Hollywood LIT Retreat
Film panel at the 2013 Hollywood LIT Retreat.

Hollywood LIT Retreat: More than a breath of fresh air

by Scott Cherhoniak

Taking on the role of an aspiring young screenwriter, I couldn’t help but face the harsh realities of the industry I had chosen to pursue. The media emphasized “the implosion of the film market,” “lackluster ticket sales” and “outsourcing entertainment jobs.” I was overwhelmed at the task of how to make a living as a screenwriter, yet I kept reassuring myself if the great Hemingway plowed through fuming alcoholism and Fitzgerald pushed on past his dyslexia to succeed at writing, then maybe I could write my way beyond economic anxiety and hopefully overblown media forecasts and trust in changing tides.

Hollywood Lit Retreat

Lynn Isenberg and Scott Cherhoniak
Photos courtesy of Hollywood LIT Retreat

As puzzled and troubled as I was, it was during the day of my college graduation (a sign) that I luckily crossed paths with a spirited woman named Lynn Isenberg, founder of the Hollywood LIT RetreatThe LIT standing for “Literature. Intelligence. Technology.” The difficulty with finding paid writing and story analysis jobs during my senior year had begun to dilute my energy to write. I would find myself like a literary nomad wandering aimlessly from café to café, hoping that maybe caffeine would trigger a grand creative explosion. Clearly, my approach was astray. All I really needed was a splash of optimism from the industry itself and to understand what it takes to reach success.

My intrigue piqued as Lynn described her relaunch event for film and television writers, authors, producers, media financiers, digital publishers, and literary agents/managers all wanting to ear in on the future of storytelling. Understanding my desperation to find a way closer to my goals, she asked if I’d like to assist with the event and immediately I jumped at the opportunity.

David Madden

David Madden (above) / David Shore (right)

After three months of hard work and evangelizing around the city, the Hollywood LIT Retreat event finally kicked off featuring numerous notable speakers including David Madden, President of Fox TV Studios and David Shore, creator of House M.D. Shore’s personal inciting incident that led him down an unexpected path as a writer really struck a chord with me. Here is a writer and executive producer who resigned from a law firm, moved to Los Angeles, bought a computer, and just started writing. David ShoreAlthough Shore felt it was quite the risk, he emphasized a particular mentality to survive and thrive in his career. “If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna have to throw myself in the deep end of the pool… I wasn’t afraid to fail. I would’ve accepted failure… You have to write what you like and hope that’s what people will want to read,” Shore claimed. His uncanny yet gallant persona left an impression, helping reduce my economic anxiety.

Quantum Leap and The Net TV writer, Deborah Pratt, brought closing remarks of wisdom when she advised, “My favorite thing that I give to any storyteller is the child in you. If you can sit and tell me a story like I’m six years old… Hold me there on the edge of my seat with the hero you created and take us on a journey, then I feel like I’m doing my job as a storyteller.” As both Shore and Pratt reveal, having faith in your characters and writing choices can stir up excitement in your voice and capture the spirit of storytelling.

I could now feel optimism on my breath as the Hollywood LIT Retreat entered its final chapter for the evening. As David Madden added, “We are in a golden era of television.” Both Shore and Pratt had just sold new shows to the networks and no feature film media forecasts were stopping the likes of film panelists, Stephen Nemeth, President of Rhino Films or Jean-Luc DeFanti, Managing Partner at Hemisphere Capital Management, from finding creative and economic success with their films The Sessions and World War Z (respectively).

Being around other motivated writers is what truly instilled the essence of comfort in my soul to keep writing. Even more encouraging was that I could see these industryites communicating and thinking about story in new and inspired ways. With all of this knowledge and shared wisdom, the thought of a media-hyped crippled film industry no longer intimidates me. And if traditional studios do collapse, it won’t matter. I will be honing my skills, building relationships, and creating my own writing opportunities with creativity and sanguinity at the helm.

To top it off, Lynn just landed a TV pilot and I am now grateful to be taking on the role of a writer’s assistant. Through my involvement with the Hollywood LIT Retreat, I also had the opportunity to serve as a production assistant on the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Square. For an aspiring writer and filmmaker, faith and diving into the unknown are paying off.

Scott Cherhoniak

About Scott Cherhoniak

Scott Cherhoniak is a young screenwriter from the wooded hills of Vermont. If there is a log cabin for writing in L.A. that just happens to have maple syrup and Vermont cheddar, please let him know.

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