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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Nationals Call...

Happy Tuesday All,

I skipped posting last week for two reasons. One, I wanted to give proper attention to the interview with Meg LeFauve after the hold up with the formatting, and two, I had several things going on.

Me (Maid of Honor), and
my deceased friend, Sarah,
on her wedding day in 2003
Monday marked 4 years since my friend, Sarah, died, and by the time I thought of doing a blog post it was late in the afternoon, so I decided to switch this week's post to today.

Recently the national organization I belong to, Romance Writers of America (RWA) opened up registration for its annual conference--dubbed "Nationals--which is being held in July, at a resort in Orlando, Florida this year. Talking with my family, it was decided for the first time since I joined in 2009, I would go. I'm all registered with a hotel room and have had a lot of outpouring of
Me at my chapter's conference in 2014
support from other RWA members both ones going and those who have been in the past. I'm excited to see what I'll learn and what connections I might make, but I'm also nervous. It's a lot of people and I feel sort of "lost in the crowd". Fortunately, I have people I know going and many others who have said they would like to see me there. It's wonderful how Romance novelists often stick together like this and encourage each other. It's really helpful!


I've been to my chapter's conferences and to other non-writer-related conferences, but I don't know if I've ever been to anything
Me at an author event, February 2015
as large as this one. I heard one year they had around 2,000 attendees! That's a lot of people. So, prayers and good thoughts for a wonderful experience would be great.


Have you ever been to a big conference? Let me know in the comments!

Have A Terrifically Thrilling Tuesday!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Spotlight On Screenwriter/Producer: Meg LeFauve

Happy Monday All,


Last week was rather crazy for the Averie household, but this is a new week and we get to get started with something I've been really looking forward to sharing with you, my darling readers (and anyone else who stumbles upon this blog).



Me at the age of 5
in my sister's wedding
One of my sisters went to college with screenwriter/producer, Meg LeFauve. Meg was also in my sister's wedding, over 30 years ago (I was 5 years old, so I don't remember meeting Meg at that time). Not too long ago, I got to talking with her on Facebook through my sister's urging, (she remembered me) and last year, I asked if she wouldn't mind doing an email interview with little ole me. She graciously accepted (I was surprised, I was certain she was too busy) and now I have the pleasure of sharing with you the results of this interview, which is as much fun as the interview process itself.

Meg LeFauve works at Disney Pixar. She was one of the screen writers for Inside Out and the screenwriter for The Good Dinosaur. She's also worked with actress/producer Jodie Foster, and she's done some of her own producing (among a million other things). She's a wife, a mother, a friend, and a fellow writer. More recently, she's been tapped to write the new Marvel's Captain Marvel screenplay, a movie scheduled to release in 2019.

Gaining this interview was such a privilege for me. I can't thank Meg enough for taking time out of her super-busy schedule and family life to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Me: What made you decide to go into screenwriting versus other 
 types of writing?

Meg: I've always had a deep love of film - the way an image can
communicate so much.  I'm also fascinated by people's behavior,
how what people do and choose shows--
who they are so much more than by what they say. 
That's a great film character.  I also really like how a film can 
help us all escape and at the same time it can open us up, 
make us think, give a catharsis, expand or even change our point of 

view.  All together in a theater.  
Certainly other forms of writing can do 
these things, but I love how film does it 
on such a large scale - 
how many people you can reach and talk to.   

Me: Based on what I've heard/read, early 
in your career you worked under 
Jodie Foster. Could you talk a little 
about that experience and how it 
shaped your career path?
Meg: I worked with Jodie as an executive
and then a producer for 10 years.  
She shaped me as a storyteller.  She always asked,  
"What's the big beautiful idea in here?" -- so first we had to talk
about what the story was about.  Not in a literary way, more from
an emotional place.  Why is this something we need to put out into
the world? What are we asking people to think about? How are we
exploring the human condition?  And why is it, in some way,
personal and powerful for us as filmmakers?  Articulating this
theme or emotional point of view can be challenging — 
can take many drafts- and years - to fully clarify.  As my friend
Jane Anderson says, "Theme is the DNA of each scene." 
Jodie taught me to build out  from theme — to a character and
their transformation - which creates plot which creates set pieces.
Knowing how to dig into this, how to build a story from theme,
has been crucial in my own writing.  

Me: So far, (aside from current projects) what has been a favorite 
of yours to work on?

Meg: Well, working at Pixar was a dream come true.  
So INSIDE OUT and THE GOOD DINOSAUR were both special 
experiences. I am very proud of having been a part of both of
those films, and helped those directors  bring their vision to the
screen.  That is also a difference between novel writing and
screenwriting.  Once a director is on a project my job as a 
screenwriter is to help that director articulate their vision for
the story. Of course I have to find my own personal passion
within that but the guiding light, the storyteller, is now the director. 
Working with Pete Docter and Pete Sohn was an honor.  
I’m always so moved when people let me know how these films
have effected them and their families.  One Mom told me that her
young son has watched THE GOOD DINOSAUR every day for a
month, as he tries to understand the death of his own father, and
how to move forward. A woman who works for LA County told me
that she is a psychiatrist who works with traumatized children and
that INSIDE OUT has helped her in her job - because she when
using the concept of emotions “driving” she can so quickly talk
to the kids and get to what is happening inside of them.  
So — that kind of impact is amazing.

Me: For fun: What's your favorite indulgence?
 (sweet treat, trips, whatever)

Meg: Reading historical fiction, during the day,
in my pajamas, with a cup of tea and a cookie.  
I have two kids and work, so this is more a fantasy
than anything I get to do too often.  :)
Thank goodness for my amazing husband - he makes sure 
I get time to reboot.

Me:  Roughly how long does it take you to write a screenplay?
Can you talk a bit about the process?

Meg: Years.  A screenplay goes through many drafts, I’d guess 
 15 drafts is an average before it hits the screen. 
Each draft will have at least one rough pass, if not 
several rough passes.  And then bring into the process producers, 
executives and a director giving notes. Even if the process started 
with me alone writing the script of a story I feel passionately about,
to get to the screen it will be turned over to many hands.
And while that can be overwhelming, I also find it very exciting.
Because all of those creative people are great storytellers as well 
and they push you to do your best work, to stretch your creative
abilities, to see things differently, to discover — to not take our 
 first answer, or second or third.  Even if all those answers were
good, you keep pushing to the BEST story.  I love having a high bar. 
I love collaboration and the special sparks that can happen 
when smart people all have the same goal - to tell a great story.   

Me: What advice do you have to novel writers who would like to
see their books turned into screenplays?

Meg: Well, first that films are not novels.  Meaning your novel
 will be interpreted into a film.  A screenwriter will see your novel
 as the “paints” to use to paint a new picture— a new work.
If you don't want that to happen then don't do it :)
As a producer I worked for years with a writer on a book
adaptation.  Draft after draft after draft.  Until finally I realized --
it's a really good BOOK but it's not a film.  If you’d like to adapt
your own novel to a screenplay then you have to learn the craft of
screenwriting and film storytelling (as you learned novel writing).
I don’t mean that to sound daunting - it can be fun, exciting and 
challenging.  It's a different form than novel writing.  And learning
 it may help your novel writing.  But expect to write bad screenplays
 to start :)  That's just the way it is when you start something new.
You have to be brave enough to stink at it and be open to getting 
notes and learning.   If you want someone else to turn your novel
into a screenplay then learn the marketplace.  What books get
bought by film studios and why.  Agents are good but maybe find
new ways into that market - for example notice the producers who
makes films that are book adaptations that are similar in genre to
the books you write.  

Me: You've worked on Pixar's Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur,
any other Pixar projects you can talk about or do you have a
"wish list"?

Meg: Can't talk about any other work at Pixar as it's all
confidential :)  I am down at Disney Animation now working
on GIGANTIC as a writer/director - so the wish list is manifesting. 
And here, like at Pixar, the bar is "is this the best story" and all that
means.

Me:  What advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?

Meg: Write.  I know, that sounds silly but you’d be surprised how
many aspiring writers don’t write!  Every day. Even just for a half
hour, write every day.  So that your brain begins to trust you, that
you are serious and are taking this dream you have seriously - and
it will start to open to you.  And know that writing badly is part of
the process.  Every writer everywhere writes badly. Don’t use it as
an excuse to not write. Judging yourself is boring and not going to
get you anywhere but to eating a cookie.  :)  
Be brave, be vulnerable —and write through the bad.
That’s what writing is.  And for screenwriting learn the craft.  
It’s a visual medium.  There is a specific craft to writing for movies,
 vs tv,vs plays, vs web series.  Learn from watching and reading the
masters of the area you want to write in (and genre).  
Also watch/read the bad ones as they can be equally helpful to
your learning curve. Find a mentor. Find a group of other
screenwriters to support you and to help support.  Get as much
feedback on your work as you can.  No, it’s not easy.  It’s super
hard to get feedback -  just remember they aren’t talking about
YOU they are talking about a story.  Any note you get is just
what they don’t yet understand. That’s incredibly important for you 
to know.  How to address that note, is up to you and your vision for
 the story.   Read as many scripts as you can get your hands on 
- preferably the actual script (vs someone online writing down the
 movie).  If you have an action sequence see how great writers 
have written action sequences.  You’ll be amazed how much 
you learn from reading scripts.  Have lots of ideas— 
meaning don’t just carry around one “passion project” for 
ten years.  Have that project and another 5.  Because writing 
isn’t about ONE idea — trust the creative well in you.  If you go
to it every day, there will be more and more ideas….
After you’ve written 5 scripts (and each script has been rewritten
at least 3 times) go back and read your first one.  You will be
amazed at the progress you’ve made just by WRITING.
  
Me:  For fun: My sister told me you two watched a lot of sports
in college, do you have a favorite sport?

Meg: :)  I watched all the Syracuse University sports with your
 sister.  Basketball and Football.  Now I love baseball. 
My teenage son plays and the game has taught him, and me, 
so much that applies to life. And being a writer/artist. My son has
learned that you strike out more than you hit but you stand in that
batters box and you believe and you try - each time.  When you
make an error you learn from it, and let it go - get your head back
in the game. And that it isn’t always about talent - sure that helps -
but the person who can keep their head on straight, aren’t afraid to 
learn from failure, know what they want, and work their butts off -
they are the ones who rise. A story that I think applies to being a
writer too — My son started last year hitting at the bottom of the
batting order.  His dream was to hit a home  run at the big
tournament in Cooperstown —a tournament that only happens
when you turn 12, and only one time. And he knew his grandfather
 would be there watching.  But how was he gonna hit a homer 
when his batting average wasn’t great?  He’d never even hit
 a home run.  He started to practice every day hitting balls
 off the tee in our front yard.  He worked so hard and we saw
 the commitment so we got a hitting coach for him - and that 
meant he got WORSE first! (because you are changing core
 dynamics of HOW you hit).  But my son hung in there, he kept
trying, he kept working hard, he learned the skills needed to hit
well.  For a year he did this work - it was physical, intellectual and 
emotional work (like writing!) And then he went to Cooperstown
.... and he hit SEVEN home runs!  It was nuts. And I was so
happy because he learned something really important about life and
 about himself -- that it's about trying and believing its possible,
about knowing what you want, about working hard and not letting
other people get you down even when you are failing.  
Understanding that failing is how you learn, so get back in it and try
 again--- and you do it EVERY DAY. That is how magic happens.  

Me: You've been both a producer and a screenwriter,
which one is easier?

Meg: Easier??? Ha!  Both are super hard, wonderful jobs
that you must be passionate about.  For me personally, my
worst day of writing is still better than a good day of producing.
 That's how I know I am where I am supposed to be. 
BUT I still use all my producer skills and wouldn't be 
the writer I am without having done it.  Everything you 
do feeds into your writing.  Everything that happens to you 
-even the not so great stuff. It’s all valuable.  All of it.  
So stop worrying about it, analyzing it or bemoaning it. 
Use it and write.

Me: Do you have a dream list of actors you'd want to be in a movie you'd write? Are you able to you say who and why?

Meg: Oh, just what you'd expect, I guess.  I'd love to work with Meryl Streep someday.  I am just such a huge, huge fan.  I love 
Louie C.K. as a writer and creator, just being able to watch his shows make me feel so happy.   

One other thought before I go -- writer's block. 
one thing that has helped me is to realize what I am fighting for -- 
every day I sit down and push through that block (be it inspiration 
block, craft block, story block - or just huge doubt!) I sit and I work FOR THE CHARACTERS.  Because these characters have chosen me to tell their story.  And if I don't sit down and do it, if I don't find a way to tell that story so people get it -- then that 
character will never exist.  They will never come into the world.  You are their conduit -so sit down and work at it - so their story can be told.

Again, thank you, Meg, for doing this interview! 
It's been fascinating to read your answers, and I learned a little about what you do, which is also very interesting. I wish you the best in all your projects and in your family life.

To my readers, and those who stop in, 
I hope you all enjoyed the interview as much as I did!

Have A Marvelously Magical Monday!