Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker

Articles - Screenwriting

Matthew Waynee
Matthew Waynee on the set of Unknown (2006).

Build your foundation with the basics: Read folk stories, fairy tales, ancient plays, Shakespeare and mythology (and not just Greek and Roman—explore Chinese, African and Native American myths as well). Each offers a unique perspective on the world and the human condition and could be the foundation for your next big idea.

Read one script a week: There are tons of free Websites out there with screenplays. Find the script for your favorite film, a film you watched last week, or a film you will never see in your life and read it. There is no better way to improve your own writing than to see what techniques make a good scripts good (or a bad script bad).

Work on multiple projects: I always work on two or three projects at a time. That way if I ever get writer’s block on one, I can shift gears and still feel productive by moving ahead on another project. As I work on the second script, I am able to work through the road blocks from the first project in the back of my head.

Keep an image journal: Most writers keep writing journals; I fill my notebooks with images. Any image that inspires me, fascinates me, intrigues me or scares me. All hand-drawn (and believe me, I suck at drawing—nothing but stick-figure sketches). But even a raw, stick-figure drawing can capture a moment of angst or fear or rage or rapture that could evolve into your next script idea or a climax to a scene.

Become an insomniac: Why throw away all those perfectly good hours at night sleeping?!?

While we may dedicate our lives to writing, remember: Life is ultimately not about the stories we write. It is about the people we meet, the places we explore and the adventures we embark upon; this is essential.

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