Championing Storytellers: How the Writers Guild Foundation Encourages Aspiring Screenwriters

By Sean Tuohy

There are now a lot of great resources for inspiring screenwriters, but one of the most useful can be found at the Writers Guild Foundation. The WGF is a nonprofit institution designed to help screenwriters learn and better their craft. Managing director Joanne Lammers was kind of nice to sit down and discuss the WGF’s resources and how to help the institution.

Sean Tuohy: What is the history of the Writers Guild Foundation?

Joanne Lammers: The WGF was founded in 1966 as a nonprofit philanthropic institution separate from the Writer’s Guild of America. The WGF Library opened in 1984 as a non-circulating public resource for aspiring writers and scholars. The WGF Archive was created in 2011 to care for the rich history of writers and the WGA. The WGF's mission is to preserve and promote the art, craft, and history of screen storytelling and storytellers. In addition to the library and archive, we also have writing programs for veterans and high school students.

ST: For an inspiring screenwriter what some resources they can find at the Writers Guild Foundation?

JL: We are only the library on the planet devoted solely to screenwriting. We have scripts that range from the dawn of early cinema dating as early as 1908 to classical Hollywood and the golden age of television to the most current web series and video games. We're known for having rare show bibles and development materials such as Shonda Rhimes' pitch outline for “Grey's Anatomy” and scripts for hot new shows such as “Empire” and “Transparent.” The crown jewel of the library is Billy Wilder's personal desk set of every script he ever wrote from “The Apartment” to “Sunset Boulevard.” The members of our enthusiastic reference team all have backgrounds and degrees in film and television history and writing, as well as advanced degrees in archival studies.

ST: What are some upcoming WGF programs that writers could use?

JL: We're currently planning our programs for the fiscal year, but typical events include TV Craft Day, Film Craft Day, and Serial Dramas. Past events have featured panels with the writers of “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Mad Men.” We have also held several Write-a-Thons where we kept the library open until 11:00 p.m. during contest and fellowship deadlines. You can check out past events highlighted in our podcasts at iTunes, our WGF Blog and on our YouTube channel.

ST: How can writers give back to the WGF?

JL: We are a non-profit without an endowment and rely on donations to stay open. Even $5 can help us provide more events. Information about how to donate is at our official website. Writers can also volunteer to assist during programs. Additionally, when a writer becomes a showrunner or writes a feature that is produced, she or he can donate their papers to the library and archive to inspire future writers.

To learn more about the Writers Guide Foundation, visit the organization’s official website, like its Facebook page, or follow the WGF on Twitter @WritersGuildF.