Monday16Mar 2020

Screenplays and Short Stories: Separated at Birth?

Wilkinson College Graduate Student Workshop

Monday, March 16, 2020 4:00 p.m. - 6:50 p.m. PST
2020-03-16 16:00 2020-03-16 18:50 America/Los_Angeles Screenplays and Short Stories: Separated at Birth? Location pending Check back soon for updates David Krausman

RSVP is required

Graduate Students can enroll in this workshop through Course number is GUS 530.

Location pending

Check back soon for updates

Staff, Faculty, Students, and Alumni

are invited to attend.

Monday, March 16, 2020 | 4-6:50 PM

Screenplays and Short Stories: Separated at Birth?

This workshop will take place virtually. For more information, please email Professor John Mattson at


Here’s a secret nobody will tell you: A screenplay is a short story. In studying and learning to write short fiction, you are learning many of the skills you need to write a screenplay. Yes, the forms look different, and, yes, they serve different ends. But many of the same rules and skills apply. The forms are more similar than not. It took me three decades to figure this out. You can learn it in the span of one workshop.

We will discuss:

  • The surprising shared history of the rise of the short story and the advent of the screenplay.
  • The screenplay as the short story’s low-class but high-paid cousin.
  • How the form of the short story echoes the form of the screenplay.
  • How a screenplay is not a novel.
  • How the skills of the fiction writer translate to screenwriting.
  • How to decide what form your idea should take—short story, novel, screenplay, play, poem, listicle...

We will also dive into the tradition of prose writers working in Hollywood (Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, William Faulkner, Gillian Flynn, Dorothy Parker) and Hollywood’s long love affair with the short story: Mary Gaitskill (“Secretary”), Joyce Carol Oates (“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” a.k.a. Smooth Talk), Alice Munro (“The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” a.k.a. Away From Her), Annie Proulx (“Brokeback Mountain”), Stephen King (“Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”), F. Scott Fitzgerald (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), and Raymond Carver (“So Much Water, So Close to Home,” a.k.a. Jindabyne, “Why Don’t You Dance?” a.k.a. Everything Must Go).


John Mattson, Lecturer, Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

John Mattson wrote "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" and "Free Willy 3: The Rescue", two-thirds of one of the most successful live-action family franchises in Warner Brothers’ history. (Siskel & Ebert called "Free Willy 3" “the best of the Free Willy pictures.”) His screenplay "Milk Money" sold to Paramount Pictures for a no-option outright purchase of $1.1 million, a record for romantic comedy specs. His screenplay, "Me", was named one of the ten best unproduced scripts by the Los Angeles Times. His pitch, "Food", sold to Fox Animation and Jan de Bont, setting a new benchmark for animated pitches. He has sold numerous original scripts and pitches, in both features and television.

In 2017, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from UC Riverside. His short story “Figure and Ground” won the 2018 R. N. Kinder Prize for Realistic Fiction and was published in Pleiades Magazine. In 2019, he won the Los Angeles Review Literary Award for Flash Fiction for his story “Eric Clapton’s Girlfriend,” which will be published in LAR’s “best-of” annual later this year.

As a screenwriter, he has worked for Steven Spielberg, Kathy Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Walter and Laurie Parkes, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Richard Donner, Lauren Schuler Donner, Lynda Obst, Madonna, Joe Dante, Michael Finnell, Jan de Bont, Lucas Foster, John Goldwyn, Sherry Lansing, David Mickey Evans, and Richard Benjamin, among many others.

Prior to screenwriting, he worked as a development executive and Story Editor at HBO, contributing to the films "And the Band Played On", "The Josephine Baker Story", and others -- and developing projects with Robert Bolt ("Lawrence of Arabia"), Julius Epstein ("Casablanca"), David Newman ("Bonnie and Clyde", "Superman"), Alan Sharp ("Night Moves"), Frank Pierson ("Cool Hand Luke", "Dog Day Afternoon") and Christopher Reeve. After graduating from UCLA film school (B.A., Motion Picture and Television Production, with honors), he worked as a story analyst for Universal, Tri-Star, Disney, The David Geffen Company, Columbia Pictures, Amblin’, Imagine Entertainment, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Dawn Steel Productions, Cher, Dino de Laurentiis, and United Artists, and as a transcriptionist and copyeditor for performer/monologist/novelist Spalding Gray.


You can contact the event organizer, David Krausman at or (714) 516-7116.

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