About The School
What do you mean by exclusive level of access and how are you different than other schools?
We can offer this exclusive level of access due to two major factors:
(1) We are the oldest school around. We have been doing this for over 30 years, actually before UCLA, USC and other film schools existed. We’ve spent 30 years establishing close ties with industry professionals who trust us. They know our students are among the most committed and talented aspiring screenwriters. The proof is in our alumni. Some of our Past students include popular well-known names such as James Cameron, Dean Devlin, Matt Groening, Nancy Meyers, Sylvester Stallone, and many others. Our alumni also includes noted screenwriting teachers Syd Field, Michael Hauge, and Robert McKee, who all began their teaching careers at Sherwood Oaks.
We’re willing to create sessions with severe restrictions on the size of the groups. It’s one thing to sit in an audience among 300 to 400 individuals. It’s quite another for a gathering of just 18 writers to interact with major players and often have the chance to present them with material. Even when we craft a large session, we make sure that there are opportunities for our students to interact with the people who will be speaking to them. Most students enjoy our smaller classes, what we refer to as our close encounter classes, a guest speaker (producer, Hollywood executive, agent or manager) and students sit around the same conference table and chat and it is more like a conversation or what we refer to as meetings. Usually unknown or brand new writers would never be able to get these type of meetings ever, but with our program, we make this possible.
How can I get involved in your program?
Our classes are not scheduled with much advance notice due to the booking schedules of our teachers. They often cannot commit to more than about 3 weeks in advance. So, for that primary reason, it’s IMPERATIVE that you put yourself on our mailing list. When we are about to schedule a session, we will reach out to EVERYONE who is on our mailing list. After that, it’s first come, first serve, as our classes are small.
Once we schedule a session, you may enroll via our web site and by Paypal or send a check by regular mail.
And of course you can contact us any time to find out more information about our classes!
Some of the class fees are a little out of my range, what can I do?
We often offer a work-study program for many of the classes to lower the fees. Duties range from writing, faxing letters to assisting with booking conference rooms at studios and other locations. In addition, we are looking for people to work in our warehouse or carpooling students in a van. Please contact us for more details using the contact page and let us know you are interested.
We also try to also offer a class once a year with a $99 registration and as a result, this class is usually larger than our more popular close encounter classes. But we are not always able to do this.
This all sounds almost too good to be true. Why is it you’re not more well known?
Since our number one priority is maintaining a small, intimate atmosphere in our seminars, we like to keep our advertising low key. We know that the appropriate, high quality students will find us, and will appreciate participating in our seminars with like-minded professionals. However, Sherwood Oaks has received honorable mention in the publications of: Syd Field, Michael Hauge, Skip Press, K. Callan, Creative Screenwriting, The Los Angeles Times and People Magazine. Keep in mind, we are a NON-PROFIT, and we are NOT in it for the money. We are in it, because of our love of the industry, and keeping it going, which means future generations WILL COME along.
What kind of events do you do with literary agents and managers?
Our Meeting with Literary Agents and Managers seminar is similar to the Meetings with Executives. In this week, we meet with 25-30 top agents and managers and provide the same intimate setting that encourages a relaxed conversation between our students and guests. In both of these seminars, guests almost always accept material from our students, and many have obtained representation by taking one of these courses. Make sure you are on our mailing list, as these classes fill up very quickly when we offer them!
I’ve heard that you sometimes have the heads of companies as guests. Does that really happen?
Yes. As a matter of fact, once or twice each year we offer our Meetings With Executives. This is just what it sounds like: a week of meetings with top industry executives. And the best part is that these top executives take material from our students. Past guests have included Mark Gill, Bill Mechanic, Mike Medavoy, David Permut, Larry Mark and the presidents of Warners, Revolution, Radar, Scott Rudin Prod. Ridley Scott Prd, Lakeshore and Tom Cruise’s CW productions.
Who are the guests?
Producers, Executives, directors, story editors, etc. We hope to soon have a class catalog so you can find out more about differentiating the guests and why some students attend an entire year of seminars to increase their chance of success.
Imagine you and 15 other writers convene at a studio or conference room on an early Monday morning. An executive enters, and proceeds to discuss his/her company with the group in an interactive manner. Depending upon the executive’s schedule, he/she might spend 30-60 mins chatting with the group. Then, another executive or industry professional will enter and discuss the film business. Each day, you will meet about 5 executives in this way. At the end of each session all guests take a one sheet from anyone who wishes to offer it, regardless of representation.
The array of guests is repeated throughout the week in a different location each day. By week’s end, the writers will have given material to 25-30 different production companies. We call it the Screenwriters Experience.
What is a Sherwood Oaks course really like?
Think of it as a rare opportunity to have a major industry player over for dinner. Just as you would for a guest in your home, we put our high-profile guests at ease by providing a laid-back, intimate setting and giving them some space to talk about themselves, their perspectives and their roles in Hollywood, as well as providing some valuable advice for our writers. A facilitator guides the conversation and coordinates students’ questions in order to allow everyone to get the most out of the seminar. In the spirit of providing the most positive experience for all, we ask that our students refrain from pitching their stories to guests unless specifically asked by a guest to do so. By following this protocol, we have been able to attract some of the most sought-after industry players in Hollywood because we have gained a hard-won reputation for having the most intelligent, respectful students around. However, each student will have the opportunity to share a one-sheet with each guest. So, bring plenty of copies!
I’m already an established writer, why should I attend?
The movie industry is constantly changing. Any industry professional, whether a writer, director, producer, or otherwise must constantly stay abreast of new trends and meet new contacts. If your scripts aren’t selling, you can glean valuable insight as to how you can modify them in order to increase their viability in today’s ever-changing media marketplace, or better yet meet important contacts that are interested in taking your career to the next level.
I’m not a screenwriter but I’ve heard great things about your school. Can I attend?
Yes. Any industry professional or aspiring industry professional is welcome to attend. In fact, many great collaborations have begun at Sherwood Oaks. Writers and directors have discovered composers for their soundtracks, producers have discovered new material and made valuable contacts, and actors at all career levels have discovered new paths to meeting producers and directors with whom to create lasting professional relationships. Furthermore, several of our students decide to work together on various projects, such as shorts, TV shows, and feature films, and we at Sherwood Oaks encourage such collaborations.
Do I have to apply to your school?
The “School” (formerly named Sherwood College) is more of a seminar type program as is more focused on people who want to become successful in Hollywood. Each seminar is usually two to three days. You can enroll in one seminar or even one day. But notice is always short, so make certain you are on our mailing list! 🙂
About a third of our students come from abroad such as Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, India, and China. We encourage their participation and have helped with VISA applications. Another third come from outside of LA and write in their spare time and have found Sherwood Oaks beneficial to grow their network. We have ideas on ways to look local but live out of the area. Our average student tends to be over 30 years old and working professionals such as doctors, attorneys, financiers, editors, or in high-technology and want to gain insight into the film business. They tend to be serious about wanting to succeed and so are we. We encourage you to par-take and find out what really happens behind the curtain.
Do you ever work with other groups?
Yes. We have worked with the Writer’s Store and ScreenwritingU. We also provided the guests for the screenwriting expo including
William Goldman, Shane Black, Nicholas Meyer, Mike Medavoy, Peter Guber
and others. This year we will be taking part in the Expo (and “A Day
After”) as well as The Show Biz Expo and the Knightstar Conference in June.
We also have worked with The Script Writers Network, SWG.
What other programs do you offer?
So how it that you have been able to accomplish all this?
After more than three and a half decades in this business, we’ve built up strong industry connections and allies. Some of those are a reflection of the significant successes of our many talented alumni. Some of our alumni include the likes of James Cameron, Dean Devlin, Matt Groening, Nancy Meyers, Tom Schulman, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Selleck, Jerry Zucker, and dozens of others. Former Sherwood Oaks students have been studio and network presidents directors of agencies, and guilds and have collectively won more than 15 Academy Awards, including three of the highest grossing films of all time.
I’ve been to several events where top industry professionals have appeared. So far the only individuals I’ve been able to connect with are others who are in the same situation as myself. Why would yours be of any greater help to me than they were?
It is important to distinguish the mere presence of an industry professional in a room from a situation in which that professional is accessible. For example, anyone can spot a celebrity across a crowded restaurant. But most of us know better than to walk up to that person in that moment and pitch a script in the middle of their lunch. It is the same for industry professionals at the events you are speaking of. They simply don’t have the time or desire to meet hundreds of audience members. This is why we keep our seminars small and intimate here at Sherwood Oaks. At our events you personally meet each and every player, and even more importantly, they meet you. Because of this, they almost always take material from the members of our group.
Can anyone sign up?
Yes, however, you must follow the proper protocol. We want this to be a win-win for students and our speakers. We strongly recommend having some experience in the film industry. But by attending a seminar, a person can gain great insight. If you are new in the industry, we recommend just listening and learning rather than asking questions in class initially. We strongly advise that students are over 21 years old although we have had younger students attend.
What is your philosophy of teaching and approach and how is it different?
We have a a business’ reputation for being fair, open, compassionate, inspirational, realistic, honest, and most importantly trustworthy. Credibility is measured on how trustworthy, honest, and reliable others think you will be. Credibility is built by always telling the truth, understanding weakness, being organized, being likable, having integrity and avoiding sending the wrong or desperate signals. We encourage all students to increase their credibility through being patient, persistent and pleasant. We want to see you succeed.
Hollywood is built on integrity, and without it, you don’t go far in Hollywood. And We are not just some school on the internet, we are A PART of Hollywood, so it’s important to us.
General Movie Industry
How do I know that someone will not steal my ideas?
Seems like a reasonable concern. However, the other students are interested in selling their own ideas. Plus, the most difficult thing is to write a great script. Ideas are easy to say but very difficult to execute since the writing tends to have flaws for example: sounding “forced,” or the character is weak, or the story falls apart in the third act, or a magnitude of other issues. For a production company, it makes more sense that the individual who cooked up the idea would tend to write it better than anyone else and so to those that matter, they want to read from the author. Your script must be copyrighted before you send it out to anyone. Also, it is recommended but not required to send it to the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Established Hollywood professionals are more afraid of getting sued by you, a novice writer/filmmaker then they are ever thinking of stealing ideas. Suing is not a good idea. Hollywood is built on trust which is something that Sherwood Oaks places a very high value.
Can anyone attend the Awards/Celebrity shows?
Yes. As a matter of fact, we have had groups fly in exclusively for the awards shows and we are also open to other groups who would like to participate at various times throughout the year. Please contact us if you are interested in having your group attend a show.
Who typically succeeds and makes it in Hollywood?
What is the biggest mistake newbies make in Hollywood?
Demanding someone do something like their script (for an hour or more) without giving something in return.
Just because someone has prestige and money does not mean that they should or can give it to you for free.
How to get someone's attention in Hollywood?
Give to their favorite charity. For example, if you give a $100 donation to Sherwood Oaks Film School then even the President will immediately give you a call and see if they can assist you. (just as 1 example) 🙂