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?
sWe can offer an exclusive level of access to industry professionals for two main reasons:
1) We are the oldest ‘entertainment industry’ school around. We have been doing this since 1971 – for 50 years! We started before UCLA, USC and other film schools even existed. We’ve spent 50 years establishing close ties with industry professionals who trust us. They know our students are among the most committed and talented aspiring screenwriters, directors and actors.
The proof is in our alumni. Some of our past students include well-known names such as James Cameron, Dean Devlin, Matt Groening, Nancy Meyers, Sylvester Stallone, and many others. Our alumni also includes noted screenwriting teachers Syd Field, Michael Hauge, and Robert McKee, who all began their teaching careers at Sherwood Oaks.
2) We’re willing to create courses with an extremely limited number of students. This is very different than other ‘industry’ schools. It’s one thing to sit in an audience of 300 to 400 individuals while listening to speakers on a stage. It’s quite a different experience to be in a gathering of just 18 creatives sitting around a table conversing with major industry professionals… and having the opportunity to present your material to them!
Even when we offer courses with larger groups of students and multiple guests speakers, we make certain that there are opportunities for each student to interact with the industry professionals teaching or guest speaking.
Most students enjoy our smaller classes, what we refer to as our Close Encounters. In this format students and a guest speaker (screenwriter, producer, director, Hollywood executive, agent or manager) sit around the same table and chat. It is more like a conversation or a group meeting than an impersonal large audience event. Normally, unknown or brand new writers would never be able to get these type of face-to-face meetings with industry professionals, but in our courses, we make this experience happen..
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 important to distinguish the mere presence of an industry professional in a room from a situation in which that professional is accessible. For example, anyone can spot a celebrity across a crowded restaurant. But most of us know better than to walk up to that person in that moment and pitch a script in the middle of their lunch. It is the same for industry professionals at the events you are speaking of. They simply don’t have the time or desire to meet hundreds of audience members.
This is why we keep our seminars small and intimate here at Sherwood Oaks. At our events you personally meet each and every player, and even more importantly, they meet you. Because of this, they almost always take material from the members of our group.
Who are the guests? How do I personally interact with them?
Producers, executives, directors, story editors, screenwriters, actors — successful professionals from all aspects of the entertainment industry. Some students attend an entire year of courses to increase their face-to-face time with our guests and increase their opportunities for success.
Imagine you have signed up for the course, The Screenwriter’s Experience. You and a dozen or so other writers convene at a studio or conference room on an early Monday morning. A Hollywood executive enters and proceeds to discuss their production company with the group in an interactive conversation. Depending upon the executive’s schedule, they might spend 30 to 60 minutes chatting with the group. Then, another executive enters and discusses what their production company look for in a new script.
Each day during the course you will meet up to five executive guests. Each guest accepts a one-sheet from any student wishing to offer one, whether or not the student has agent representation.
By week’s end you and each of the other writers will have personally met with — AND given your material to — 25-30 different executives from professional production companies. We call that a successful week!
I’ve heard that you sometimes have the heads of very successful companies as guests. Does that really happen?
Yes. As a matter of fact, once or twice each year we offer our Meetings With Executives. This is just what it sounds like: a week of meetings with top industry executives.
The best part is that these top executives take material from our students. Past guests have included Mark Gill, Bill Mechanic, Mike Medavoy, David Permut, Larry Mark and the presidents of Warners, Revolution, Radar, Scott Rudin Prod. Ridley Scott Prd, Lakeshore and Tom Cruise’s CW productions.
What kind of courses do you offer with literary agents and managers?
We offer a week-long Meeting with Literary Agents and Managers course. Students meet face-to-face with 25-30 top agents and managers . The classes are in a small setting that encourages a relaxed conversation between our students and guests. Guests almost always accept material from our students, and many students have obtained representation while taking one of these courses. Make sure you are on our mailing list! These classes fill up very quickly when we offer them!
I’m already an established writer, why should I attend?
The movie industry is constantly changing. Any industry professional, whether a writer, director, producer, or otherwise must constantly stay abreast of new trends and meet new contacts. If your scripts aren’t selling, you can glean valuable insight as to how you can modify them in order to increase their viability in today’s ever-changing media marketplace, or better yet meet important contacts that are interested in taking your career to the next level.
I’m not a screenwriter but I’ve heard great things about your school. Can I attend?
Yes. Any industry professional or aspiring industry professional is welcome to attend. In fact, many great collaborations have begun at Sherwood Oaks. Writers and directors have discovered composers for their soundtracks, producers have discovered new material and made valuable contacts, and actors at all career levels have discovered new paths to meeting producers and directors with whom to create lasting professional relationships. Furthermore, several of our students decide to work together on various projects, such as shorts, TV shows, and feature films, and we at Sherwood Oaks encourage such collaborations.
What is your philosophy of teaching and learning? How is it unique?
We have a a business’ reputation for being fair, open, compassionate, inspirational, realistic, honest, and most importantly trustworthy. Credibility is measured on how trustworthy, honest, and reliable others think you will be. Credibility is built by always telling the truth, understanding weakness, being organized, being likable, having integrity and avoiding sending the wrong or desperate signals. We encourage all students to increase their credibility through being patient, persistent and pleasant. We want to see you succeed.
Hollywood is built on integrity, and without it, you don’t go far in Hollywood. And We are not just some school on the internet, we are A PART of Hollywood, so it’s important to us.
What is a Sherwood Oaks course experience really like?
Think of it as a rare opportunity to have a major industry player over for dinner. Just as you would for a guest in your home, we put our high-profile guests at ease by providing a laid-back, intimate setting and giving them some space to talk about themselves, their perspectives and their roles in Hollywood, as well as providing some valuable advice for our writers. A facilitator guides the conversation and coordinates students’ questions in order to allow everyone to get the most out of the seminar. In the spirit of providing the most positive experience for all, we ask that our students refrain from pitching their stories to guests unless specifically asked by a guest to do so. By following this protocol, we have been able to attract some of the most sought-after industry players in Hollywood because we have gained a hard-won reputation for having the most intelligent, respectful students around. However, each student will have the opportunity to share a one-sheet with each guest. So, bring plenty of copies!
Who attends your courses?
About a third of our students come from abroad such as Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, India, and China. We encourage their participation and have helped with VISA applications. Another third come from outside of LA and write in their spare time and have found Sherwood Oaks beneficial to grow their network. We have ideas on ways to look local but live out of the area. Our average student tends to be over 30 years old and working professionals such as doctors, attorneys, financiers, editors, or in high-technology and want to gain insight into the film business. They tend to be serious about wanting to succeed and so are we. We encourage you to par-take and find out what really happens behind the curtain.
Do I have to apply to your school?
The ‘school’ – formerly named Sherwood Oaks Experimental College – actually offers several individual seminar-type courses per year versus a traditional, long-term college enrollment experience with required curriculum.
Our courses are designed for people who want to become successful creatives in the entertainment industry. You purchase each of our courses individually. Each course is usually two to three days long and meets several hours each day.
Our courses are scheduled often with only three to four weeks notice. We strongly recommend you SIGN UP for our NEWSLETTER! We mail it out immediately whenever we schedule a new course.
How can I get involved in your courses and classes?
Our classes are not scheduled with much advance notice due to the busy booking schedules of our teachers and guest speakers. They often cannot commit more than about 3 weeks in advance. So, it’s IMPERATIVE that you SIGN UP for our MAILING LIST.
When we are about to schedule a course we reach out to EVERYONE who is on our mailing list. After that, it’s first come, first serve. Our classes are small and fill up fast!
Once we schedule a session, you may enroll via our web site and by Paypal or send a check by regular mail.
And of course you can contact us any time to find out more information about our classes!
Can anyone sign up for courses?
Yes, however, you must follow the proper registration procedure and our protocol guidelines. We want this to be a win-win for students and our speakers. We recommend having some experience in the film industry or as a writer. By attending a course, a person can gain a greater insight. into the industry and their own talents. If you are new in the industry, we suggest initially just listening and learning before asking questions in class. We strongly advise that students are over 21 years old although we have had younger students attend.
Some of the registration fees are a little out of my range? What can I do?
We often offer a work-study program for many of the classes to lower the fees. Duties range from office paperwork and writing to assisting with booking conference rooms at studios and other locations. In addition, we are looking for people to work in our warehouse or carpooling students in a van.
For more details, email us via our contact page email form to let us know you are interested in work study.
We also try to offer a course once a year with a low $99 registration fee. It is usually offered in our Rotating Roundtable format. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can be the first to know when we offer these low-priced courses.
This all sounds almost too good to be true. Why is it you’re not more well known?
Since our number one priority is maintaining a small, intimate atmosphere in our seminars, we like to keep our advertising low key. We know that the appropriate, high quality students will find us, and will appreciate participating in our seminars with like-minded professionals. However, Sherwood Oaks has received honorable mention in the publications of: Syd Field, Michael Hauge, Skip Press, K. Callan, Creative Screenwriting, The Los Angeles Times and People Magazine. Keep in mind, we are a NON-PROFIT, and we are NOT in it for the money. We are in it, because of our love of the industry, and keeping it going, which means future generations WILL COME along.
So how it that you have been able to accomplish all this?
After more than three and a half decades in this business, we’ve built up strong industry connections and allies. Some of those are a reflection of the significant successes of our many talented alumni. Some of our alumni include the likes of James Cameron, Dean Devlin, Matt Groening, Nancy Meyers, Tom Schulman, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Selleck, Jerry Zucker, and dozens of others. Former Sherwood Oaks students have been studio and network presidents directors of agencies, and guilds and have collectively won more than 15 Academy Awards, including three of the highest grossing films of all time.
Do you ever work with other groups?
Yes. We have worked with the Writer’s Store and ScreenwritingU. We also provided the guests for the screenwriting expo including
William Goldman, Shane Black, Nicholas Meyer, Mike Medavoy, Peter Guber
and others. This year we will be taking part in the Expo (and “A Day
After”) as well as The Show Biz Expo and the Knightstar Conference in June.
We also have worked with The Script Writers Network, SWG.
What other programs do you offer?
About the Movie Industry
Can anyone attend the Awards/Celebrity shows?
Yes. As a matter of fact, we have had groups fly in exclusively for the awards shows and we are also open to other groups who would like to participate at various times throughout the year. Please contact us if you are interested in having your group attend a show.
How do I know that someone will not steal my ideas?
Seems like a reasonable concern. However, the other students are interested in selling their own ideas. Plus, the most difficult thing is to write a great script. Ideas are easy to say but very difficult to execute since the writing tends to have flaws for example: sounding “forced,” or the character is weak, or the story falls apart in the third act, or a magnitude of other issues. For a production company, it makes more sense that the individual who cooked up the idea would tend to write it better than anyone else and so to those that matter, they want to read from the author. Your script must be copyrighted before you send it out to anyone. Also, it is recommended but not required to send it to the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Established Hollywood professionals are more afraid of getting sued by you, a novice writer/filmmaker then they are ever thinking of stealing ideas. Suing is not a good idea. Hollywood is built on trust which is something that Sherwood Oaks places a very high value.
Who typically succeeds and makes it in Hollywood?
What is the biggest mistake newbies make in Hollywood?
Demanding someone do something like their script (for an hour or more) without giving something in return.
Just because someone has prestige and money does not mean that they should or can give it to you for free.
How to get someone's attention in Hollywood?
Give to their favorite charity. For example, if you give a $100 donation to Sherwood Oaks Film School then even the President will immediately give you a call and see if they can assist you. (just as 1 example) 🙂