Inspiration for Screenwriters in 2021
2020 was for many a horrible year full of worry, sadness, and isolation. Thank heavens we’re now in 2021!
As with all true tests though, the aim is not whether we can be fearless or how quickly can we “get back to normal,” but rather whether we are capable of learning from our experience. Whether we can take from the experience to enrich ourselves as we continue to strive in the future.
It might sound like a high-minded goal, but to fire your enthusiasm for the writing year ahead, we have put together some ace writing tips from a selection of our 2020 winners.
These writers stuck to their resolutions in 2020 and, not necessarily without struggle, were rewarded with a placement in our contests. We will be backing them over the coming months and years, championing their stories, and promoting their scripts to our connections within the Industry.
So, what did they learn? And how can you use it to jump-start your writing in 2021? Carry on reading below to find out.
The struggle is constant. Clarity is important.
What do you struggle with the most?
Balance. Balancing work and writing. I used to be able to separate when I worked in documentaries or original programming, but now that I work at Netﬂix and am actively on shows with my boss, it’s difﬁcult to separate work creativity from personal creativity.
Sara Casey | 2020 ½-Hour TV Pilot Winner RBF.
For many of us, our professional and personal worlds collided in 2020. Working from home, working amid the competing attentions of family and others – it was easy to lose sight of one’s personal goals and achievements. Sara’s words remind us how personal creativity is still something to be cherished and nurtured, even in these tumultuous times. And being mindful of the creativity you expend for others, and that which fulfills your ambitions is a recurrent process that you have to engage with every day.
Life can mirror Art.
What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I’d had this basic idea for a script for years, back when Fox News was spending every night attacking President Obama. But, it wasn’t until the election of Trump that I felt like I had to write it. And I have to say, it’s been surreal to see a script I conceived and began writing years ago coming true in such a tangible, heartbreaking, horrifying way. I think it’s an important, relevant message. That’s why I wrote it. But, man, I do wish it was a little less relevant right now.
Brian T Arnold | 2020 Best Thriller Feature Winner FRIEND OF THE SHOW.
With perennial long lead times and the more recent disruptions to production schedules and commissioning of projects, the chance of a writer achieving “timeliness” with their story has been severely compromised. Brian’s words remind us how important it is to write what you know to be true. If your story speaks its truth to others in a compelling way, it will find an audience.
We can learn from History.
I’ve always been fascinated by the 1960s, as it was a time of tumultuous change in the US. This tumult also exposed how sharply divided the nation was. In the last few years, as issues of racial injustice bubbled over into the forefront, I was struck by how many of those same issues we’re still issues. It added a necessary relevance to THE HAIGHT for me, which truly fuelled my writing.
Kimba Henderson | 2020 1-Hour TV Pilot Winner THE HAIGHT.
Kimba’s anguish and disappointment at the apparent truth of the old saying “plus ça change” in 2020, [the more things change, the more they stay the same] fired her to write a compelling historical story. To not learn from history is to squander an opportunity, and this year we felt we saw history in the making. Don’t be afraid to support your story with a moral message if that is what you want to do. When executed skillfully, it can elevate your script and your story.
Having a plan is still worthwhile.
I put a lot of work into [outlining] and by the time I move onto the script I’ve gone over the scenes so many times in my head that it just flows quicker. I still hit blocks, but at least I have the outline to fall back on. I also try to end my writing for the day BEFORE I hit a wall and get stuck, this allows me to start the next day with some momentum rather than right back at the previous day’s wall.
Bill Whirity | 2020 Best Horror Feature Winner SEMBLANCE
With no office to go to, and a seething landscape of messages changing every day – having a plan, let alone sticking to it must have seemed like a big ask. But that is what makes Bill’s advice so special. Building periods of respite into your plan and understanding your needs when it comes to delivering upon a writing plan, are strategies that can make a good plan great. Don’t write yourself into a corner or become focused on small things. Remember to pace yourself and give your brain time to recharge.
Don’t be afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants!
My advice would be to research the industry. Look at upcoming writers’ CVs. How did they get there? Do they have representation? If yes, what did they do before? Were they accepted in any Script Lab? Did they place in any competition? Finishing a script is as important as coming up with new ideas. It’s helpful to have a few strong specs in different genres before reaching out to people (managers, agents, etc.). Some super lucky writers got their first script produced – yes. But they still get asked, “What else have you got?”
Eleonora Mignoli | 2020 Best Sci-Fi Feature Winner SEED OF KNOWLEDGE.
Very often those who are successful in a creative field of endeavor are portrayed as having exceptional abilities. This can sometimes feel out of reach to those coming after so Eleonora’s advice is a timely reminder that we can use last year as a way to improve our chances of success. By really researching what others have done, how they went about getting their stories in front of people, even the accidental luck they had upon the way, can always inform the choices we make each day, as we go about pursuing our dreams.
Never give up!
Writers must persevere and pursue their craft and career despite times of tremendous adversity, for one never knows when opportunities and achievements may arise. A glorious breakthrough can occur even in a dismal, COVID-ridden year like 2020!
Stephen Woodworth | 2020 1-Hour TV Pilot Winner THROUGH VIOLET EYES.
Stephen’s words give us possibly the most timeless, and authentic advice of all – never give up, never stop being hopeful. We know it’s been tough, we have all suffered loss and disappointment in 2020. But we are ready to make a difference in 2021. It’s time to pick up your pen once more and get writing!