Punch Profiles: Writers Boot Camp Founder, Jeff Gordon

Nestled symbolically in the heart of Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station beats Writers Boot Camp, the premier professional screenwriting program in Los Angeles (as well as New York City) that has launched major writing careers at the highest levels of film and television.

Started in the living room of Founder and President, Jeff Gordon, during the Writer’s Strike of ’88, Writers Boot Camp was born out a need for a program to “get writers to write.” With an MFA from USC’s Peter Stark Motion Picture Producing Program, time at the William Morris agency and experience as a script reader, Jeff expertly weaved these insights into the foundations of Writers Boot Camp.

I saw a need for a more professional approach to screenwriting. Other programs, both academic and professional, were overly focused on structure at the time. Structure is important. But there’s more to screenwriting than just structure. The programs weren’t Socratic enough, they weren’t results-oriented enough. I wanted to teach the art and business of screenwriting, to provide a highly professional and supportive environment with a great educational offering, and create a thriving community of writers, without the dependence.
And that’s exactly what he did. Writers Boot Camp claims alumni at over 100 television shows (from Breaking Bad to Glee to HBO’s Girls), and last year alone, more than 20 produced feature films were written by Boot Camp members. Notable alumni and professional members include Matt Nix, creator of Burn Notice, Cindy Chupak, executive producer of Sex and the City, David Levine, writer of Rounders and Ocean’s 13, and Kim Evey, writer and executive producer of The Guild.

Jeff Gordon interviews actress/writer, Krysten Ritter

For Gordon, the success of WBC alumni is, by far, the greatest source of his professional satisfaction.

Over the years, Writers Boot Camp has evolved to provide offerings for all level and stages of writers, from introductory Basic Training, which takes the student from idea to first draft in eight weeks, to Professional Membership, armed with full development coursework that navigates all stages of the writing process to create a script that is submittable as a professional writing sample, to private one-on-one consultations.  In addition, members are invited to attend bi-weekly Business Breakfast and Spotlight Events with industry luminaries. And in a nod to the “struggling” condition of many writers, WBC offers a work/study program that allows writers to barter for a portion of the cost of membership/tuition (*NOTE: If you’re an editor, videographer, or graphic designer, WBC wants your expertise).

At the center of Writers Boot Camp lies Gordon himself, who brings an avuncular teaching and coaching style to the programs. While he’s not one to sugarcoat feedback, and he absolutely demands writers “do the work and put in the hours,” he also brings an integrity to the craft. Writers Boot Camp does not succeed if the members don’t succeed.

When asked, “What are the biggest mistakes neophyte screenwriters make?” Jeff had this to say:

  1. Accepting the first version of a script without testing the idea.
  2. Prematurely submitting content (remember, first impressions count!)
  3. Writing linearly (writers need to take a more aerial approach to their work).

You can follow Jeff and Writers Book Camp on Twitter: @WritersBootCamp.

About Amy Senger:
Amy Senger is an L.A. transplant by way of Washington, DC, and co-founder of 1X57, named to Washingtonian’s Tech Titans list with her partner Steven Mandzik. Follow her on twitter @sengseng and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email amy@1×57.com.
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