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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Writing the right way

Film Professor Luther Hanson is a writer who has been involved in theater for 40 years and has had to adjust to the current conditions of budget cuts at City College. Photo by J. Van Sandt || [email protected]

Writing screenplays is about writing good stories. But even that, says Theatre Arts and Film Professor Luther Hanson, is difficult because screenplays are complicated with rigid structures that need to be learned and adhered to.

Hanson has been involved in theater for 40 years, and has taught play-writing for 10 years and screenwriting for seven years. At City College his classes Screenwriting, and Play-writing are held twice a week.

“Writing is where it all starts,” Hanson says. “The writer has the most opportunity to bring new ideas to the world.”

Hanson has written screenplays and plays professionally, including 10 short, original works that were produced, and two full-length ones called “Bite Me, Cleopatra,” and “My Little Druid.” Another full length work he did was a Shakespeare adaption at “Twelfth Night.” Based on that experience, Hanson gives advice to young potential writers who are looking to enter the professional world.

Hanson says that he has a lot of story ideas bouncing around in his head.

“I have to take notes,” Hanson says, and this is a method he tells his students to employ.

The class offers various workshops to help students grasp concept better, and become better writers. Hanson says that they read scenes out loud to help students hear when dialogue sounds natural.

“We get scenes up on their feet,” Hanson says, adding that he wants to see if the scenes work with real people.

The class also watches and analyzes films, including “Smoke Signals.”
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“It is a clear representation of the hero’s journey,” Hanson says. “As [the writer] Joseph Campbell said, ‘Every story that we tell as humans has structures like the mythical heroes.’”

Hanson says the hero’s journey is one of the main focuses in the class and is based on Campbell’s life as an American mythologist, writer and lecturer. Hanson and the rest of the department have been on their own journey, adjusting to the current conditions that the most recent budget cuts have created.

“Thirty percent of our department has been cut in the last year and a half, [which is] a third of our classes. A few classes like diversity in film are only taught every once in a while now, instead of every semester,” Hanson says. “Acting for the camera hasn’t been taught for two or three years either, and we’ve cut several sections of the film acting class.”

According to Hanson, there were also some efforts to get a directing class going but there is not enough funding.

This has led to some professors having less time to teach more. For example, Hanson teaches his play-writing class at the same time as his screenwriting class because of the cuts, and because, as he puts it, “they’re both about storytelling.”

Still, he says he likes his job, he likes writing, he likes working with his students, and his students like working with him.

“He knows what he’s doing. He’s an intelligent person,” says Andrea Kersten, 19, humanities major and sophomore in Hanson’s Introduction to Theatre Class. Kersten adds that she once watched one of Hanson’s plays and found that “it was expertly written.”

Hanson says he emphasizes with persistence and a work ethic.

“If you want it, and you’re willing to do the work, you’ll probably get there,” Hanson says. “This is a great place to be.”

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