Film major takes shot at stardom

A Boston University screenwriting student could soon find his work headed to the big screen thanks to a new fellowship from the Writers Guild of America, East.

Film and television associate professor John Bernstein chose Dan Schoenbrun, a senior in the College of Communication’s screenwriting program, to compete against candidates from nine other schools for the WGAE’s newly-established Michael Collyer Memorial Fellowship in Screenwriting, Bernstein said.

“We need to be familiar with the student’s work, potential and commitment to developing their voice as a writer,” Bernstein, who works closely with WGAE, said. “One needs to be a passionate storyteller, a committed student of human nature.”

The winning applicant will receive $10,000 toward a screenplay as well as help from an experienced screenwriter, according to the COM website. The other schools involved are Columbia College Chicago, Drexel University, Georgia State University, Howard University, New York University, Savannah College of Art and Design, Tulane University, Washington University in St. Louis and Wayne State University.

The Charles ‘ Lucille King Family Foundation funds the award in honor of Michael Collyer, an entertainment lawyer who died in December, according to the COM website. WGAE will announce the winner in February.

“The Writers Guild of America, East is proud to be able to honor the memory of Michael Collyer by working to establish a fellowship that will encourage creativity and innovation in the industry that he loved and to which he gave so much,” WGAE President Michael Winship said on the COM website. “We will be encouraging and supporting new writers just as they begin their careers.”

Bernstein offered Schoenbrun BU’s spot in the contest based on a recommendation from a professor that the COM student took a class with last year, Schoenbrun said.

Schoenbrun said he must submit two fewer-than-20-word pitches, one for a completed screenplay and one for a screenplay he hopes to write, which he called “a pretty daunting task.” He is still working on the application, but he said has already chosen the two screenplays.

His completed screenplay, “Second Wind,” will follow “a suicidal child actor [who] agrees to star in a reality show, [in which] contestants compete for the chance to murder him,” while Schoenbrun’s unwritten screenplay, “Emulation,” follows “the lead singer of a mediocre 70s rock cover band [that] hires a wedding videographer to direct a ‘rockumentary’ about him,” he said.

Schoenbrun, who said he “really, really hopes” to win, writes “dark comedies, with a focus on humor and character development.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine what the competition from all of the other schools applying will be like,” he said. “At the same time, I am confident in the quality and entertainment value of my writing.”

The opportunities that would open up for Schoenburn should he win are definitely on his mind, he said.

“I would be able to work on my writing in a one-on-one setting with established writers in the industry,” he said. “Further, I’d be able to get my foot in the door of an industry I’d love to be able to break into. [The fellowship] would go a very long way towards achieving that career goal.”

BU students have had success in the film industry before, BU spokesman Colin Riley said.

“Hollywood has got BU people in every category,” he said. “It certainly reflects well to be selected . . .what [Hollywood] know[s] is that it’s an outstanding program here.”

WGAE representatives were unavailable for comment at press time.

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