Kurt Voelker Reveals Secrets For Hollywood Hits

Screenwriter breaks down essence of successful scripts

March 2, 2022

Despite its virtual format, screenwriter Kurt Voelker gave a fantastic presentation to students on how to write a successful screenplay for LitFest.

Voelker started off the presentation talking about himself and his profession. As he spoke about the accomplishments of his career, his passionate persona intrigued me and the audience. He got his start when he was hired at CBS Films as an assistant. Here his passion for film grew, and now he is a professional screenwriter and producer who has worked with many famous companies including Paramount, MTV and even Disney. 

He continued by explaining the importance of taking writing classes if you were interested in a career as a writer. He also recommended writing internships, so students could receive real world experience. He stressed these two things to show students that practice is really the key to improving your writing skills. 

With his real-world experience, Voelker is painfully aware of the cost and labor that goes into making a movie, so when he is writing a script he knows it needs to be good. 

To give concrete and likely familiar examples of what makes good writing to students, he broke down scenes from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” In the scene where Harry Potter is first invited to the wizarding school Hogwarts, he praised the writer’s use of comedy and drama to keep it interesting.

As he broke down Harry Potter, he went around the class asking questions and keeping students laughing and engaged. He frequently made an effort to get students involved in what he was teaching and why he was teaching it. 

He made a point to describe why some scenes in movies are more difficult to write than others. For example, fighting scenes are easy because there is little dialogue, while on the other hand writing everyday conversations are the most difficult because it is hard making the dialogue flow in a natural way.

Another notable moment was when he explained reversals. For example, Harry Potter first encountered the character Hagrid as a 10-foot-tall man busting down his door, but when Hagrid stepped into the room he was very sweet and immediately apologized. He explained that these types of reversals can also be used as comic relief and the more a movie is filled with reversals the better. 

Voelker’s light attitude and funny personality made this presentation enjoyable to watch for all of the students sitting in. We were intrigued in what we were learning and were focused on the teacher instead of the friends and distractions that surrounded them. 

In past years that I have attended LitFest, I constantly tried to find something to distract me while the presenter talked. But with Voelker, I not only learned something new, but I enjoyed doing it. Voelker’s workshop was  the most entertaining and interesting one I have been in. It would be a mistake to not invite him back to the future year’s LitFest. 

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