End Creative Procrastination

As filmmakers and screenwriters, it is easy to procrastinate. And it is a slippery slope. Despite your best efforts, sometimes life gets in the way of your projects. Next thing you know – a whole year goes by and you are no closer to completing your projects than before.

Veteran Screenwriter Jurgen Wolff has a solution. He is hosting a virtual Massive Action Day on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Here is a quick description of Massive Action Day:

On the Massive Action Day YOU declare a goal for the day on the MAD website and then check in once an hour to report on your progress and say what you’ll do in the next hour.

Jurgen offers tips on a short hourly live video feed and participants encourage each other via the chat window–it’s motivating and makes it fun to focus on getting a lot done.

One participant said it was the most productive day of her life.

Massive Action Day is all online and it’s all FREE…

Jurgen even gives away prizes along the way. He stays online for 17 hours, so it works for just about any time zone. You can get more information and sign up here: www.WritingBreakthroughStrategy.com/MAD


Your Screenplay Opening

A spec screenplay vs a production screenplay.

Screenplay Image via Wikipedia

Some screenwriters think that just about every screenplay should open with a bang of some kind: perhaps a literal explosion, or a murder, or a chase.

Those may well be good choices for certain stories, but my take on this is that what an opening actually needs to do is to prompt two questions and one feeling in your audience.

The questions are simple:

1. Who are these people?
2. What’s going on?

I’m not saying that your first scene has to answer these questions, just to raise them. They might be answered in the second scene or the third scene, or sometimes not until the very end in the case of a mystery.

The feeling should be some kind of emotional involvement. Often at this point it’s just curiosity but sometimes it’s sympathy—even when we don’t know who is being chased, usually our sympathy automatically goes to the one running away.

Sometimes it’s empathy—a character experiencing something that’s happened to us, too, so we relate. It could be somebody floundering at a job interview, or being asked for a date she obviously doesn’t want to go on, or somebody getting a big bill at a restaurant and realizing he’s lost his wallet.

I think checking whether your opening scene achieves this is a good way to tell whether or not it will grab the reader—and eventually the audience.

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Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of TV, several TV movies, the feature film, “The Real Howard Spitz” starring Kelsey Grammer, and has been a script doctor on films starring Eddie Murphy, Kim Catrall, Michael Caine, Walter Matthau and others. His plays have been produced in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles. He is the author of 9 books including “Your Writing Coach” and “Creativity Now.” If you would like to find out more about “The Seven Things That Are Stopping You From Writing And How To Overcome Them,” check out Jurgen’s screenwriting website: www.ScreenWritingSuccess.com

What Screenwriters Can Learn From Documentary Filmmakers

Recently I taught a workshop to a group of documentary filmmakers, and I was reflecting on how much easier we screenwriters have it. The docu-makers may have a general story idea in mind, but often in the course of filming it turns out that reality doesn’t cooperate.

Sometimes one of the people they’re filming dies or decides to stop cooperating. Sometimes they’re following a process with an unknown ending–for instance, the life of a contender in the Olympics. If she wins gold , they have a great story. If she gets silver or bronze, it’s still a good story. If she comes in fourth, there’s the drama of such a near miss. But if she comes in sixth, or has to pull out because of an injury, the story line isn’t so clear.

Sometimes documentary makers end up with hundreds of hours of footage without a clear story spine. That’s when they have to dig deep and sometimes they find a story that’s much more interesting than the one they hoped to get. In the case of the Olympic athlete, for instance, it might be her relationship with her father, who is also her coach. Or it might be the aftermath–what does an athlete do when it’s clear she’s peaked?

I think what we can learn from documentary makers is to pause before we launch into the obvious story and dig deeper to see if there’s a more interesting, perhaps more subtle, one lurking underneath.

Jurgen Wolff offers a new screenwriting tip here every Tuesday; also see his site, www.ScreenwritingSuccess.com and his book, “Your Writing Coach.”

Tennessee Williams’ advice to screenwriters

OK, I’m fibbing, it was actually Tennessee Williams’ advice to playwrights, but it applies just as much to screenwriters:

“What shouldn’t you do if you’re a playwright? Don’t bore the audience! I mean, even if you have to resort to totally arbitrary killing onstage, or pointless gunfire, at least it’ll catch their attention and keep them awake. Just keep the thing going anyway you can.”

Of course you don’t really want totally arbitrary events in your script, but if you need to capture their attention, put it in and then in the next draft work your way backward in the story so it has some motivation or at least is foreshadowed and work your way forward in the story to make sure it has a consequence.

(Jurgen Wolff offers a new screenwriting tip here every Tuesday; also see his site, www.ScreenwritingSuccess.com and his book, “Your Writing Coach.”)


Screenwriting How To Protect Your Material

Since starting Filmmaking Stuff, many screenwriters have written me, asking if I could provide advice on how they can protect their screenplay from theft. I usually tell screenwriters that most producers will not go through the process of raising a gazillion dollars without compensating the screenwriter fairly.

However, as my screenwriter friend Jurgen Wolff points out, “While most people are honest, in every business there are people who steal. Once in a while you read about such cases in the media but others are kept quiet as a condition of the settlement.”

Jurgen would know. At least twice in his career someone stole, and took credit for  his material.  As a result, he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because he didn’t know how to handle the situation, and he listened to bad advice.

So when I saw Jurgen’s product focused on helping writers “stop the rip offs,” I thought it would be helpful to you. In full disclosure, this is an affiliate product and I will get a commission for any purchases. But with that said, I know Jurgen personally and can’t think of too many people who are more willing to share their expertise. So if you are interested in finding out more about Jurgen Wolff’s “Stop The Rip-Offs” system, you can do so by following this link.

Stop screenwriting rip offs