February 8, 2023

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Lew Hunter Dead: UCLA Screenwriting Professor Was 87

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Lewis R. “Lew” Hunter, a screenwriting professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) who taught many notable Hollywood screenwriters, including Michael Colliery, Alexander Payne and Michael Werb, died Jan. 6 at a care facility in Arizona from Covid-19. He was 87.

Hunter was a professor emeritus at UCLA, where he began teaching in 1979 and helped direct the university’s undergraduate FTV 434 course, a methodical guide to writing a full-length screenplay in 10 weeks. He was named co-head of the screenwriting program in 1988, a title he held until his retirement in 2000.

“I never had the pleasure or opportunity to meet Liu Hunter, but his presence in the screenwriting program and his signature 434 workshops is deeply felt,” screenwriting professor George Huang, who currently teaches the class, said in a statement. “The idea that students have to finish a full-length feature screenplay in 10 weeks of a quarter seems revolutionary even today, but that’s how writers learn to write — actually do it. Liu literally wrote the book on screenwriting and his legacy of excellence will always be a part of UCLA TFT.”

He was one of the founders of the American Screenwriters Association and was inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was the subject of the documentary “Once in a Lew Moon” which detailed Hunter’s life in Nebraska, his journey to Hollywood and his influence on the people he worked with. His last book, 2021’s “Naked Screenwriting,” features voices from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver Stone, Eric Roth, Alexander Payne and Cali Khoury, talking about the art and craft of screenwriting.

The Nebraska native earned his bachelor’s degree and later an honorary degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University. He received his master’s degree from Northwestern University and further graduate courses at UCLA.

While in Hollywood, he worked as an executive, producer, and writer for The Walt Disney Co., ABC, CBS, and NBC, among others. Prior to his tenure at UCLA, Hunter was a guest lecturer at universities throughout the United States.During his academic tenure, he continued to give workshops and lectures.

As a writer and professor, Hunter regularly referred to the three-act structure and pointed to films such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane” and “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial,” among others, as examples. as Three funds were created in Hunter’s name to support TFT, its students and faculty; namely Liu and the Pamela Hunter/John Zakin Screenwriting Chair.

Hunter is survived by his wife Pamela, four children, eight grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. A celebration of life event will be Memorial Day Weekend 2023 in Superior, Neb.

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