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This week's question: 

How do you think of a really great idea for a screenplay that a producer will want to purchase?

Mike from Indiana

This week's Answer: 

Dear Mike,

I’m certain, Mike, that many screenwriters have wondered the same question.  How does one come up with that winning idea that will have producers and agents breaking down your door or ringing your cell-phone off your belt clip or out of your purse?  (I’m not saying that you personally, Mike, have a purse.  But, if you do, that’s okay, too.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.)  I know that this may seem an odd way of putting it, but please bear with me when I state that, instead of trying to think of a good concept for a screenplay, let the concept think of you.  (I told you that it was odd.)  Another way of putting it is:  Rather than attempting to pen (probably type – unless you’re Neal Simon or another writer who uses longhand) the next blockbuster and cater to the whimsical public and film industry (Only a year ago, thrillers were the rage and nobody wanted romantic comedies, and now as I write this, well-written romantic comedies are what agents/ managers/ producers are willing to give their eyeteeth for.), write about what “calls to you.”  Whatever excites you, arouses you (careful here!), intrigues you, challenges you, quickens you.  (This is a wonderful word and measuring stick / touchstone / litmus test to use to help you decide if a story concept will engage you and hold your attention.  For attention it must hold because, although it is true that the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, it is also true that screenwriters better wear good hiking shoes because they are going to be walking for quite a while – and the path will usually be sometimes smooth and even, and, other times, rough, hilly, slippery, and a difficult (yet exhilarating) climb.  Enough with the Sierra Club report.    Back to the word “quicken.”  Just look at the definition of quicken:  quicken, verb.  1.  to make more rapid; accelerate; hasten.  2.  to make quick or alive: restore life to.  3.  to give or restore vigor or activity to: stir up, rouse (There’s that arousal thing again!), or stimulate:  to quicken the imagination.  4.  to become alive; receive life.  5.  (of the mother) to enter that stage of pregnancy in which the child gives indications of life.  (Look at that one!  In a sense, you are the “mother” of your screenplay, your “child,” and, when a concept starts to stir in you, it can be likened to a child notifying you that it wants to be born.)   Okay, class, everyone put away your dictionaries for now.  But you get the idea.  Let your story “notify” you.  It will; it will talk to you, send you images, dialogue, characters, plots, premises, themes, moods, structure, etc.  Everything your little screenplay heart desires.  Why, if you learn to let it, it can show you your entire movie.  (Well, I mean you will have to do some of the work; you can’t just sit back and eat popcorn like you want your audience to do after they’ve paid their nine or ten or more dollars, some of which will end up back with you so you can once again leisurely invite your imagination and lovely Muse to visit on a regular basis.)


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