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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Big Idea

What is that? The "Big Idea?" I think it's really important. It's the idea within your story that gives you real glee. The one that is going to be the generator of excitement that pushes a wave of energy through your whole script. And for the professional writer, it could be the idea, or "take" that makes the sale. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, that would be bad. But it does have to be all encompassing of the story.

These ideas are crucial not just for original story telling, but for adaptations or re-inventions. I think Spielberg's big idea in War of the Worlds was a 9/11 emotional tone: aliens are terrorists who want to kill you. He even captured the look in those initial attacks, stunned people filling the streets, covered with white ash and looking up. Amazingly powerful.

So how do you get the big idea? How do you identify it?

It will feel good.
It will be unexpected.
The statement of the idea will have energy.
It will indicate an entire story.
It will NOT have structure.
It's just - an idea - remember? Keep it simple.
But it should be as radiant as a little sun to YOU.

I'll give you an example of a big idea.

A genius is a schizoprhrenic. His intellect endlessly at war with his interpretation of his world.

Wow - that's so perfect, you know? That was enough to excite that screenwriter (Akiva Goldsman) every day. That's all I'm talking about.

Start writing.


Blogger The Moviequill said...

it amazes me when some people say they have run out of ideas. I have a Big Idea notebook and in it is sketched out ideas for nine to a dozen screenplays (including a new one I thought up sitting on the throne this morning)

Friday, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Yikes! Dare I ask one that one is about?

Friday, July 08, 2005  
Blogger Warren said...

Thanks for the great post. I've been thinking lately about how we choose our projects. There's the analysis about what genres are hot, what's been selling, what will be well-received by agents and execs. And we aspiring writers are always told to do high concept. But given all of that, I think that we also need to give serious consideration to your so-called "big idea." The key being, I suppose, that we should choose the idea that most excites us personally, not the one we think will most excite the power-players.

Friday, July 08, 2005  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

Philip, all I'll say is I see Adam Sandler playing the role...

Saturday, July 09, 2005  

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