How to Write a Story Like Everybody’s Going to Listen

Posted on: by Sara Akhteh

Recently I did volunteer work with The Young Storytellers Foundation, which is a volunteer program where industry professionals offer their time for 8 weeks to help elementary students discover the power of their own voice through screenwriting. I offered my services as an MFA and screenwriter, however, that’s not what they were interested in. My only mission, they said, was to boost confidence. Additionally, our Master Mentor advised us that we were not, under any circumstances, allowed to help write the screenplay; I was there simply to ask questions to help guide their stories in the right direction. The student assigned to me had a handicap, which was brought to my attention privately after class by the Master Mentor – he asked if I could handle it. Of course I said I could. Here’s a kid who is old enough to comprehend that he is different than his student counterparts, but young enough to not fully understand all the hinderances associated with his handicap. I took my role as the “confidence booster” very seriously…every idea my student came up with, I reacted with the most enthusiasm I could muster. BUT, I wasn’t faking it. As it turned out, my student was a phenomenal storyteller! He put me (and a lot of my fellow grad students from USC film school) to complete shame!  His story premise:  twin brothers Timmy and Jimmy who inadvertently transport themselves into Dino Land by pressing the wrong button on a time machine.

At the end of the day, at our final show (where professional actors acted out our short screenplays) – my student had a huge hit with the audience. When the audience clapped out load at the end of his presentation, I knew he would remember this moment for the rest of his life. I knew, in many ways, it would define the kind of man he would grow up to be. And on my drive home after the big show, I contemplated why storytelling on any level is so important: it’s because it empowers the writer/Creator to define his/her voice, and more importantly, to show/teach/enlighten others with a different perspective. Additionally, it allows the Creator and the audience to be connected by an experience unlike anything else.

Keep on creating!! Sara

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Written by Sara Akhteh

Sara Akhteh received her MFA from USC's School of Cinematic Arts, with an emphasis in Production. Since graduating Sara has worked on such films as The Social Network, Water for Elephants, Argo, and much more. She is currently at Sony Pictures working in Studio Finance.

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