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Screenwriting Class Hears First-Hand from Writer, Producer Norman Steinberg

Friday, March 29, 2013

Writer Norman Steinberg spoke to students in the Intermediate Screenwriting class. Photo | Christopher RolinsonPictured: Assistant Professor Steve Cuden and Norman Steinberg

Cinema and digital arts students had the invaluable opportunity to network with award-winning writer, producer and director Norman Steinberg. Assistant Professor Steve Cuden's Intermediate Screenwriting class welcomed Steinberg on March 19 in the GRW Theatre.

"I think it's great to hear from professional artists who have worked in the business," said Jessica Spencer, a senior majoring in cinema and digital arts. "Meeting someone like Norman Steinberg serves as a reminder that our desires to have a career in the industry aren't as far fetched as we probably think they are."

Some of Steinberg’s major credits as a screenwriter include Blazing Saddles, My Favorite Year and Johnny Dangerously. He is a member of the Directors Guild, Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild.

One of the most important lessons that Steinberg stressed to the group was to keep writing.

"If you want to be a writer, keep writing — write anything," he said.

To prove this point, Steinberg shared how a bit of persistence helped to land him his first job as a writer.

"I was a practicing attorney for several years and I did not like myself," he said. "I knew I wanted to be a writer, so every morning I would sit in a coffee shop in New York, where I knew Mel Brooks frequented, and I would pester him, 'I want to be a writer, I want to be a writer.'"

Steinberg continued his story, telling the group that Brooks' response to him came to the tune of, "leave me alone and be a lawyer."

Then came the day that changed his life.

"Mel came in the coffee shop and handed me a piece of paper with the name and number of one of the producers of Get Smart," he said. "I called the producer and was told to write and send a script. And here I am, years later — a writer."

Steinberg's next career endeavor led him to higher education. He has taught at the American Film Institute, Johns Hopkins University and is currently teaching at the TV Writers Studio, an M.F.A. program that he created at Long Island University.

"The essence of this two-year program is collaboration," he said. "Together the group of students will write a TV pilot."

Rebecca Edwards, a senior majoring in cinema and digital arts, said she hopes to write for a TV series in the future and hearing about the program in New York encouraged her to continue writing even after college.

Steinberg offered the group his final thoughts on the career field of screenwriting.

"There's a lot of competition, but being a writer is a nice way to go through life."

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