"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime." - Mark Twain
The great American writer’s admonition to his fellow Americans resonates stronger than ever today, when increased isolation and a rise in nativism threaten to tear the global fabric asunder. Writers, who should be the most adventurous of all creative spirits, sometimes forget their responsibility as citizens of the world—and none more than screenwriters, too often constrained by an industry notorious for its tunnel vision.
Observational skills are the most
important thing in any writer’s arsenal of techniques. And no place offers a
better chance to develop and refine those skills than the island of Cuba, with
its vibrant colors and generous citizens and its rich
cultural and political history. This people-to-people cultural exchange in
Havana includes daily excursions through this storied city, where specific
experiences meeting the Cuban people form the basis for writing exercises
designed to improve participants’ own stories by their immersion into
unfamiliar settings and situations.
Our home for the week is Converto Santa Brigida, a beautifully restored convent in the heart of Old Havana, one block from Plaza Vieja. Featuring simple but comfortable accommodations with private bathrooms, light-filled group meeting spaces, a breakfast room, a library, a chapel, and Italian nuns as our lovely hosts, the convent provides a serene base to return to after our daily adventures in bustling Havana and the nearby countryside.
Participants are assigned a work of fiction or non-fiction for adaptation during the course of this educational program. Subject matter (TBD) is focused on Cuban and Latin American stories and themes. The climax of our week together is our shared presentations of completed 10-20 page opening acts. Over the course of the workshop, participants join with Kirk in dialogues on structure and the elements that make up a good screenplay, as well as practical lessons in how to frame a story for today’s marketplace. We are treated to guest lectures by prominent Cuban screenwriters and we also take advantage of the concurrent Havana Film Festival to broaden our understanding of Latin America cinema and its creators.
Only by exposure to other cultures, other customs—other ways of seeing—can screenwriters fully hone their craft. Movies and television programs reach a wider audience than any other single art form, and with them comes a responsibility to reflect the full spectrum of human experience and to illuminate the human heart in both light and darkness. The best screenwriters, regardless of origin, have always been essentially humanists. It’s what makes their work survive and continue to resonate
True to the requirements of a people-to-people General License with U.S.
Treasury Department, our programs in Cuba focus on educational
exchanges with the Cuban people and learning about their fascinating lives.