June 2, 2011

Choreography on the Page

Dexter/Twilight Writer Melissa Rosenberg Visits SCA

Melissa Rosenberg has reached a level of success that most writers can only dream of. She has written all three adaptations of the wildly successful Twilight films, the original film in the Step Up series and is the showrunner/ executive producer on the Emmy award winning television show Dexter. She visited with SCA students on March 31st as part of the YouTube Creator Institute to talk about her journey to the top, her responsibilities to teenage fans of Twilight and what she would do to fix Hollywood.

Melissa Rosenberg with Moderator Justin Wilson at SCA

“I’m the longest overnight success you’ll ever come across,” said Rosenberg. ”The success that I have at this moment is very long in coming and hard fought.”

Before becoming a successful screenwriter, Rosenberg spent time as a choreographer, a bartender, a legal secretary and a student of the Peter Stark Producing Program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She graduated with her Masters in Fine Arts in 1990. She told the students that having a life outside of filmmaking helped her writing immensely. In particular, having a life as a dancer helped her learn to tell stories visually.

“The kind of choreography I loved and still love to watch was the kind that tells a story,” she said. “You’re telling the story with movement and time and space. It really was the beginning of my training in how to tell a visual story. It served me in so many ways; not the least of which was my first job was a dance movie. One of the reasons I got that job was because of my background as a dancer.”

As a graduate from the Peter Stark Program, which is geared towards training producers, Rosenberg talked about how her training as a producer at SCA informed her work as a writer.

“Some of my very best friends were in the program with me,” said Rosenberg. “What was probably one of the most important things about it is that all of the people I was in that program with; a huge percentage of them went off and are now in the executive ranks and the producing ranks in town. It was one of them that actually first got me one of my first agents. These are relationships that help.”

Rosenberg answered questions from the audience as well as questions from around the globe through the SCA YouTube Creator institute webpage. Most of the questions were about the pressures of adapting Twilight, a beloved series of novels.

“There are no fans like teenage girls,” said Rosenberg. “They have very passionate feeling and they will go see the movie ten times, even if they hate it. They are avid fans and I love their passion. They made this what it is, and not just teenage girls, women of all ages, so I thank them, even if they hated it.”

Finally, Rosenberg spoke very frankly about the need for diversity in the pool of writers in Hollywood.

When asked what the one thing she would change about Hollywood would be, she replied, “Oh, well that’s easy, women. The number of women working is lower than it was ten years ago. The roles for women, the characters for women [need to be improved]].”

Rosenberg recently launched her new production company Tall Girl Productions and is developing projects for television and film.