Blain Watters is, by all accounts, an accomplished screenwriter in his own right – but it’s his newfound passion for fostering fresh talent that he now counts as his “favourite thing to do.”
“I love teaching…It’s an amazing thing to have someone come to me with the germ of an idea, and then get to help them make it into something that can emotionally affect people,” said Watters, who designed, created and currently teaches the online stream of Feature Writing courses for Toronto Film School’s Writing for Film & TV Associate Diploma.
“I think guiding someone through the story creation process is more important than teaching them a story creation process, because there is no one process to teach. So, it’s about choosing the right mentor – and I hope that I am the right mentor for some students, to guide them through the creation of their story.”
Best known for co-writing the critically acclaimed Canadian indie drama Sleeping Giant – which won Best Canadian First Feature at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, among numerous other accolades both here in Canada and internationally – Watters said his own love of writing was one fostered in him by his late godfather.
“My father figure – my mom’s best friend – was a writer and I always wrote to kind of impress him…and bring us together so we’d have something to do,” he said, noting that the pair used to film little videos together.
“When my godfather died, I got all his writing in a box. So, I just had to take the leap, had to try for it, because he never could. So, I wanted to do it for him.”
For Watters, the first step towards taking that leap to become a professional writer was laying the foundation of his craft through higher education – earning both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in writing.
“There are a lot of people who are naturally talented, and a lot of people who work at it. In my experience, the people who are naturally talented don’t necessarily always work at it – they don’t get schooling, they don’t take it the extra mile that they need to, and they kind of go to the wayside,” he said.
“The people that go through school, that really want it, that read every book, and that educate themselves a lot – they’re the ones who make it.”
With the online Feature Writing courses he created for Toronto Film School, Watters said he’s trying to teach his students all the rules that go into the creation of what’s traditionally been considered a “well-made” Hollywood movie, so that hopefully they’ll later know how to break those rules and break out of that mould.
The four courses cover everything from an examination of the concepts of conflict, theme, subtext, tone, dialogue and genre, to complex story structures, to rewriting scripts, to
discussions about the industry realities of table-reads, casting a film, and managing actors on set.
“I don’t want to just teach how to write one kind of movie, but I think it’s important to learn all that kind of groundwork you have to cover in order to build something that’s unique on top of that,” he said.
“For me, getting students to be imaginative and to have fun with it is a big part of what I love about teaching these courses.”