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Tuesday 17 August 2010

SCREENWRITING Advice, Ideas and Inspiration

I am not one of those people who says "To write a successful screenplay, you need to follow a 17 point plan and you must have an incident with a dead chicken." For me, if I can give any advice - it's that you should do whatever you can to be YOU, and to get that onto the page. I am not telling you what to write; in fact, I honestly don't want to tell you anything, because I don't really know anything. I just want to share things that have helped me over the years. Below are links to things I have written that may, I hope, inspire.

To begin with; it's important to realize; even Aaron Sorkin has self-doubt. Self-doubt is a troubling thing; because if you're not careful in can make you become one of those writers who never actually writes. A lot of people quit screenwriting because of heartbreak, but not before they find many things to do instead of writing.

Sorry if you think it's a bad idea to talk about self-doubt and the lack of confidence. But it's best not to ignore things that are there (things that we all have to deal with.) But don't worry; there are things we can do about it. You need to remember: it's your screenplay, not anyone else's. If you listen to other people too much, you'll go insane. So stop listening to the critical people around you -- not only are they bad for you but pretty soon, every time you mess up or, worse-- don't write, you'll blame them-- them??? but who are THEY?

Don't be polarized by writer's block, INTERACT with it, dance with it, see what it has to say.
When you finally realize this is what you want to do with your life -- you make that decision; and you realize, truly, that this is your life. It's now or never.

I always find it helpful to realize why my work is important in the world. If you make a comedy, it's IMPORTANT, because we NEED to laugh and smile; if you're making a crazy horror film, we need to get more in touch with the parts of ourselves that feel the extremities of fear, and LIFE. IF you're writing an inspirational film about a marginalized section of society.. it's important because you could inspire millions to improve their lives. If you write a story for children, and it only ends up being half as good as you hoped.. you may inspire one child, you may make their life BETTER. How amazing! Never underestimate the importance of your writing in the wider world.

If you're a Kid In The Front Row like me; you should look back to your youth for inspiration. There's so much magic there. And if there's not magic, there's pain; and a lot of who you are and who you've become is from that place. Your memories and feelings from long ago will inspire your writing.

Why do you want to be a writer? So many reasons. Once you've figured that out -- I can only give one bit of advice. It has nothing to do with content or how to configure a scene or whatever, I'm not the guy for that. All I ask of you -- is that you write from the heart. And KEEP CREATING AGAIN AND AGAIN. The magic comes from turning up for work every day and getting the words down, because one day, the magic will strike. And that is why you write.

And lastly; listen to what SCOTT ROSENBERG has to say. That I insist on.

I am sincerely so excited and inspired by all of you -- I love it when you're writing and I am concerned when you tell me you're not writing. Keep going! Keep believing in yourself, keep me informed of your progress. Your ideas are needed in the world. Sure, writing is hard, making a script sale is hard, getting anything produced is hard. But right now, that's not your concern. Your concern is writing. Deep down, you know you were born to do it. I can't wait to hear from you that you've written FADE OUT some time soon.


  1. Kid, I need some advice/ideas/inspiration help! Anyone have a view about an alternate description of Christopher Vogler's Journey from the feminine perspective, adapted from Maureen Murdock’s book THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY? What does 'THE feminine' and 'THE masculine' mean in the Journey's context? I'm going to a Vogler workshop & wd like to understand a little more about this beforehand so I'm not so worried abt it (not into essentialism...) Many tx for any help, M

  2. Wellywood Woman: didn't Ginger Rogers say she could not only do everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels? "Harrowing" indeed.

    To Kid: Clever, inspiring post. It's like a buffet: choose what you like. And thanks for caring.

  3. Sorry Wellywood, I know nothing about any of the people/things you mention. Sorry I can't be of more help!

  4. Tx Scott Michael & Kid. CV's going to England as well as coming to NZ, & I just found this Raindance i/v with him:,6076,0,0,1,0. Which doesn't quite answer my Q...

  5. Loved this post. It echoes so much of what I tell my students at Human being have an innate NEED to tell stories. We've been doing it for THOUSANDS of year. As a beginning screenwriter you need to tap into that storytelling legacy to give yourself FAITH in yourself. Every writer started where you start - feeling inadequate to the task; but don't let that stop you!! WRITE.

    cheers - jana /

  6. Thanks, Joe. The 'metaphors for behaviour' really helps. Totally agree with Mickey Spillane, but wanted to understand the Vogler tools and I do now, after one day with him and 100, and another with just twelve of us (& a tasty lunch each day, always appreciate that...) He was very open, engaging, so it was easy to ask questions and learn where there are 'answers', and where there aren't.

  7. Here's a great comment from 'Joe' which disappeared: Great post. A Hollywood studio mogul back in the '40s or '50s (can't remember who) is quoted as saying, "Writers are the most important people in Hollywood, but we can't let them know that."

    Wellywood Woman: There's no magic formula for storytelling. You're going to a workshop to learn a particular approach. It's more tools for your toolbox. Give yourself over to it, see what works for you, and look at "masculine" and "feminine" as metaphors for behavior. Just as a woman can be a slam-bang action hero, a man can be an emotional romantic hero. But ultimately, everything you write must come from your heart, as the Kid says so well.

    Or to put it in another way, a '50s detective novelist named Mickey Spillaine was once asked why he wrote the kind of books he did (sexy, sadistic, and for its time very violent). His response was classic: "I write the kind of books I want to read but can't find."

  8. Thanks. I needed that.