Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
It's no secret that if you want to get better at something then you need to practice and practice. And the more you practice, the better you should get. This isn't always true, many will practice, and reach a plateau. They'll reach a certain level of competency, and they just won't go any further. No matter how much time and effort they put in, they just won't get to the next level. This is very true when it comes to writing. But you can increase the odds if you actually learn to focus, rather than spreading yourself thin over far too many projects in any given year, or time period.
There is a limit to the amount you can write in any given period of time. Let's say for arguments sake, that you set yourself writing goals for a year. These goals that you want to achieve will be dependent on what other commitments you have outside of writing. Whether or not you have a family, work full-time, or part-time. All these factors will impede the amount of time you have to write. So what should you do? Should you try and write as much as you can, or should you focus on a small number of projects?
The reason I'm bringing this up, is because I have a habit of writing far too much, and this causes me to lose focus, and not put in enough time and energy into developing a project that I've finished. As an example, I wrote nine screenplays last year, and the year before that, I wrote nine screenplays. I'll tell you first hand, that's far too many projects. Writing this much exhausts your imagination, and creative juices, and leaves you no time to develop anything in that given year. There just isn't enough time to develop, and improve a project. And by doing this, and I'll be honest, 99.99 percent of what I wrote was terrible. Some of those projects are workable, and have potential to be developed, but the quality suffered big time. Because I didn't put the time in. Developing a feature project will take a lot of time and energy, and many drafts. Thinking that a vomit draft is acceptable is wrong. It's never acceptable!
From my own personal experience, I would say, and this is dependent on what other commitments you have outside of writing, that you should be aiming for three projects, possibly four in any given year. If you're writing features. I can't really put a figure out there for TV pilots, and sitcoms, but the number should be low enough so that it enables you time to get feedback and notes on them. So that you can rework, and develop them through the course of a year. By doing this, you will hopefully give yourself the chance to put a lot more time and effort into the project.
Three feature projects will give you roughly four months to work on each of them.
Four feature projects will give you roughly three months to work on each of them.
Knock out that first draft, and then get feedback and notes on it. And while you're waiting for those notes, start work on your next project.
Having three projects that you've rewritten, will be a lot better than having six shoddy first-drafts of six projects that you've put no real effort or work into.
Be realistic in the amount of time you have available through the year, and then set yourself some realistic goals that you can achieve.
Quality should always trump quantity.
Make that screenplay the best it can be. Give yourself the best shot. Whether you're entering it into a competition, or sending it out to people to read.
Best of luck for 2015.
Keep coming up with those ideas.
Favorite TV shows that I've managed to watch all the way through. It takes a lot to keep me interested in a TV series these days. And these definitely held my interest. In no particular order.
There are many things that make a TV series or movie great. The above are examples of great production values, and superb writing. Looking forward to what 2015 has to offer in terms of TV, and movies.
The Black List 2014
Must be a great feeling to get on this.
Lots of interesting scripts this year. Based purely on the titles and loglines, these are the ones that stand out.
In near future London, a revolutionary technology has been invented that can record sounds hours after they were made. Detective Harry Orwell, inventor of this technology, is part of a pilot program where investigators record and analyze past sound waves and finds himself the prime suspect while investigating a string of brutal murders.
A woman held captive in the futuristic smart house of a serial kidnapper realizes that her only hope of escape lies in turning the house’s sentient computer against its creator.
A genre bending action comedy about a pill popping thug who begins to develop superpowers.
The investigation of a murder on a moon colony.
A woman tries to lead her children to safety after the world is invaded by monsters who turn you insane upon sight.
After an apocalyptic event, a mother wolf is separated from her mate and the rest of the pack, and has to protect her cubs from swarms of mutated humans.
ROAD TO OZ
The early days of brilliant, whimsical author L. Frank Baum, who gave the world The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
A viral attack puts lives in danger, forcing a CIA agent to initiate a secret prisoner exchange of Russia’s most notorious spy for the American scientist who can create a cure.
THE EDEN PROJECT
When a race of genetically modified humans living secretly among us declare war on Man, the fate of the world is in the hands of a rogue “Synthetic” named Eve and a young girl who is about to discover she’s not all human.
A GARDEN AT THE END OF THE WORLD
In a post-apocalyptic world, a recluse, trying to recreate trees to produce new life, takes in a young girl who is on the run from some bad men, including her father.
If you want to see the full list, go here.
Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When
he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
No, Zero. Down, boy... My, what a brilliant nose you have. The
better to light my way! You're the head of the team, Zero!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! When I get home, I'm getting a CAT scan!
Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind...
and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad
I'm here, maybe I can do something about it.
It's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every December the 25th.
But as I seem to be the only man who knows that... take the day off.
I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.
American Hustle -- Really enjoyed this. Great performances. SPOILER: The opening scene with Christian Bale spending all that time fixing his hair, only to have it messed up, and then seeing the expression on his face was priceless. Really like these types of stories. And it had a rendition of Live and Let Die in it. Most enjoyable. Very Good.
12 Years a Slave -- Wow. Superb performances all round. As soon as the story starts, you're thrust into this world these characters inhabit, and it doesn't let up. Neither does it shy away from the brutality, and the senseless violence of the time. Quite often the scenes are difficult to watch, as we the follow Solomon Northup through this story. Certainly makes an impact and a lasting impression. Excellent.
The Wolf of Wall Street -- Pushing three hours - but they fly by. A very interesting story that holds your attention with great performances. Enjoyed the scenes where Leonardo DiCaprio addresses the camera, it was a nice touch and not overly done. An insightful story that takes you into the world of stockbroking. Very Good.
Lone Survivor -- A tremendous story. It's extremely difficult to comprehend what it must be like for those serving in the armed forces day in and day out, and to imagine what they have to deal with. For those on either side of a conflict, where you stare death in the face on a regular basis. Mark Wahlberg gives one of his best performances, that's not taking away from everyone else. All did a stand up job. Entertaining, and food for thought. A story that will definitely give the viewer something to think about and ponder as they leave the theater. Very Good.
Dallas Buyers Club -- Based on the true story of Ron Woodroof. Superb performances from the cast give this story a real grittiness and edge. Jarod Leto and Matthew McConaughey really dig deep to get into their characters. Really enjoyed this. Reminiscent of Philadelphia (1993) with Tom Hanks. Excellent.
August: Osage County -- When it comes to character driven stories and dramas, this has to be the best time of year. This is when actors can find those roles that they can really get their teeth in to, those passion projects. This won't be to everyone's taste due to the amount of dialogue, but the performances are fantastic. Meryl Streep is in top form as the dysfunctional, drug addicted mother. Really enjoyed this. Lots of conflict and arguments, especially when Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep go toe-to-toe at the dining table. Excellent.
The Book Thief -- Not familiar with the source material. Will be putting it on this year's reading list. Great performances from all - especially Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson & Sophie Nelisse. It doesn't delve too deeply into the true horrors of the war and the holocaust, but mainly revolves around the relationship that forms between the young girl and her adoptive parents. Enjoyed this. Very Good.
Short Term 12 (DVD) -- Been wanting to watch this for ages. What a superb, well written drama. The story deals with all sorts of issues, and the actors who play the key roles do an outstanding job. Working in a foster care facility, and having to deal with and help kids overcome their issues must be extremely challenging at the best of times. Brie Larson does an outstanding job as Grace, having to deal with her own personal problems while trying to stay level headed at work. Thought provoking and entertaining. Excellent.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -- Great opening. Enjoyed this much more than the first one. Seemed to have a lot more going on in it. And his suit looked better. Spoilers: Whistling the theme tune to the animated series was a nice touch. With the introduction of Alistair Smythe, this could be a great way of bringing in the Kingpin (Wilson Grant Fisk) at some point. Very Good.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- Wow. What a cool opening sequence of scenes. Really set-up the tone and genre. Felt a tad darker this time round, and they didn't hold back on the fights either. Really enjoying what they're doing with these movies, and how they're linking them altogether. There's a massive universe and a wealth of source material to work from. SPOILER: The elevator scene was great, as if they'd be able to take him down. Nice seeing Emily VanCamp make an appearance. Everwood (2002) Looking forward to where they take this and the others in the series. A little more insight into the creative process can be found here. Very Good.
The Spectacular Now (DVD) -- Been wanting to watch this for ages. Really good. Alcohol dependency. Difficult subject matter to tackle, handled really well. Stellar cast. Great chemistry. Great characters. Well written. Great performances all round. Excellent.
Godzilla -- Been looking forward to this for ages. And it didn't disappoint, for the most part. SPOILERS: Would have preferred a little bit more interaction between Juliette Binoche's and Bryan Cranston's characters. Was hoping the human storyline was going to be about a father reconnecting with his son, come the end of the movie. Unfortunately, Bryan Cranston's character didn't stay the course. Enjoyed it, had some stunning visuals and fight scenes. But Godzilla probably could have done with a little more screen-time. There seemed to be a connection between Aaron Taylor-Johnson's character and Godzilla near the end. Hopefully they'll use this in the future. Looking forward to the sequel. Hopefully, they'll bring Ken Watanabe's and Sally Hawkin's characters into the mix more. And possibly introduce King Ghidorah at some point. Forgot to add, while the fight scenes were good, why were they done under the cover of darkness? It was difficult to see what was going on quite a lot of the time.
X-MEN: Days of Future Past -- Being a fan of the animated series from the '90s, wasn't really sure what to expect from this. There are some great moments, and characters in the animated series, and this viewer wasn't really sure how the writers were going to handle the story in a live action movie. Well, this surprised this audience member. Out of the first four movies, the third installment was definitely the weakest. You can't go around killing off major characters. X-MEN: First Class, took the characters and franchise in a new direction, and was Very Good. So bringing the characters of these two universes together sounded like a lot of fun, and this viewer can honestly say, they weren't disappointed. Some great action sequences, and it was good to see Famke Janssen and James Marsden make a return. It was also nice to see Tyrion Lannister make an appearance. Some great performances all round. Only real gripe, what happened to Forge, Bishop and Nimrod?
Blue Jasmine (DVD) -- Wow. That's some performance by Cate Blanchett. Really nails those accents. It may not be the most riveting, or exciting stories out there. But this is most definitely Woody Allen at his finest. Cate Blanchett puts in one of her best performances, as we see her character lose control of herself. Slowly disappearing down the rabbit hole. While amusing, the final scene with Cate Blanchett talking to herself is quite thought provoking. Won't be to everyone's tastes, but what is. A good supporting cast as well.Very Good.
Edge of Tomorrow -- Getting stuck in a time loop may not be completely original, Groundhog Day (1993) springs to mind, which is a fantastic movie. But this puts a whole new spin on things. Based on a very cool story, All You Need Is Kill, this audience member had extremely high hopes.
SPOILERS: From the opening scenes when we're introduced to Tom Cruise's character, things were looking good. He's a bit of a coward, and a pencil pusher. Some fantastic, well executed action sequences sets this above a lot of movies in this genre. The bar has been raised. Great performances by Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, and it was nice to see Bill Paxton make an appearance. Very well written and executed. Only real gripe, the ending was a little cheesy. Not entirely sure if it made sense either. And maybe the title, it does make sense somewhat, but why not stay with All You Need Is Kill? But, it didn't take away from the overall feel good nature, and fun-filled extravaganza that this is. Tom Cruise does like his sci-fi/fantasy. Check out the trailer here. Very Good.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes -- Really good animation on display here, and the story was great. Seeing things from Caesar's point of view added an interesting perspective and dimension to the story. There were some great scenes involving the apes and humans. SPOILERS: Especially when Caesar's newborn interacts with Keri Russell's character. Also enjoyed the scene when Caesar takes them to the house from the first movie, and he sees the brief video footage. Looking forward to the sequels. Very Good.
The Lego Movie (DVD) -- From an advertising, marketing, and merchandising standpoint, this is as good as it gets. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live in Lego World, then this movie is for you. From the construction of buildings and vehicles, to how Lego characters move around, it's great! What a superb cast as well, and throwing in the human element at the end was an excellent addition. They appear to have set up a few story-threads for the sequel as well. Looking forward to it. One of the best animated movies to come out over the last few years. Everything is awesome! Very Good!
The Grand Budapest Hotel (DVD) – This may not have the CGI, grand explosions and special effects of a Summer popcorn flick, but what it does have is a superb, well-acted, and very entertaining story. With a wonderful cast of actors, all doing a wonderful job with an extremely well-written screenplay. Dialogue that shines through some amazing performances. A joy and pleasure to watch. Ralph Fiennes swearing. Wasn't expecting that! Hah-Hah! Excellent.
Boyhood – Wasn't sure about this one. But it's well worth a watch. Seeing these kids grow up, and the adults change over the course of eleven years, or is it twelve, is definitely unique, and something special? A really good coming-of-age-story. Something I've never seen before. Everyone ages before your very eyes. This sets it apart from other similar themed stories. Unique and extremely different. It gets a gold star for that. Really well written with a great cast. Great performances all round. Most enjoyable. And the ending was very good. Check out the trailer here. Excellent.
The Equalizer - Finally got a chance to catch this on the big-screen before it vanishes. Was in two-minds about it due to being a fan of the original series with Edward Woodward. But was pleasantly surprised by this reincarnation. If you like a main character that kicks ass, and Denzel Washington's character definitely is a character that knows how to handle himself in precarious situations. Then you should like this. My only concern about it was indeed that aspect of it. He's just too damned good. But that might just be the point of who he is and what he does. There's a sequel in the works. Looking forward to it. Very Good.
Chaplin (1992) - It's only taken twenty-two years, but finally got around to watching this. This is really good. Probably one of Robert Downey Jr.'s best performances. He really nails Charles Chaplin's character, especially in how he moves. An excellent cast as well, with some great all round performances. Not entirely sure how accurate it is. But from an entertainment point of view, it's worth a watch. Looking forward to watching The Judge (2014). Looks like it's getting the thumbs up. Very Good.
The Judge – Is it cliched? Yes it is, to a degree. Been reading some reviews. All stories, whatever shape, or form they take, will have some kind of cliches in them, it's inevitable, as Agent Smith would say. It's the execution that matters. And this is very good. Some great performances here. It's extremely well written, and brings out some exceptional performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Really enjoyed watching it. Thumbs up. Excellent.
Maleficent – If you're a fan of fantasy films, and Sleeping Beauty, you'll enjoy this. Very creative with a lot of fantastic and colorful animation on show. Angelina Jolie steals the limelight with a great performance as Maleficent. How did they do her cheek bones? Very Good.
The Fault in Our Stars – Whoa! Difficult subject matter handled really well. This is really good. SPOILERS: Using a cigarette as a metaphor, very good. Good chemistry between the lead actors. With a great supporting cast. Willem Dafoe may have a small part, but he plays it well. And the scene with the eggs – very funny! Lots of nice little moments. Written really well. Definitely worth watching. Check out the trailer here. Excellent!
Guardians of the Galaxy – Wow! This is very, very good. Marvel are on a roll at the moment. Tongue-in-cheek, most definitely. Doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's great entertainment, and the cast nail their characters. Christ Pratt and company are very good, and there's a great chemistry and vibe amongst everyone involved. No-one seems out of place in their given roles. Could these characters be brought into the same universe as The Avengers, let's hope so? There's plenty of scope to widen this universe that Marvel are creating for the big-screen. Loads of potential here. Looking forward to the sequels. And, was that Howard the Duck in the post credits scene? Could this mean a possible movie, or series is in the works? That would be interesting. Thumbs up for this! Very enjoyable, and Very Good.
The Homesman - Whoa! Had the opportunity to watch this, and I have to say that it's right up there with some of the best performances of this year. Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank really nail their characters. Both give exceptional performances. Some intense scenes make it difficult to watch on occasions, but it's definitely worth it. Plus there's the added bonus of all the short cameos by some very well known actors. Won't spoil it, but there is a scene that I didn't see coming. Hilary Swank has made another movie that I really want to watch, You're Not You, which looks really good. Gritty, and well executed. You can see the trailer here. Excellent!
Chef – If you've ever worked in a restaurant, food truck, or kitchen, you'll appreciate this movie. Really well written, and there's a great dynamic and chemistry between all the characters. The cast is awesome, and the soundtrack is superb. While brief, it was nice seeing Dustin Hoffman, as the restaurant owner. John Favreau definitely looked like he was enjoying himself, and put in a great performance. A very enjoyable, feel-good story. Very Good!
Welcome to Russell’s website. A storyteller who enjoys writing screenplays for movies. Even though the process is hard. It keeps his imagination working overtime.
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