Richard Walter almost missed the party that changed his life.
The year was 1977. Walter had been working as a screenwriter in Hollywood when film critic, author and educator Arthur Knight invited him to a party at his Malibu home. "The party was going to be wall-to-wall show business people," Walter recalls. "I wasn't comfortable with crowds and wanted to stay home with my wife. But a last-minute sense of obligation compelled us to go."
No sooner did Walter walk through the door than the host introduced him to the then-head of UCLA's screenwriting program, who encouraged him to apply for a teaching position. Walter says, "I had a successful writing career, didn't need a job, and I had never considered academic work. But the idea intrigued me. I had to taste it."
One taste was all it took. Walter fell in love with teaching and never looked back.
Today he directs the UCLA screenwriting program in the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media. Walter's students, many of whom have gone on to work on projects such as "Sideways" and "War of the Worlds," continue to be a central source of fulfillment. "From the day I started teaching, I loved the way the students challenged me. I love the butting of heads, the collaboration, the creative exchange."
Author of the highly regarded Screenwriting: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Writing, Walter lectures across the United States. This month, he will be speaking for the first time at UCLA Parents' Weekend.
Parents' Weekend, October 27–29, is a three-day celebration created so that parents and undergraduate students can experience campus life together through such activities as dean and faculty presentations, student services workshops and the Washington State vs. UCLA football game.
As the parent of a current UCLA student, Daniel '08, Walter feels especially suited to share with other parents some of the things he has learned about topics such as guilt (it can be a powerful creative motivator); clearly defined goals (be careful, they can distract you from discovery); and making Hollywood contacts (look to your left and right; the people you befriend in school are the people who will help most later).
Walter says sometimes it's hard to believe he gets paid to work with some of the world's most talented students, adding, "I can't think of a better way to spend a life than pursuing the imagination."