Right writing for film 

A panel discussion looks at the role of words in film

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Leslie Anthony learned to use a video camera 30,000 feet in the air, flying towards Southeast Asia on a writing assignment.

"I said to my friend who worked for the Discovery Channel, 'I'm going to Vietnam.' And she was like, 'Oh you need to take a camera.' They pressed the video camera I had never used before into my hands and I read the manual on the 24-hour plane ride over. Then I spent six weeks in the jungle gathering footage," Anthony recalls.

The result was Vietnam, a Discovery channel mini-series and one of several film projects Anthony has worked on while continuing to pen books and write and edit for magazines. While he already had the chops to craft his script, often, burgeoning filmmakers face the opposite obstacle: they possess technical skills, but struggle with writing.

The Whistler Readers and Writers Festival will take on this topic of writing and film in a panel discussion that Anthony will moderate this weekend."I think it's a timely idea because of the democratization of filmmaking. There are a lot more people doing it now," he says. "You're almost instantly aware when there's no writing involved in the conception of it. You're like, 'This is a great film, great visuals, but there's no threads holding this together, there's no sense of storytelling or there's a fumbling, awkward sense of story telling done post-hoc by someone with no clear idea how to weave it together.'"

The panel, which includes fiction writers, webisode developers, scriptwriters and photographers, will discuss how writing fits into their own work, raising questions about whether words or visuals are more important, how background experience factors in and how they have progressed over the spans of their careers.

"It's more of a developmental kind of workshop, a panel discussion. It's (examining) the key elements of telling a good story through film," says Stella Harvey, festival founder and director. "If it's well received we could see expanding into a workshop where people would have hands on (training)."

Another topic Anthony hopes to tackle during the session: What makes a writer, a writer? "Everyone thinks they're a writer because everyone writes," he says. "We're not allowed to leave school until we write something. Often people figure, 'Well, I can write enough to do this. All I really need to do here is get my idea down on paper in a way that I can turn into a visual story.' And that's not true."

That can be especially evident in action sports films, where dialogue isn't always the main draw. "So many good action sports films would be excellent if someone would have taken the time to involve a writer," he says. "You see these attempts to build some kind of storyline into it and then it falls off a cliff. You realize they just don't know how to do it."

Hear more of the discussion at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Sunday at 1p.m. Tickets are available at www.theviciouscircle.ca.

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