A FLICK CHICK: Find Screenwriting Luck

Paula Landry, MBA, is a writer/producer and consultant helping writers create strategies for INSPIRation, MOTIVATion & ACTivation to excel, improve storytelling, fusing business & creativity. Landry teaches film business classes at NYU, SVA, Wagner College and MCNY. She’s co-authored This Business of FILM; and Sell Your Screenplay; and is the author of Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film. Connect via LinkedIn, @paulalandry on Twitter, email: paula@paulalandry.com or Facebook #filmdreamers #mediaentrepreneurs #aflickchick

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leprechaun dancingLike holidays much? Green? Leprechauns? Pots of Gold!

I don’t know the last time you went to a parade or celebrated a random holiday (not one of the “important” ones) but one of the minor league holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Flag Day, May Day, or even the Superbowl counts. What’s great about these low pressure holidays are accessories, food, legend and culture. Also, they are non-obligatory. Hand one off to your characters for fun (in Silver Linings Playbook where the Pat and Tiffany are jogging through a neighborhood on Halloween through assorted pumpkins, decorations and trick or treaters), or sew it into the fabric of the plot (again in Silver Linings Playbook, where the big game is the focal point of Pat Sr’s obsession, and the foundation of the bet which Pat and Tiffany must dance to win).

EXT. STREET – DAY
PAT RUNS.

CAMERA TILTS UP AND MOVES BG. WITH HIM.
CHILDREN AND PARENTS ARE ON THE SIDEWALK, DRESSED IN HALLOWEEN COSTUMES.

           CHILD (O.C.)
Trick or treat!

PAT LOOKS AT THE MAXWELL HOUSE AS HE RUNS PAST IT. HE RUNS ONTO THE SIDEWALK. HE RUNS AROUND A TREE. TIFFANY ENTERS AND CIRCLES HIM.

TIFFANY
Hey!

THEY RUN.

PAT
How do you know when I run?

With this brief description of the holiday as the background of a simple act like jogging, the reader/audience can see the silly jack o’lanterns, slightly macabre decorations, with an undercurrent of the gallows humor around this holiday. Therefore, what could have been a moderately interesting exchange (is she stalking him?) is more colorful.

So what does this have to do with your writing? A lot.

shamrock

Screenwriters With Luck Are The Luckiest

Here’s the rub. Luck is discipline, period. Discipline is writing in spite of whatever is going on. No matter what. And the more you work at it, the luckier you get.

I was inspired by the ‘luck’ recently of Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, fearless curator and leader of ScriptMag and a tireless writer, cheerleader and champion of all writers. Her work was recognized when she got into the 2nd Round of Sundance Episodic Labs, and a finalist in The Tracking Board. She’s been dogging her craft for a while, writing constantly, and giving back in a big way by sharing everything over social media and blogs. Her screenwriting luck is the result of hard work, tenacity and grit, which is often the message when you read of artistic stories of triumph, it only took 10 years to be an overnight success.

Shamrock shake anyone?

Script EXTRA: The Magic Trick to Selling Your Screenplay

gold at the end of the rainbow How Do I Get Lucky?

Here’s the short version for finding luck in screenwriting. Schedule your writing – make it a date with yourself that’s a priority. Use your voice recorder to talk out your story – on your phone, and transcribe your notes, keep your notebook by your side and use it. Then get inspired!

Some of the smartest writers I know will take notes about their story but then they can’t find them to use. While that process helps you figure things out, you’re missing the full impact of note taking if they are not handy when you need them.

Schedule Your Writing

Lucky screenwriters write every day, same time if possible. Do it first before your brain gets full and diffused. Use your calendar, reminders, whatever tools you have. The more you write, the luckier you get. However, do it with whatever tools you have. My current tools consist of books like PEAK and GRIT.

Examples of ways to schedule screenwriting and keep yourself on track are demonstrated in these books with key concepts about deliberate, focused practice. By this, I mean writing with focus and a goal toward improvement. Even when it’s hard. Then reward yourself, and not just with food and drink.

Script EXTRA: Writing Goals – Goal-ivate to Motivate

Talk About Your Story

Talk around and about your story to work it out and improve the narrative, structure and characters. You can do this easily with the voice recording app on your phone (comes w/your iPhone) and it is free. If you don’t have one, get it today. For Android phones, Audiorecorder is great.

Another great tool – EVERNOTE. Thanks to the brilliant teachers I know (looking at you, Barb Lindsay) I’ve given in and am in love with Evernote, it’s awesome.

However, while it allows rich collection of media (web pages, images, recordings), it doesn’t dictate from speech to text. Why should we care about talking out our story? The reason screenwriters should talk it out because good stories SOUND GOOD. They do.

If you just consider this, the printing press (thanks, Gutenberg) has only been around for a few hundred years (since 1450 or so) we’ve only been writing for a relatively short time.

history of printBut we’ve been sharing ideas by telling each other stories for a really long time. Our chops are much more developed in that way, even if they are rusty. Use your voice to find your words.

And ultimately you will need to share your story verbally, to refine, talk it out and get feedback from listeners. This leads to pitching which will help improve your idea and flesh out your concepts. For instance, one place to get inspiration and direction on pitching and refining your verbal pitch in order to nail your written pitch is the Hollywood Pitching Bible by Ken Aguado.

Once you have words in an audio form, then get them into a more distant, but useful form. That is, text.

Script EXTRA: ScriptFest Co-Founder Bob Schultz Talks About Pitching

Transcribe Your Voice To Text
rolling in clover

Once you have your verbal story in a text form, then you can use it in a practical way. Instead of pushing ideas around in your head, you can push around actual words.

Dictation app on your phone and computer. There are a ton, rated, some free and some paid. I like Dragon, since I’ve used them the longest but there are many others.

Inspire and Get inspiration For Your Screenwriting, Often

Another way we can find luck in our screenwriting is to use the powerful lever of inspiration. Whether you use other screenwriters, novel writers, whomever, get inspired and stay inspired by reading and watching media stories all the time. All. The. Time. This isn’t a license to put off writing. You need both. As you know, they way to fan any flame is using the right fuel, what fuels you? Your passion?

  • Watching
    • Award shows
    • Television shows
    • Movies
  • Soliciting:
    • Feedback
    • Encouragement
    • Writer Camraderie
    • Competition through contests

If the ultimate goal for your screenwriting is to find luck in your career, financial success, making people laugh – whatever, make sure you’re constantly inspiring yourself with books like Lee Jessup’s newest book at Focal Press, BREAKING IN, TALES FROM THE SCREENWRITING TRENCHES so you can see what others are doing to make their own LUCK!

Rock your writing!
Best, Paula

Read more articles by Paula Landry

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