How to get away with screenwriting

PROFile: Noam Gonick, instructor, theatre and film department, U of W

When it comes to running a screenwriting class, Noam Gonick, an instructor for the theatre and film department at the University of Winnipeg (U of W),  prefers to incorporate storytelling into his teaching style. 

“I try to be as casual and unplanned as I can be within the syllabus, so that I can throw out a lot of those stories from my work experience so far that might be beneficial,” Gonick says. 

Gonick picked up this technique from attending acting classes by Wynn Handman, the late director and teacher. 

“The neatest thing about Wynn Handman was that his classes were just all storytelling,” Gonick says. “The stories came out of his real lived experience as a director, as an actor, some about Broadway – and those, I think, stick with you a lot. And there’s no plan to them. A lot of times, it’s just something random he said because of something that a student did in their performance.” 

Gonick also devotes time toward giving practical advice to help his students, especially for those who are serious about pursuing a career in the arts. 

“There’s a lot of unknowns when you enter a career in the arts, and you’re a student considering becoming a professional artist, filmmaker or a writer, a screenwriter,” he says.

According to Gonick, there’s a need for more talented screenwriters and artists in Winnipeg. He hopes to inspire any new screenwriters by making the way forward a little more clear. 

“I’m hoping that, at least from every few classes, somebody tries to devote themselves to that practice.” 

Do you have any go-to stories that you like to tell your students?

“There’s a new one that I told for the first time that I’m excited about, which is that for the first time, I’m actually working with one of my students on a new feature-length film script. So that’s started, I don’t know where it’s gonna go, and I don’t know if I’ll tell those (stories) to the next batch of students, but I did tell them to this batch, because it kind of made me feel a bit like Annalise Keating from How to Get Away With Murder.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“Flying would be nice.”

Published in Volume 75, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 21, 2021)

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