Sunday, August 09, 2015

A Visit to the WGA, West

Premier resource for emerging Hollywood writers
by Janet J. Lawler 
Know your writing history
Want a terrific free resource to help you hone your craft as a screenwriter or TV writer? Free is good  since we usually have to dish out cash for contest fees, script coverage, or to take that weekend course with the latest screenwriting guru.

I came across the Writers Guild Foundation Library and Archive this week while in L.A.  It's a treasure trove of classic material. Visit if you can. It's located at 7000 W. 3rd Street.  Their website is

You might have thought the WGA, West location was a place to register your latest screenplay, but it's way more than that.  The Writers Guild Foundation, within the WGA, is free and open to the public.  You don't need credits on IMDB or to have won an Oscar to peruse this magnificent space. It's like a shrine for Hollywood writers.

First, you'll enter its sleek lobby devoted to writers of television and film.  Watch videos with renowned writers like Vince Gilligan (his pilot 2005 script for Breaking Bad is encased with the first few pages on display -- note the character UNDERPANTS MAN -- that turned out to be Walter White.)

Breaking Bad opening from the Pilot 2005 Draft
 Other writers featured in the lobby include Callie Khouri (one of my fave writers). Her FIRST (yes, her first!) screenplay Thelma & Louise won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Thelma & Louise screenplay
They also have a section dedicated to the Hollywood Blacklist (no, not the screenwriting website) and one about the Writers Strikes.
The Hollywood Blacklist
History of WGA Strikes
I loved reading this letter by studio mogul Jack Warner asking his writers on staff to please be at their desks ready to write at 9am and to put in a full day's work.  That has to make you chuckle. Today, it would probably be "please stop surfing the internet and going on Facebook."
Jack Warner letter to his screenwriters about their tardiness
Then, enter into the library/archive space (the Billy Wilder Reading Room) and sign in at the desk. Backpacks aren't allowed, but cell phones and laptops are permitted (there were writers at tables typing away on their latest script) -- the library staff will even supply you with a free locker if needed (just leave your ID).

These wonderful archived scripts are separated into Television and Film categories.  Peruse books on everything from TV writing, to comedy writing to writing your first draft. 

There is a whole section dedicated to the Mary Tyler Moore Show (and show scripts to read), along with Oscar-winning movie scripts, and just about ANY script you'd want to read -- if you don't see it on the shelves, look in the digital catalog or ask for assistance at the front desk (very friendly staff!)

The WGF gives out collectable glossy postcards to take away, one had Shonda Rhimes's original pitch (written in 2003) for Grey's Anatomy, originally titled "Under the Knife".
Original Pitch for Grey's Anatomy (2003)
The Writers Guild Foundation Library & Archive is a must-stop if you're visiting Los Angeles, or already in L.A.  It's a fun place for pop culture devotees too.

While you're there,  register that new script of yours and pick up the latest WGA signatory agency list.  Keep writing!

Until next time.
Follow The NY Screenwriting Life blog on Facebook.  Creator Janet Lawler's first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble


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