Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hollywood Screenwriter Lew Hunter

Excerpt of Interview with Lew Hunter 

Lew is one of the successful Nebraska authors included in my upcoming book with working title Successful Living Nebraska Authors.

Lew and Pamela’s hospitality welcomes new talent into their Victorian home to aspiring screenwriters. Lew’s best selling book at the center of his teaching style continues as a textbook for screenwriting classes at UCLA and internationally. Lew himself has traveled to many countries teaching his method. Lew's students hold innumerable national and international awards. Lew defines his book and technique as a ‘how to’ approach.

Pamela’s work as host to their guests at their Superior Victorian homes glues the experience for participants into a complete package.

Lew Hunter’s career in media began in the mid 1950’s while still attending Nebraska Wesleyan College in Lincoln, NE. His resume’ in TV and film from writing for television, screenwriting, producing, directing and other publications pale next to the man’s zest for life and the Lew who is Lew.

In early correspondence through email and over the telephone, I warned Lew that I don’t interview as most other interviewers he may be used to. I work on the premise that no work is without the person behind it, inside of it and who puts it out in front of the world.

With a few pre-interview chats and research of Lew’s website, Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434, and reading an article by Leo Adam Biga, I sent four questions to Lew and Pamela. We agreed to a telephone interview to take place on May 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm based on four questions. 

Lew, you seem to have a strong sense of hospitality and friendship. Where does that come from?

I figured out a way to answer this question by repeating to you the Ten Commandments of Screenwriting by Tom Shadyec, a big comedy director with Evan Almighty and The Nutty Professor with Eddy Murphy. The first thing he did was Ace Ventura Pet Detective that he also co-wrote.

He was in my class, and he was the youngest writer on Bob Hope’s staff. I asked the class to write their impression of Lajos Egri. He came back with Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing. He sent me this, which wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but turned out to be better than what I was looking for. He starts out,

            One late night as writer’s block set in, my savior Lajos Egri spoke to me from a burning box of erasable bond so that I might know his laws.
·        1. The following commandments shall be carved in stone to discourage any revision. Thou shall love the lord thy god Conflict as thyself.
·        2. Thou shall not have false gods: plot, dialogue, or storyline before character.
·        3. Thou shall not steal, but thou may borrow and make it thine own.
·        4. Thou shall not kill character with stereotypes, shallowness, or two-dimensionality
·        5. Thou shall not commit adulltry sic, for as the great Prophet Lew Hunterious has said after me “the greatest sin of art it dullness.”
·        6. Thou shall not lie. That’s what agents are for.
·        7. Thou shall keep thy premise wholly.
·        8. Thou shall honor thy father and mother for it is from them that one learns about oneself that from oneself all art emanates.
·        9. Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself or this will cause conflict, the source of all drama, with thy neighbor’s husband.
·        10. Thou shall keep the Sabbath unless thou has a deadline.

Boy, oh boy, those are all in their own way total truths, the ten truths in terms of screenwriting, and storytelling.

“Thou shall honor thy father and mother for it is from them that one learns about oneself that from oneself all art emanates.” It’s certainly, in answer to your question, I have to give that to my parents. My father, known as the nicest and the strongest man in Webster County, Nebraska; I thought it would be a hell of a burden for me to bear as I am an only child. It wasn’t any problem, he was just so adorable and such a tremendous role model.

My mother, on the other hand, was hell on wheels. She turned out to be the most powerful person in Nebraska in the late forties or early fifties. She was the chairperson of the Republican Central Committee, which picked all the senators, governors, congressmen and so forth, in her day.

She was a musician and graduated when very few women graduated from the University of Nebraska. She graduated with a major in music an emphasis on the violin; then went on to the New England Conservatory of Music to get what today we know as a Master’s degree.

When she came back, my father proposed to her. She said; “I’ll be your bride if I can get two things. One, I want running water in the house,” which meant she wanted indoor plumbing as he was a farmer. Number two, she didn’t want to have to raise chickens because she didn’t want to step in whatever chickens leave behind. He said that would be fine. She spent her life as a not so simple farmwoman who taught music to probably everybody in the area, piano specifically and of course violin.