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Scripting Talent

Network guides students in mastering the skills of screenwriting.


High school students interested in screenwriting should attend a meeting of the Scriptwriters Network, an industry-supported group that meets at Universal Studios the first Saturday of each month.

This 600-member, nonprofit organization of film and television writers is sponsoring a High School Fellowship competition for kids in grades nine through 12 in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Applications and writing samples are accepted until Oct. 31; winners will be notified by Nov. 30. The program begins in December.

This Saturday's meeting is a good way to find out what the program, now in its fourth year, involves. Advance reservations are required.

David Boito, the network's co-chair for the program, says its purpose is to help 10 talented high school students hone their writing skills by providing "a structure for the kids to complete a screenplay via monthly meetings with a 'mentor' writer" for a year.

These benefits are free to High School Fellowship winners--who also get free admission to the network's monthly meetings at which guest speakers who have written recent TV shows and movies discuss their work. (Annual membership is $60.)

Writers from such productions as "Dawson's Creek," "Courage Under Fire," "Mouse Hunt" and "From the Earth to the Moon" have spoken recently.

The mentoring sessions, which follow a curriculum developed by the network's members, take place at sites mutually convenient for the mentor and student.

Last weekend, one such meeting took place at a deli near the Thousand Oaks home of mentor Catherine Coughlin. A writer working on multimedia projects at Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation in Universal City, she met with Fellowship winner Shant Istamboulian to discuss his script and how character-development techniques in the classic movie "Casablanca" might apply to it.

Coughlin views the fellowship program as a way "to introduce the kids to writers who are successfully doing what the kids want to do."

Istamboulian, who is completing his year in the fellowship program, recently graduated from high school and started junior college.

"It's a way get a foot in the door," he said of the program, "but it's more about catching on to industry practices and learning about script writing."

Another fellowship winner, Dionne Young, an 11th-grader at Dorsey High, said she intends to accept the network's offer of continuing in the monthly seminars after her fellowship year ends.

"When speakers come, if we want to contact them afterward for advice, there's a person provided by the Scriptwriters Network as liaison," she said "I want to wait until my script is really ready and then show it."

Her three-part project "has been with me since the seventh grade. Its theme is slavery, the Middle Passage, and about a girl--a princess--and her experiences, beginning in Africa."


Student orientation for the Scriptwriters Network High School Fellowship Program on Saturday, 1:30 p.m., at Universal Studios. Reservations required. Admission $15. (213) 848-9477.

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