oodles of books written about Donald Trump. He may have — or he may not have — at one point or another signed a life rights contract awarding a particular biographer permission to write his life story.

Rest assured, however, that the vast majority (if not all) books about Trump were written without his authorization.

Even since the election, the United States is still (mostly) a free nation whose liberty is underscored first and foremost by this annoying, pesky item called The Constitution and, particularly, its First Amendment.

Continue reading on Script Lab!

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Six-Week Online Screenwriting Workshop Limited to 10 Students


Enrollment is about to limited for the 6-week online screenwriting program I’ve designed to serve a small cohort of writers who believe in themselves. The first session will take place on Tuesday, 2/6.

Now is the time to act.

Click here now to learn more and register.

UCLA-trained screenwriters have won five best-screenplay Oscar nominations and three Oscars in only the past seven years. They have written eleven movies for Steven Spielberg.

You supply the talent; I’ll provide the training. I will also read your screenplay if you finish it within one month of the class.

Go here now to sign up.

Hope to see you in class next month!

– Richard Walter

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Richard Walter was recently interviewed on Film Budgeteers (a very cool site + service that empowers any filmmaker to generate a budget in minutes). In the interview blog post, author Jeff Orgill shared:

Film Budgeteers was ecstatic to land an interview with veteran screenwriting  professor and master screenwriter, Richard Walter. Walter has taught writing for the cinema for the better part of four decades and serves as the Chairman to the UCLA graduate school of screenwriting. He’s also the author of several fiction and non-fiction books and makes regular tv and media appearances to offer his expert opinion. I asked him a few brief questions about where screenwriting collides with the budget of a film and the process of film budgeting…”

>> Read the full Q&A on Film Budgeteers

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Screenplay Readers Richard Walter Interview: Quick Screenwriting Insights from a Master

In a posting today, Screenplay Readers shared: “I recently did a quick interview with legendary screenwriter and screenwriting educator, Richard Walter. Walter has taught screenwriting for almost 40 years, and serves as Chairman of UCLA’s esteemed screenwriting graduate program. Not to mention, he’s a celebrated author and sought-after studio scribe in his own right, as well as a renowned media and culture critic and pundit.  He also teaches screenwriting privately, via his online workshop. Details and a video about Walter’s program are at the bottom of this interview.”

Continue reading for the full Q&A!

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I’ve written from time to time of my fifteen minutes of fame – actually about five or ten years – during which I appeared frequently in the media as a pundit, a talking head, on TV and radio political talk shows: over a half dozen Today Show visits, ten or fifteen on (may God forgive me) The O’Reilly Factor, close to two dozen on MSNBC’s Hardball With (he’s mainly into bombast) Chris Matthews, and oodles more.

From time to time I was recognized in public. “Loved the way you socked it to O’Reilly last night,” someone said to me as I made my way down the aisle to my seat on a plane.

More typically, however, people could not remember precisely where they’d seen me. They had a vague sense that they knew me personally, that sometime, somewhere, we had met. “You’re a pulmonologist at Paterson, right?” I was asked at a wedding in New Jersey by a fellow squinting at me, absolutely certain that we were brothers or roommates or tag-team wrestlers.

In such instances I would ask, “Do you watch political talk shows?”

A flood of recognition would fill their faces.

Not only on radio and TV but occasionally also in print I was from time to time referenced or quoted.

My signature issue was Sex and Violence in the Media. Given my retro-hippie look, my progressive affect, my membership in the cultural and intellectual community, that is, a film professor at a world class institution of higher learning, folks might well have expected me to view movie/TV violence as excessive and reprehensible, as sorry evidence of Hollywood’s crass, unconscionable commercialism.
My view, however, was quite the opposite. I argued (and continue to do so) that sex and violence occupy a proper, venerable, honorable place in dramatic narratives.

One day the Los Angeles Times accepted for publication an article I’d written on the subject.

They planned to run the piece on their op-ed page on a particular Friday.

I was due to drive that day to San Francisco to offer a weekend seminar: Screenwriting: The Whole Picture.

My piece would be carried on the op-ed page that same day. The Times was read by hundreds of thousands of souls, among them virtually everybody I knew. I anticipated a torrent of phone messages: congratulations, commentary, and condemnation.

I would love the praise, of course, but the pejorative stuff was okay, too. It made me feel influential. In Hollywood (as in life) the worst pain comes not from being criticized but ignored.

This was still the pre-email, pre-Internet era. Unlike today’s telephone voicemail systems, which can field multiple calls simultaneously, my ancient, analog telephone answering machine, with its twin tape cassettes–one for my greeting, the other for incoming calls–could handle just a single message at a time. Anyone who phoned while the system was recording a message received a busy signal.

Likewise, at any time that I was phoning the machine from a remote location to retrieve my messages, callers would also receive a busy signal.

The day prior to publication, in order to remind myself to attend to a particular chore up north, I left myself the briefest message on my machine. “Be sure to drop by KGO radio to thank Ronn Owens,” I said as quickly as I could, anxious to avoid using too much tape. I wanted to have a maximum amount of time available for the tsunami of messages that, upon the appearance of the column, were sure to flow.

Owens was the most highly rated political talk show host in the Bay Area. He was the sole radio host who consistently whipped Rush Limbaugh in terms of audience size. (If that was going to happen anywhere, wouldn’t you expect it to be San Francisco?)

In the days prior to my San Francisco seminars, Ronn always invited me to appear as a guest on his program. My visits to his show constituted free advertising. May God bless and keep him. At no expense to me, dear Ronn filled my seminar every time.

In this pre-cell phone era, I drove to San Francisco that Friday, making it a point to avoid calling from payphones at highway rest stops along the way to retrieve messages, as I knew that doing so would cut off my answering machine’s ability to take further messages from the hordes of fans who were surely dialing.

At last, from my hotel room on Sutter Street that evening, brimming with anticipation I phoned my answering machine to retrieve the swarm of messages.

The system promptly clicked into action. “You have one message,” it said.

The message rolled.

My own voice say, “Be sure to drop by KGO radio to thank Ronn Owens.”

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REAL VS. REEL – Richard Walter Commentary in The Script Lab

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece Mark Oppenheimer writes (appropriately enough on July 4th) of symbolism run amok: he complains specifically about flag-waving replacing true and thoughtful patriotism. [Full disclosure: At my house on national holidays and—displaced New Yorkers that we are—also on September 11th we proudly fly stars and stripes.]

In the late ‘80s when the Supreme Court declared flag-burning to be expression protected under the First Amendment, self-described patriots went ballistic. 

I heard a veteran’s son remark, “My father died for that flag.”

God bless the soldier for his service and sacrifice. That said, however, it was not a symbol– the flag– for which he died but that for which the symbol stands: the nation.

There’s the problem right there: We’re so inundated with media that people can no longer tell the difference between symbols and what the symbols represent.

Continue reading in The Script Lab

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Screenwriting: One Big Experiment of Trial & Error, Repeat

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter weighs in on how he considers screenwriting to be “One Big Experiment of Trial & Error, Repeat”. Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Screenwriting: Not a Visual Kind of Writing

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter talks about how screenwriting is actually not a visual kind of writing at all. Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Want to Succeed as a Writer: Spend More Time Writing

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter gives writers the most useful advice they could ever truly hear + follow: “If you want to succeed as a writer – spend more time writing!” Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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Why Writers Should Write the Personal Movie

In this exclusive video interview, screenwriting professor Richard Walter gives advice on why writers should write what he calls “The Personal Movie”. Join Richard Walter for an online class held with only 15 students per session – reserve your spot:

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