A Tip for Film Writers: Always Be Writing

film writing

Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writer’s slump because no ideas are coming, or because they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that moment of inspiration.

Now… you might get angry with me for saying this, or you may vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Of course it can be a dream that this happens, but most likely the story in some form has already been told before. Don’t sweat it!

Really, I’m not kidding you. Don’t let it prevent you from writing. Just write. Let the words flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just! Write! You can worry about judging it after you are finished.

When you are done you can go in and develop a story that will inspire you to make a film. Think of it this way… a sculptor starts with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you’ll be excited about putting on film. So what I am trying say here, as succinctly as I can, is don’t be obsessed with telling an original story or having an idea that nobody has thought of before. Because ninety-nine times out of one hundred… it’s been done before.

I make short films. I enjoy shooting them and making them. But I am not under any illusion that these short films will make my career. I have two full feature scripts waiting to be produced. I am using my shorts films to open doors and to gain experience on the set. Period! 99.99% of short films will never make money or be commercial.

In some ways, a short film is merely a means to an end. A way to get someone to ask you this: “Do you have any feature scripts that I can read?” To generate interest in you and what you have written. So the best advice I can give is ALWAYS BE WRITING.

Here is another way to look at this: treat your writing, or other creative work with the same kind of respect you have for your family doctor or dentist. Doctors, dentists… these people have studied hard for years and treated their work with respect and care. So should you.

If you treat your writing with disdain and laziness, or as a lah-dee-dah creative artist that will get to it “when inspiration strikes”, then shame on you. Because all you are doing is confirming to society that artists are all flaky and emotionally high-strung…and that we are ultimately disposable as paper in an outhouse. And to quote a line from Bruce Willis in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, “There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong, and then there’s this”.

And I don’t say this to be flippant, it’s just that artists are treated so badly, I want to stop this the best way I can.

Exercise: For the next three weeks, set your alarm clock early in the morning and spend ONLY 15 minutes each day writing! Something. Anything. Just write. Don’t look at it and judge it as being either good or bad. That is not the exercise. The exercise is to try and create a HABIT of writing, just like going to a job. It is an attempt on your part to train your body and mind for just 15 minutes each day to take your writing seriously. And for those of you with the excuse “I don’t have time”, then here is another saying that I really love. TIME IS MADE, NOT FOUND! You make the time by prioritising and writing. Simple as that!

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at http://notitleproductionfilms.com

3 thoughts on “A Tip for Film Writers: Always Be Writing

  1. I am no screenwriter, but I think that your tips and suggestions hold good for any writing. And ‘Time is made, not found’, I 100% agree with that too, John.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, John. I’ve think writers often hide behind a misunderstanding of the term “writer’s block” to avoid putting the time in. Many people tell themselves they are blocked when they stare at a blank page for two hours. That’s not being blocked. That’s actually writing. Being blocked is when you do anything you can think of – like defrosting your refrigerator or watching reruns of Green Acres – to avoid staring at that blank page.

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