Elliot Shoenman inspires student writers

On Oct. 4, illustrious screenwriter and playwright Elliot Shoenman visited the USC School of Cinematic Arts to give a presentation to undergraduate and graduate aspiring writers.

His presentation, moderated by USC screenwriting professor Paul Wolff, offered valuable first-hand advice about getting started and ‘making it’ as a writer in the cutthroat film and television industry.

“Write what you know,” declared Shoenman, acknowledging the cliché in the statement, “but then let your imagination take over.”

Shoenman began his career with persistence and dedication, sending speculation scripts to the popular sitcom Maude until he was finally offered a job as a writer for the show.

Producers for the show were impressed by his impeccable comedic timing, which eventually gained him a reputation as one of the most desired writers in television. He went on to serve as the showrunner for The Cosby Show, earning an Emmy for the record-breaking hit sitcom.

Shoenman continued to thrive as a television writer, working for such famed shows as Home Improvement, but he never lose sight of what got him there in the first place: a fundamental love of the craft. He implored the audience of young writers to stick to their guns and never lose sight of their artistic goals and personality, reminding them that an Emmy is “ultimately, just a piece of metal,” but that the feeling of creating a wonderful piece of writing will live with you forever.

He described writers in Los Angeles as “refugees from the real world,” because a writer’s work inevitably transforms into his or her “real world.”

Shoenman concluded his presentation by telling aspiring writers that when he was first starting out, he never had any intention on becoming a television writer; he wanted to write feature films. Life, however, had other plans for him. Shoenman, eager to revert to the craft he loves so much and escape from the film industry for a while, is dabbling in playwriting. His critically-acclaimed play Aftermath just finished a six-week run in Los Angeles and is up for an Ovation Award for Best Writing.