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Lake shares how to write ‘killer’ 10 pages

Alumni, students, and aspiring writers learned how to write a “killer” first 10 pages for their next screenplays from esteemed screenwriter and Associate Professor Diane Lake at a free public lecture at Emerson College Los Angeles on April 2.

“The word killer is important because your words need to be killer,” said Lake, of the Visual and Media Arts Department, who was the principal writer on the acclaimed film Frida.

Diane Lake 4

Associate Professor Diane Lake gives a public lecture on TV and film writing in the Bill Bordy Media Conference Center at Emerson Los Angeles on April 2. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Lake broke down the tips she wanted to share with the audience into 11 points. Among the points she discussed: Remember who’s reading, keep exposition to a minimum, establish a compelling main character, be sure something happens, and write multiple versions.

“Because the first 10 pages are so important, take time to make them right,” said Lake.

Lake encouraged the audience to write at least three different versions of their initial pages because there are multiple ways to get into a story. She also told the audience to be economical with words and aim for around 100 pages in their screenplays.

“Realize every word is important,” Lake said. “Shorter is better.”

Diane Lake

Associate Professor Diane Lake. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Alexander Misiti ’15, a Visual and Media Arts major, took notes on Lake’s lecture. Having just completed the first draft of a comedy he intends to film in the fall, Misiti said he wanted to get tips on how to improve his screenplay.

“Her advice was incredibly helpful,” said Misiti, who has only taken one screenwriting class at Emerson. “I never really thought about how important the first 10 pages is.”

At the end of the lecture, Lake shared with the audience one last point: surprise me.

“Predictability is, predictably, the kiss of death,” said Lake. “Something unexpected needs to happen on each page of your screenplay.”

Actor Steven Bridgeman hoped that he could utilize Lake’s advice to write a screenplay of his own.

“I’ve written one, but it didn’t turn too out well,” said Bridgeman. “I just want to get better.”

Steven Bridgeman

Los Angeles actor Steven Bridgeman attended Associate Professor Diane Lake's lecture on TV and film screenwriting at Emerson Los Angeles on April 2. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

After the lecture, Misiti said he wanted to rework the entire opening of his screenplay.  

“I’m going to go back to my room and start writing,” he said.  

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