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Q&A set with local Emmy-nominated screenwriter

By From page A6 | April 22, 2014

Sterling AndersonW

Sterling Anderson. Courtesy photo

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What: Free Q&A with screenwriter Sterling Anderson

When: 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Barista Brew Café, 431 G St., downtown Davis

Register: email [email protected]

No windows. No plumbing. It was “abject poverty,” Sterling Anderson recalled of his childhood home near Tuskegee, Ala.

His father’s decision to move the family to Davis, where he found work at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, completely changed Anderson’s life prospects, he said.

Anderson, a longtime Hollywood screenwriter who has written for CBS’ “The Unit” and NBC’s “Medium,” as well as the hit TV film “The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn,” recently moved back to Davis from Los Angeles to work on a film script and give back to the community he says was instrumental in his success.

“Davis afforded me incredible opportunity,” he said recently, peering through black-rimmed glasses and wearing a UC Davis cap. “I would never have had those opportunities had my parents not gotten me out of the deep South.”

One of the ways Anderson wants to give back is by sharing insight, gained by years of experience writing for popular TV shows, with local aspiring writers.

On Wednesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Barista Brew Café, 431 G St., Anderson will conduct an open question-and-answer session about the craft and business of professional screenwriting. He hopes to inspire young writers to join what he described as a lucrative and creatively rewarding profession.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” he said.

After graduating from Davis High School, he discovered a passion for writing while attending St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

One teacher told a young Anderson, “Why are you working so hard? You’ll never be a writer.” When Anderson sold a screenplay to Disney shortly thereafter, he felt vindicated.

Anderson, who has taught screenwriting at USC as an adjunct professor, said that having professional experience before teaching students how to write is crucial.

“My dream is to start a school for writers,” he said, where “students are actually taught by people who are working in the business.”

Despite the late hours (“My best hours are from 10 at night to 2 in the morning, because no one calls”) and gambles on which projects to commit to (Anderson turned down “The Hangover,” a 2009 box-office smash), he treasures the collaborative aspect of screenwriting and the unique feeling of watching actors read his dialogue.

“There’s no thrill like seeing someone like Sidney Poitier say lines that you made up,” Anderson pointed out. Poitier starred in Anderson’s “The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn,” alongside Dianne Wiest, who was nominated for an Emmy for her role.

Anderson is 145 pages into a screenplay about major league baseball’s Molina brothers — Yadier, Bengie and José — each of them catchers with World Series victories. Born into poverty in Puerto Rico, they excelled thanks to their father, a retired baseball star, who made extraordinary efforts to create opportunity for his sons.

“Their father cut down a sugar cane field” and built a baseball field in its place, Anderson recounted. “It is, by far, the most unbelievable story.”

Apart from writing, Anderson is looking forward to mentoring local aspiring writers and holding workshops. Wednesday’s Q&A is a first step toward that goal.

“I think that there’s going to be some really successful writers from this town; they just have to know it’s a possibility,” he said.

Those who plan to attend the free session are encouraged to register by emailing info@sterlingwritersgroup. The first 25 to sign up will receive a free copy of Anderson’s book, “Beyond Screenwriting.”

Adrian Glass-Moore

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