A Tale of Two Screenwriters

2013-2014 Issue 2

When the McGill Writing Centre offered a course titled ‘Introduction to Scriptwriting for Television and Film’ last winter, it resulted in an intimate classroom of students with very different backgrounds.

Among them were Jonathan Forrest Lefebvre, a former film student, and Paolo Mazza, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from McGill. Despite their diverse backgrounds, both got exactly what they wanted from the course.

“I have a background in film making, but it focused on production rather than screenwriting” says Lefebvre. “There are a few scriptwriting classes out there, teaching the usual 3-act plot line. But what I wanted was a course that was tied to the industry.”

He got it thanks to course instructor Michael Leo Donovan, a veteran scriptwriter with over 200 produced television episodes to his name. Donovan’s classes alternate between writing workshops and insider information on what it takes to launch and sustain a successful scriptwriting career.

“I liked that the teacher was a professional working in the industry, because I wanted to learn more about how to work as a screenwriter in Montreal,” says Lefebvre. “How the process works, from the idea of the project to actually writing it and submitting it to various producers and studios. Michael is very open to talking about the choices he’s made. He’s willing to help us, and he’s someone I look up to. You can trust his opinion.”

Mazza was looking for similar guidance, despite having a very different academic background. Despite 15 years’ experience in the engineering industry, “I always wanted to take a screenwriting course. It’s a way to express my creative side, and I had an idea I wanted to work on.”

Sharing that idea, however, can be intimidating. “It’s very personal to you, and it’s scary to share it. But Michael did a great job making everyone feel super comfortable expressing yourself. My favourite part of the class was reading what I wrote; I’d get excited to present my ideas, get feedback, and go back to the drawing board.”

Like Lefebvre, he believes that many scriptwriting courses present the same content, which makes the teacher all that more important. “Michael is a great teacher: super-knowledgeable, approachable, and likeable,” he says. “It’s a great course for beginners and experienced screenwriters.”

Both former students are working hard on their scripts, writing on the side whenever they get the chance. “I’m still writing, still getting experience,” says Lefebvre, “and I want to write my own feature at some point.”

Introduction to Scriptwriting for Television and Film‘ is offered by the McGill Writing Centre.

Jonathan Lefebvre directing his short film 'The Grand Slam.'

Jonathan Forrest Lefebvre directing his short film ‘The Grand Slam.’

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