Arrive Thursday, March 28 and depart Wednesday, April 3, 2024–Semana Santa Experience
What makes a good story? And how do we translate that to a movie or television? We might say: That show has a good story line, or I love those characters (or not), or The plot is unbelievable (as in, either amazing or false). A story is a simple thing – someone wants something, and someone or something stands in their way. The purpose of storytelling is to give meaning and to express wonder. It’s the emotion and empathy that you personally put into a story that makes it compelling. We have created this workshop to provide you with tools to develop and tell a worthy story, and then to pitch it to those who might produce it. This is the perfect opportunity to take a novel, short story, a work of fiction or creative non-fiction, documentary, and personal essay, and begin to turn it into a screenplay worthy of viewing in a movie or on television. Through personal coaching, learning sessions, and group feedback, you will gain the skills to create structure, plot, and formatting.
Whether you are interested in writing a TV pilot, a feature film, a short film, a documentary film, or a work of literary fiction, knowing your core concept and message, and developing fully realized three-dimensional characters is essential to the ultimate success – however long that may take – of a writing project. We will help you get there.
Meet your instructor: Harry Werksman
Harry Werksman is a veteran screenwriter who promises that you will participate in a free-spirited, free-wheeling exchange of ideas, sprinkled with creative writing exercises, that are designed to warm up your writing engine. If you are an experienced writer and need encouragement and feedback, this is the place for you. If you have always wanted to write a screenplay and you consider yourself a novice, we can offer you a solid path from which you can pursue your dream. All experience levels welcome.
Werksman has worked in the entertainment industry as a writer-producer for many years. He has been nominated for two Emmys, one Golden Globe, one Saturn Award, one People’s Choice Award and three Writer’s Guild Awards (WGA). He has won a WGA Award for GREY’S ANATOMY, a Golden Globe for UGLY BETTY, and won both a People’s Choice Award and a Saturn Award for MOONLIGHT. Other credits include: EON-4, STAR TREK: DS9, EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT, FARSCAPE, THE INVISIBLE MAN, DEATHLANDS: HOMEWARD BOUND, VERITAS: THE QUEST, FINAL FANTASY XV and CASTLE.
In addition, Harry is a seasoned instructor! He has taught for The American Film Institute, UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, New York Film School, The Institute for British and Irish Studies (Oxford University), New York University, and more. Harry holds the B.A. from Northwestern University, and master’s degree from New College, Oxford University, England.
And now, after nearly 30 years in the industry, he’s left Los Angeles for the wind-swept, wide-open spaces of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He continues to write and teach – acting as the Lead Instructor for the Southwest School of Story Telling’s summer film camp for high school students; has earned a master’s certificate from University of New Mexico and the Santa Fe Watershed Association in climate change; and has begun to seriously explore the world of documentary filmmaking.
How Travel Boosts Creativity: Why Write in Oaxaca
Harry tells us that by traveling, we look at the world through an entirely different lens and connect with the greatest of all Muses, Nature. He notes that many of his most creative thoughts come when he least expects them, when he has taken his mind off the challenges he faces, even for a brief time.
He says, In this space, far away from the demands of everyday, competing, and conflicting thoughts, frustrations melt away. Eliminating external distractions allows my mind to relax. I can contemplate my ideas and understand the emotions and motivations I’m trying to convey through words. This is when the magic happens.
Think about Kerouac’s On the Road, Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, Chopin’s Winter Wind: all these incredible pieces were inspired by travel. Finding inspiration in a creative field can prove difficult, with many experiencing a form of writer’s block. Often, the solution is as simple as going somewhere new and having new experiences. In these new surroundings, you may experience a renewed inspiration to get you going again. You may even enter a ‘flow state,’ in which you completely lose yourself in your work and complete a creative project without even trying!
By immersing yourself in a foreign environment, you are helping to strengthen the neurons that like to make connections, solve problems, and embrace new ideas. This will feed into your work, with your new surroundings, offering inspiration.
Location: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico
We are based in the famed tapestry weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, located about forty minutes outside of Oaxaca city, where there are 2,000 looms and artisans create award-winning floor rugs and wall-hangings . Here, in a retreat-like setting, we are based in a lovely, small bed and breakfast inn within steps of the 17th century church and pre-Hispanic Zapotec temple and archeological site. Walking trails and cobblestone streets attest to an ancient culture more than 8,000 years old. Up the road, about seven miles from the village, native corn was first hybridized 12,000 years ago. We will be there over Semana Santa Easter celebrations rooted in syncretism – Spanish Catholicism and ancient mystical-spiritual traditions. Being here allows us to immerse ourselves in rituals, observances, meet locals, and retreat into a world of creative inspiration.
What the Workshop Includes
- Expert instruction and private coaching session
- Lodging at an excellent bed and breakfast inn
- 6 breakfasts
- 3 lunches
- 4 dinners, including Gala Grand Finale Dinner
- Mezcal tasting
- Guided visits to local artisans
- Participation at Semana Santa Procession
- Dance of the Old Men enactment
- Transportation that is part of the itinerary
- Support for a student scholarship at the Oaxaca Learning Center
The workshop does not include alcoholic beverages, tips, transportation to/from the airport or city to the workshop location, airfares to/from Oaxaca.
Preliminary Program: March 28-April 3, 2024 – Seven days, six nights
Day 1: Thursday, March 28. Please arrive to our Teotitlan del Valle lodging by 4 p.m. to check in. 6 pm welcome reception and supper. Sign up for individual coaching sessions with the instructor. (D)
Day 2: Friday, March 29. Breakfast is at 8 am, followed by a morning session that includes discussion about What is a story? What is a script? This includes a deep dive into format, structure, plotting and the process of scripting for TV, film, short, documentary. You will begin to develop a Concept Document and Character Thumbnails. 11:30 am lunch. Noon break to join the village Semana Santa procession. Afternoon individual consults with instructor and free time. 6 pm Mezcal Tasting followed by dinner. (B, L, D)
Day 3: Saturday, March 30. Breakfast is at 8 am., followed by a morning session to explore the Who, What, Where, and When of a good story. The Why will not be given – you will start your project by teasing out Why this story is important, valuable, meaningful. Through readings and feedback, you’ll better understand what works, what doesn’t, challenges, areas of difficulty and areas for improvement. You’ll continue to work on Concept Document and Character Thumbnails to ensure you are reaching your intended goal. Lunch is at noon, followed by individual coaching sessions, free time to write. We meet at 4 pm to visit a master weaver before dinner. (B, L, D)
Day 4: Sunday, March 31. Breakfast begins at 8 am followed by our morning workshop session that focuses on the “Character To Do List.” We all make lists: errands to run, groceries we need, holiday gifts to buy, project milestones to hit. We will use this format to explore character as part of the script. And, we will continue to write Concept Document and Character Thumbnails. Lunch is at noon. Then, it’s writing, free time, and personal coaching sessions. Dinner is at 6:30 pm. (B, D)
Day 5, Monday, April 1. After breakfast, our session will focus on The Writer’s Room, by experiencing how this group format advances the project. We will collectively craft a single scene either from one of the concepts pitched or of our own that will represent the core scene of a potential story. A Writers Room is where the writers pitch, brainstorm, and workshop ideas together. A collaboration, the group can vary from several to more than a dozen people. How they operate depends on the executive producer/show runner or their top lieutenants. This is where script ideas are born and polished for production. After lunch, we move into personal writing time, free time, and individual coaching sessions with the instructor. At 4 pm, we walk to the plaza to witness the Dance of the Old Men. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. and on your own. (B, L)
Day 6, Tuesday, April 2. After breakfast we meet again from 9 am to Noon. Each participant will make a presentation to the group of their Individual Concept Documents and Character Thumbnails, to receive feedback, reactions, suggestions, identify areas of difficulty and improvement. This feedback will be the basis for the final rewrite on your own after lunch. At 4 pm we will meet local artisans who will present and discuss their work. We gather at 6:30 pm for a Reading and Celebratory Grand Finale Dinner. (B, D)
Day 7, Wednesday, April 3. Breakfast is included on your departure day. We are happy to help you arrange transportation (at your own expense) to the airport or to the city if you choose to extend your stay. (B)
Note: During the personal coaching sessions, each participant will be scheduled to meet for one hour with Harry Werksman. There will be opportunities, too, to meet for informal chats, answer questions, or help break up a creative/mental log jams that hold up the creative process.
(Itinerary subject to change at our discretion.)
Note: You can add days on to the tour — arrive early or stay later — at your own expense. We also suggest you arrive a day early (your own hotel expense) to avoid any unforeseen flight delays.
Cost to Participate
- $2,695 shared double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
- $3,295 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)
Reservations and Cancellations. A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your place. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before November 1, 2023. The third payment, 50% balance, is due on or before January 5, 2024. We accept payment using Zelle, Venmo, PayPal or Square. For a Zelle transfer, there is no service fee. We add a 3.5% service fee to use Venmo, PayPal or Square. We will send you a request for funds to make your deposit when you tell us you are ready to register. (We need details on how your account is registered to make the request.)
After January 5, 2024, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before January 5, 2024, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date (less the $500 non-refundable deposit). After that, there are no refunds UNLESS we cancel for any reason. If we cancel, you will receive a full 100% refund.*
Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Check out Forbes Magazine for best travel insurance options. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/travel-insurance/best-travel-insurance/
Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.
COVID-19 Precautions. We trust that you are fully vaccinated and take all precautions when traveling, including mask-wearing in airports and on airplanes. Thank you.
We ask that you test two days before traveling to the tour, and that you inform us if the results are positive. Please bring 4 self-tests with you. We ask that you do a self-test 48 hours after arrival and then periodically thereafter if you feel you have been exposed. Face masks are strongly suggested for van travel, densely populated market visits, and artisan visits that are held indoors. We ask this to keep all travelers safe, and to protect indigenous populations who are at higher risk.
Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico! It’s a Mexico requirement.