Frequently Asked Questions



About Sherwood Oaks

What do you mean by 'exclusive level of access' to industry professional guests? How are you different than other schools?

We provide exclusive access to industry professionals for two compelling reasons:

Established in 1971, we hold the distinction of being the oldest ‘entertainment industry’ school, predating renowned institutions like UCLA and USC. Over the span of 50 years, we have meticulously nurtured robust connections with industry professionals who entrust us with students recognized for their unwavering commitment and exceptional talent in screenwriting, directing, and acting.

Our esteemed alumni, boasting names such as James Cameron, Dean Devlin, Matt Groening, Nancy Meyers, Sylvester Stallone, and acclaimed screenwriting teachers Syd Field, Michael Hauge, and Robert McKee, serve as testaments to our enduring success.

What distinguishes us is our unwavering commitment to small class sizes. In contrast to other ‘industry’ schools, we meticulously design courses with an extremely limited number of students. Whether in intimate gatherings of 18 creatives or larger groups with multiple guest speakers, we prioritize fostering meaningful interactions between students and industry professionals.

Our unique Close Encounters format, where students engage in table conversations with guest speakers, ensures a personalized experience. In our courses, even emerging or undiscovered writers have the rare opportunity for face-to-face meetings with industry professionals, making our educational approach truly exceptional.

I’ve been to several events where top industry professionals have appeared. So far the only individuals I’ve been able to connect with are others in the audience. Why would your courses be of any different or more helpful to me?

It is crucial to differentiate the mere presence of an industry professional in a room from a situation in which that professional is truly accessible. For instance, recognizing a celebrity across a crowded restaurant is one thing, but most individuals understand the impracticality of approaching them during their lunch to pitch a script. Similarly, industry professionals at the events you mention often lack the time or inclination to engage with hundreds of audience members.

This rationale underscores why we prioritize small and intimate seminars at Sherwood Oaks. In our events, you have the opportunity to personally meet each participant, and more significantly, they have the chance to meet you. This personalized approach significantly enhances the likelihood of professionals taking an interest in the material presented by members of our group.

Who are the guests? How do I personally interact with them?

Producers, executives, directors, story editors, screenwriters, and actors—accomplished professionals spanning various facets of the entertainment industry. Some students opt for a full year of courses to maximize their face-to-face interactions with our esteemed guests, enhancing their chances for success.

Consider enrolling in the course, “The Screenwriter’s Experience.” Picture yourself joining a gathering of a dozen writers in a studio or conference room on an early Monday morning. A Hollywood executive enters, engaging in an interactive conversation about their production company with the group. Depending on their schedule, this insightful discussion may last between 30 to 60 minutes. Following this, another executive enters to share insights into what their production company seeks in a new script.

Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to meet up to five executive guests each day. These guests willingly accept a one-sheet from any student desiring to present one, regardless of whether the student has agent representation.

By the week’s conclusion, you and your fellow writers will have personally met and shared your material with 25-30 different executives from renowned production companies. We consider that a truly successful week!

I’ve heard that you sometimes have the heads of very successful companies as guests. Does that really happen?

Certainly. In fact, twice a year, we host an exclusive event known as “Meetings With Executives.” This week-long program is precisely as it sounds—an opportunity for direct meetings with influential industry executives.

During this unique experience, students get the chance to present their material to top-tier executives, a rare and invaluable opportunity for emerging talents. The essence of these meetings is not only to foster connections but also to facilitate a genuine exchange of ideas and insights.

Our roster of past guests boasts luminaries such as Mark Gill, Bill Mechanic, Mike Medavoy, David Permut, Larry Mark, along with the Presidents of Warner Bros., Revolution Studios, Radar Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions, Ridley Scott Productions, Lakeshore Entertainment, and Tom Cruise’s CW Productions.

These executives not only share their wealth of knowledge but also actively engage with students, providing constructive feedback and valuable industry perspectives. The impact of these meetings extends beyond the immediate networking opportunities; it often leads to mentorship, collaborations, and, in some cases, project partnerships.

Our commitment to creating a platform where industry leaders directly connect with emerging talent sets us apart. It’s a testament to our dedication to nurturing the next generation of entertainment industry professionals.

What kind of courses do you offer with literary agents and managers?

We present a week-long “Meeting with Literary Agents and Managers” course, providing students with invaluable face-to-face interactions with 25-30 esteemed agents and managers. Held in an intimate setting, these classes foster a conducive environment for relaxed conversations between our students and distinguished industry guests.

Notably, our guests readily accept material from our students, contributing to a significant number of students securing representation during and after participating in these courses. To ensure you don’t miss out on these exclusive opportunities, make sure to be on our mailing list. Given the high demand, these classes fill up swiftly when we announce them, underscoring the exceptional value our students find in these immersive experiences.

I’m already an established writer, why should I attend?

The film industry undergoes continuous evolution, demanding industry professionals, be it writers, directors, producers, or others, to remain consistently informed about emerging trends and cultivate new connections. If your scripts face challenges in finding buyers, participating in industry events offers a unique opportunity to extract valuable insights for enhancing their viability in today’s dynamic media landscape. Moreover, these engagements provide a platform to connect with influential contacts who can propel your career to new heights. Stay ahead in the ever-changing entertainment landscape by actively participating in events that offer both knowledge and networking opportunities.

I’m not a screenwriter but I’ve heard great things about your school. Can I attend?

Absolutely, our doors are open to any industry professional or aspiring individual eager to participate. Sherwood Oaks serves as a fertile ground for meaningful collaborations, fostering connections that often lead to remarkable projects. Writers and directors, for instance, have found talented composers for their soundtracks, while producers have uncovered fresh material and established invaluable contacts. Actors at various career stages have discovered new avenues to connect with producers and directors, laying the foundation for enduring professional relationships.

Sherwood Oaks is not just a learning hub but a catalyst for creative partnerships. Many of our students opt to collaborate on diverse projects, ranging from shorts and TV shows to feature films. We actively endorse and encourage such collaborations, recognizing the profound impact they have in nurturing creativity and fostering a supportive community within the entertainment industry. Join us in creating an environment where collaborative endeavors flourish and professional relationships are forged.

What is your philosophy of teaching and learning? How is it unique?

We pride ourselves on maintaining a business reputation characterized by fairness, openness, compassion, inspiration, realism, honesty, and above all, trustworthiness. Credibility is the cornerstone of our ethos, gauged by how others perceive our trustworthiness, honesty, and reliability. Upholding credibility involves consistently telling the truth, understanding vulnerabilities, maintaining organization, cultivating likability, and avoiding any signals that may be perceived as incorrect or desperate.

We actively encourage all students to enhance their credibility by embodying qualities such as patience, persistence, and approachability. Your success is paramount to us, and we are committed to providing an environment that fosters personal and professional growth.

In Hollywood, integrity is the bedrock upon which success is built. Without it, one’s journey in Hollywood is limited. As an integral part of Hollywood ourselves, we underscore the significance of integrity within our institution. We are not just an online school; we are woven into the fabric of Hollywood, and maintaining the industry’s standards is of utmost importance to us. Your journey with us is not just about education; it’s about aligning with the principles that define success in the heart of the entertainment industry.

What is a Sherwood Oaks course experience really like?

Consider this a rare opportunity to host a major industry player for dinner. Just as you would welcome a guest into your home, we create a relaxed, intimate atmosphere for our high-profile guests. This setting allows them to share insights about themselves, discuss their perspectives, and delve into their roles in Hollywood while offering valuable advice for our writers.

A skilled facilitator guides the conversation, orchestrating students’ questions to ensure everyone benefits maximally from the seminar. In the spirit of fostering a positive experience, we kindly request our students to refrain from pitching their stories to guests unless specifically invited to do so. This protocol has enabled us to attract some of the most sought-after industry players in Hollywood, earning us a hard-won reputation for having the most intelligent and respectful students.

Each student, however, will have the unique opportunity to share a one-sheet with every guest. So, come prepared with plenty of copies to make the most of this exclusive networking experience.

Who attends your courses?

Approximately one-third of our diverse student body hails from abroad, representing countries like Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, India, and China. We actively encourage their participation and extend support in navigating VISA applications, facilitating a seamless integration into our dynamic community.

Another third of our students, residing outside of Los Angeles, engage in writing during their spare time and have found Sherwood Oaks to be instrumental in expanding their network. We have developed innovative approaches for those seeking to connect locally while living beyond the geographical confines of the area.

Our typical student profile leans towards working professionals, with an average age surpassing 30. They come from diverse fields such as medicine, law, finance, editing, and high-technology, seeking profound insights into the intricacies of the film business. Committed to success, both our students and our institution share a sincere dedication to the journey ahead.

We invite you to participate and unravel the mysteries that lie behind the curtain, providing a unique opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of the film industry.

Do I have to apply to your school?

The ‘school,’ formerly known as Sherwood Oaks Experimental College, takes a unique approach by offering individual seminar-type courses throughout the year rather than a conventional long-term college enrollment experience with a mandatory curriculum.

Tailored for individuals aspiring to succeed in the entertainment industry, each of our courses is available for individual purchase. Typically spanning two to three days, these courses involve several hours of engagement each day.

With courses frequently scheduled with only three to four weeks’ notice, we highly recommend signing up for our newsletter. This ensures you receive immediate updates whenever a new course is scheduled, providing you with timely information and exclusive opportunities to enhance your skills and insights in the dynamic realm of the entertainment industry.

How can I get involved in your courses and classes?

Due to the demanding schedules of our teachers and guest speakers, our classes are not scheduled with much advance notice—usually about three weeks prior. This makes it absolutely imperative for you to sign up for our mailing list.

When we are on the verge of scheduling a course, we reach out to EVERYONE on our mailing list, operating on a first-come, first-serve basis. Given that our classes are intentionally small, they tend to fill up rapidly.

Upon scheduling a session, you can conveniently enroll via our website using PayPal or opt to send a check by regular mail. Feel free to contact us at any time for additional information about our classes; we are here to assist you in navigating your educational journey in the entertainment industry.

Can anyone sign up for courses?

Certainly, you are welcome to attend our courses, provided you follow the appropriate registration procedure and adhere to our protocol guidelines. We aim for a mutually beneficial experience for both students and speakers.

While not mandatory, we recommend that attendees possess some experience in the film industry or as a writer to fully appreciate the content. Attending a course can significantly enhance one’s insight into the industry and their own talents.

For those new to the industry, we encourage initially observing and absorbing the content before actively participating in class discussions. Although we strongly advise students to be over 21 years old, we have had younger students attend with success. Our goal is to create an inclusive and enriching learning environment for all participants.

Some of the registration fees are a little out of my range? What can I do?

We frequently provide a work-study program for many of our classes, allowing individuals to contribute in various capacities to lower the fees. Responsibilities may include office paperwork, writing tasks, assisting with booking conference rooms at studios, and working in our warehouse. Additionally, we are seeking individuals to help with student transportation in a van through carpooling.

For more detailed information on the work-study program, please email us via our contact page email form, expressing your interest.

To make our courses more accessible, we strive to offer a yearly course with a nominal $99 registration fee, typically presented in our Rotating Roundtable format. Stay informed by signing up for our newsletter to be the first to receive updates on these affordable course offerings.

This all sounds almost too good to be true. Why is it you’re not more well known?

Our top priority is maintaining a small, intimate atmosphere in our seminars, which is why we prefer to keep our advertising low-key. We trust that the appropriate, high-quality students will discover us and appreciate participating in our seminars alongside like-minded professionals.

It’s worth noting that Sherwood Oaks has received honorable mentions in publications such as Syd Field, Michael Hauge, Skip Press, K. Callan, Creative Screenwriting, The Los Angeles Times, and People Magazine. These mentions underscore the recognition we’ve earned in the industry.

As a non-profit organization, our mission extends beyond financial gains. We are driven by our love for the industry and the desire to contribute to its continuity, ensuring that future generations will have the opportunity to engage and thrive in the world of entertainment.

So how it that you have been able to accomplish all this?

With over three and a half decades in this business, we have cultivated robust industry connections and forged valuable alliances. Many of these connections are a testament to the remarkable successes achieved by our numerous talented alumni.

Our alumni roster includes luminaries such as James Cameron, Dean Devlin, Matt Groening, Nancy Meyers, Tom Schulman, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Selleck, Jerry Zucker, and many others. The achievements of former Sherwood Oaks students extend beyond individual successes to encompass leadership roles as studio and network presidents, directors of agencies, and guild members. Collectively, they have earned over 15 Academy Awards, contributing to the creation of three of the highest-grossing films of all time. These accomplishments underscore the profound impact Sherwood Oaks has had on shaping the landscape of the entertainment industry.

Do you ever work with other groups?

Certainly, we have collaborated with esteemed organizations such as the Writer’s Store and ScreenwritingU. Additionally, we have played a pivotal role in providing notable guests for the Screenwriting Expo, including luminaries like William Goldman, Shane Black, Nicholas Meyer, Mike Medavoy, Peter Guber, and others.

This year, we are actively participating in the Expo (and “A Day After”), as well as The Show Biz Expo and the Knightstar Conference in June. Our commitment to industry engagement extends to collaborations with organizations like The Script Writers Network and SWG, further solidifying our presence and contributions within the screenwriting and entertainment community.

What other programs do you offer?

On special occasions, we secure tables at prestigious awards shows, extending invitations to our writers for an exclusive and enriching experience. This unique opportunity allows our attendees to engage in conversations with notable nominees and industry figures. Among the esteemed nominees our attendees have interacted with are luminaries like Jerry Bruckheimer, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Quentin Tarantino, and many others. These experiences contribute to the immersive and invaluable nature of our engagement with the entertainment industry.

About the Movie Industry

Can anyone attend the Awards/Celebrity shows?

Absolutely. In fact, we have accommodated groups that flew in exclusively for awards shows, and we are open to facilitating similar experiences for other groups at various times throughout the year. If you are interested in having your group attend a show, please feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll be delighted to explore the possibilities together.

How do I know that someone will not steal my ideas?

Your concern is valid, and it’s an issue many students contemplate. However, the dynamics in our classes reflect a shared interest among students in selling their own ideas. The writing process, as you rightly pointed out, is a challenging endeavor, and executing a great script involves overcoming numerous hurdles, such as avoiding a “forced” feel, creating strong characters, maintaining narrative integrity in the third act, and addressing various other complexities.

In the context of a production company, the person who conceived the idea is often considered the most capable of translating it into a compelling script. The author’s unique vision and connection to the material are valuable assets in the writing process. It’s crucial to note that before sending out your script, it should be copyrighted, and though not mandatory, it is advisable to register it with the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

It’s essential to recognize that established professionals in Hollywood are more concerned about potential legal issues and lawsuits than considering stealing ideas. Trust is a cornerstone of the industry, and Sherwood Oaks places a high value on fostering an environment built on trust and mutual respect among its participants.

Who typically succeeds and makes it in Hollywood?

Indeed, building credibility can significantly enhance your chances of success in the industry. This can be achieved through various avenues, including winning contests, attending film school, or having standout material, such as an optioned book, short story, or article that you own.

Patience, diligence, and politeness are invaluable traits that can further contribute to your success. Navigating the entertainment industry requires persistence and a respectful approach. By consistently demonstrating these qualities, you not only enhance your professional image but also increase the likelihood of building lasting connections and opportunities within the industry.

What is the biggest mistake newbies make in Hollywood?

The biggest mistake newcomers in Hollywood often make is demanding significant time and resources from established professionals without offering anything in return. This can manifest in expecting someone to review a script for an extended period without compensating them for their expertise.

It’s crucial to understand that everyone’s time is valuable, and experienced individuals in the industry have earned their expertise through years of hard work. Expecting them to provide substantial services for free is not only disrespectful but also unrealistic. Building relationships in Hollywood should be approached with a mindset of reciprocity and mutual benefit, acknowledging the value each party brings to the table. It’s important for newcomers to demonstrate professionalism, respect, and an understanding of the collaborative nature of the industry.

How to get someone's attention in Hollywood?

While making a charitable donation to someone’s favorite cause can be a positive and generous gesture, it’s important to note that building meaningful connections in Hollywood typically involves a more nuanced approach. While supporting charitable causes aligns with positive values, it may not guarantee direct attention or assistance.

To get someone’s attention in Hollywood, consider the following:

  1. Networking Events: Attend industry events, conferences, and networking mixers where professionals gather. These environments provide opportunities for face-to-face interactions.

  2. Online Platforms: Utilize professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to connect with industry professionals. Engage in conversations, share relevant content, and establish a professional online presence.

  3. Cold Emailing: Craft a concise and compelling email introducing yourself, highlighting your achievements or projects, and expressing genuine interest in their work. Be respectful of their time and keep the message focused.

  4. Industry Internships: Pursue internships or entry-level positions within the industry. Gaining experience and building relationships from within can open doors to more significant opportunities.

  5. Creative Work: Showcase your talent through well-crafted portfolios, reels, or writing samples. Let your work speak for itself and use it as a tool to capture attention.

Remember, persistence, professionalism, and genuine interest in others’ work are key elements in establishing connections in Hollywood. While supporting charitable causes is admirable, a multifaceted approach that combines various networking strategies is often more effective in building lasting relationships within the industry.

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