TEANECK – What part of a movie or TV show is most important to its success?
For screenwriter Chris Brancato, the Teaneck native behind “Narcos,” “Godfather of Harlem” and more, there’s no doubt: the script is the thing.
“If you’re bored watching a TV show or a movie, that’s the writing,” Brancato told 20 high school and college students at the Richard Rodda Community Center last Friday during the premiere of a six-year master class. parties on screenwriting as a career. “Our job is to create characters that make the viewer want to turn the page.”
The free series is a collaboration between Brancato, Teaneck High School alumnus Darryl Greene, and education society founder Ryan Pruitt, grandson of Teaneck educator Henry Pruitt.
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“I wanted something different in the form of an after-school program to get the kids involved, to get the kids excited,” said Greene, a film production entrepreneur who reconnected with Brancato at a screening of “Godfather of Harlem.” during the Teaneck Film Festival. “I introduced the course to Chris and he loved it.”
Greene then enlisted Pruitt to help bring interested students together through his company Be All You.
“We help students develop their passion and strengths to pursue a fulfilling career path that can help them thrive,” Pruitt said.
The result will be five more Friday Zoom segments where Brancato will discuss how Hollywood works, writing a TV pilot versus a feature film, and producing for film and TV.
“The script is the plan,” Brancato told the class. “The key is to keep your audience guessing.”
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Brancato may have drawn early inspiration from his father John Brancato, supervisor of Teaneck High School’s English department and director of its musicals; or his mother Robin, an author of books for young adults. But Brancato admits he guessed his direction after graduating from Brown University.
“I heard you could get paid well for writing spec scripts,” Brancato said. “I knew you had to be in LA to be a part of it. So I volunteered to work for someone in the company and did something else in the evenings until I found a job. who pays the rent.
It’s this kind of practical “how to get into the business” knowledge that Brancato hopes to pass on to his students. But Brancato was delighted to learn that some students were already sampling this art form. Teaneck High School Junior Nicole Beltre described a script she was already developing about three young college-aged women.
“It’s kind of like the thoughts come to you in the form of clouds,” Nicole explained. “You get a specific visual in your head about how the story starts, what slant you want to take.”
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Lyndaura Freitas, Dwight Morrow’s junior, said she hopes to combine her love of filmmaking with her love of writing.
“I want to learn how to put it together, how to get there,” Lyndaura said. “A lot of things I want to do require that knowledge.”
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Brancato even admits he sometimes needs to follow other sources, such as “Godfather of Harlem” star Forest Whitaker.
“He told me to make a shorter speech,” Brancato said. “I did it.”