Ryan Francis Johnson’s short film Writer’s Workshop takes an ingenious comedic premise and cranks it up to the point of absurdity. Aspiring writer Jeremy (Grayson Low) tentatively shares a piece in a writer’s workshop and asks for feedback, little realizing exactly how much the fellow writers dislike his work.
What follows is like the infamous Jim Downey monologue in Billy Madison – except it just doesn’t stop. The ‘constructive feedback’ provided by the other writers quickly turns to comments that would make even a seasoned Reddit user blush, before taking a quick left turn into horrific acts of violence and ending on a supernatural twist.
As jokes go it’s a pretty straightforward one, but what makes it work so well is how thoroughly everyone involved commits to the bit – from the way one writer chirpily hedges her suggestion that Jeremy dip his hands in acid with a ‘but that’s just my opinion,’ to the calmness with which the moderator starts texting while another writer casually murders someone. And at the centre of it all is Grayson Low, whose nods and fervent note-taking become increasingly tragic as the session goes on.
Even as the sketch veers into the surreal, it remains funny because of the very real nerve it strikes. Anyone who writes for this site – or does any kind of creative writing – will tell you how nerve-wracking it can be to present your work to someone else. The most well-meaning and constructive remarks can feel like wounds from a salted rapier. But most writers will also recognise the little smile that Jeremy gives himself in the short’s closing moments; content in the knowledge that as horrible as it can be, there’s no better life than that of a writer.
CAST: Grayson Low, Larissa Pruett, Kevin David Lin, Bessie Jo Hill, Nathan Trumbull, Dylan Werth
DIRECTOR: Ryan Francis Johnson
WRITER: Ryan Francis Johnson
SYNOPSIS: Aspiring writer, Jeremy, attends an exclusive writer’s workshop session. A dark, absurdist look at the world of peer review.