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Week of September 26, 2011


Screenwriter brings Hollywood experience to university students

Photo by Daryl Marshke, U-M Photo Services.

Hollywood by day, Ann Arbor by night.

It’s merely a dream for some, but for Dan Shere, it is reality. He works as a professional screenwriter during the day and also teaches a weekly, Thursday night screenwriting workshop at LSA.

Shere left Ann Arbor after graduating from the university in 1997 to pursue his career in Los Angeles. While he doesn’t live there anymore, he still communicates regularly with studios on projects he’s working on and says he was happy to return home. He now lives in West Bloomfield with his wife and three sons.

A philosophy major as an undergraduate student in the mid-1990s, Shere was turned onto screenwriting after bouncing around ideas with a pair of friends who were students at the University of Southern California’s film school (now known as the USC School of Cinematic Arts).

With that, he enrolled in SAC 310, the same course he now teaches. It was then taught by Jim Burnstein, a lecturer and the current screenwriting coordinator in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures. It was in that class, and next class in the sequence (410) that Shere wrote and revised the script for “Goat Cheese is Dead,” which eventually was purchased by United Artists for a sum that he says was “enough for me to live on for the time.”

Shere credits Burnstein as being the greatest influence on his career path, both in terms of kick-starting his screenwriting career and inviting him to return to his alma mater to teach.

As an instructor at Michigan, Shere is able to pass on his knowledge of the craft and industry to a new generation of aspiring screenwriters.

“The ideas that I convey (in class) are the same ways I operate professionally,” he says. “There’s only one way I know how to do things, which is what Jim taught me.”

Shere says he still has some learning to do, and that working with a group of students weekly in a workshop-type atmosphere is mutually beneficial.

“The interesting thing to me is not how my experience as a writer helps in the classroom, but the opposite,” he said. “Teaching has helped me a lot as a writer.”

One of the other perks of his job is seeing students overcome the same challenges he faced as a student and young writer.

“The most rewarding thing to me is when students come to me at the end and tell me they never thought they’d work this hard.”

Shere’s own career has had its ups and downs, too. After “Goat Cheese is Dead” never made it to production, he had his first success co-writing the script for “George Lucas in Love,” a short fictionalized biography of the “Star Wars” creator directed by Shere’s former roommate, Joe Nussbaum.

From there, he wrote for Fox Animation and Dreamworks. A script of his, called “We Are Family,” was translated to Russian and will be released next month in Russia. He also penned the screenplay for an animated adaptation of William Joyce’s children’s book, “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” set for a 2013 release.

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



Dan Shere, LSA screenwriting lecturer, on what inspires him: "New ideas, or fresh takes on old ideas."


John Malkovich in “The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer,” 8 p.m. Oct. 1, Hill Auditorium. Sponsored by the University Musical Society.

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