Hi There,

This week:  A NEW COURSE!


Your answers to Question no.5 in my SCREENWRITING SURVEY.

CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS, Central London, Saturday June 21st

This is a one day course I have now road-tested twice. I always have a really enjoyable time running it and the course has received some very nice feedback from the writers who’ve done it.

This is a course designed for dramatic writers and story-tellers in any genre – TV, Film, Theatre, Radio – even novelists (and of any level of experience – from beginner to old hand).

The purpose of the course is to give your writing that spark of energy, inspiration and creativity that we all need to rediscover from time to time.

It’s a highly inter-active day, designed to be intensive but fun, getting you as writers to think on your feet, and to tap into your instincts more than your intellect.

Here are some of the elements the day will contain:-

•    Story ideas – looking into the big ideas that will form the basis of a really strong logline/central narrative idea to your work.
•    Character – exercises that will engender the creation of unique and memorable characters, characters who will drive your stories.
•    Idea-generating techniques – we will explore in depth the sort of techniques you need to develop, the techniques that you need to be using endlessly as professional writers to kick-start new projects and to awaken your creative instincts.
•    Other Media – we will be looking at how you can use other media and unlikely areas of everyday life to access and consider universal story ideas.
•    Writing exercises – we will be doing instant writing exercises to unlock your creativity.
•    Inspirational Guest speaker ANDERS LUSTGARTEN – will talk about how he generates his ideas, and where his dramatic inspiration comes from.

ANDERS is a brilliant playwright, screenwriter, novelist (I worked with him on the Channel 4 screenwriting course in 2012) who is also a committed political activist. Anders will talk about where his inspirations as a writer come from, as well as entertaining us with a reading from his work.

Anders talked on this course the first time I ran it, and there is so much to learn from him in terms of how to energise, and put the necessary passion into, your writing.

This is a one day course in Central London at what I think is an extremely reasonable £89. AND places are limited to the FIRST 20 APPLICANTS.

The course is designed to give everyone on it a real chance to explore their creativity, so I have to limit numbers to 20.

You can find all the details at

And please do spread the word through Facebook, Twitter etc! Thank you.

Onto the SCREENWRITING SURVEY question, which is:

Which contemporary screenwriter\s do you find the most inspiring and why?

Once again, a huge thank you for all your brilliant answers (And this is Part 1 of 2) –

‘Paul Abbott is my favourite contemporary screenwriter, because of his ability to invest every line, and possibly ever word, with exactly the right weight. Everything is there for a reason, whether it is as a joke, character insight or to set up something later in the plot – quite often his lines will do all of these things.’

‘Stevan Moffat, as one of his Dr Who storylines (and gallons of coffee/ hours of expounding the concept) has inspired the premise of my current project.’

‘It used to be Charlie Kaufman. But I know better now, and I have to worship the very best. Something that is impeccably crafted line by line, scene by scene, act by act, and, yes, even film by film. Something that is dense yet lean, funny yet exciting, intelligent yet comprehensible, moving yet unsentimental… Thank you John Lasseter et al for Toy Stories 1-3. Perfect, perfect, perfect.’

‘Diablo Cody because without being part of a monstrous industry; she resolutely dealt with the problem and became a well renowned screenwriter. She has always been my inspiration, as a woman and as a screenwriter.’

‘Tarantino, his own force of nature, changing the profession.’

‘This is another answer that could spiral out of control. I think the number one thing for me is bravery and I think writers can demonstrate that in a number of ways. I’m always impressed if a writer tries something different whether they pull it off or not. Darren Aronofsky is one such writer. Whilst they certainly have themes in common, no two projects are the same. Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain have been some of the most wholly absorbing cinematic experiences of my life and when you throw in his directorial collection as well (The Wrestler and Black Swan) he is clearly a man with a different perspective on story telling.
Whilst their record may not be as bullet proof as D.A. I must also flag up The Coen Brothers. I’m sure they’re another favourite amongst aspiring scriptwriters but again, they have the bravery to push the envelope and yes, I’m sure that has something to do with their stature but even so.’

‘I am going to aim my admiration not at a single writer but a group. I think the British writers just do the craft so much better than just about anyone else. I find most American drama childish, churlish and chunderish. They do not have the language and its subtleties bred in the bone like the British do. For example, the skill of Guy Burt (The Borgias, The Bletchley Circle, Kingdom, Wire in the Blood among others) comes from reading English at Oxford and teaching Prince William at Eton College. What American can make a claim like that?’

‘Since I tend to run on in my descriptions I keep reading screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin for his witty subtext as well as WALL-E by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter for their funny, spare descriptions. Anybody could learn about writing dialogue by reading the LACK of lines delivered by a robot!’

‘At the risk of being repetitive, I’m having trouble looking past Bryan Fuller right now, with Stephen Moffat having delivered a below par series of Dr Who. Leaving aside Hannibal, he has a pretty faultless track record where other, perhaps better writers have blotted their copybook. It helps that I’m a Trekkie but my love is not blind and he wrote some of the best Voyager episodes, presiding over its strongest seasons. Dead Like Me was a flawed but worthwhile idea, with a strong creative strand. As for Pushing Daisies, I felt utterly charmed by it, being both whimsical and all the while carrying an intangible sense of dread and fragility. Its perceived failure and cancellation owed more to the Writers’ Strike than anything it did wrong.’

‘Aaron Sorkin. The Coen Brothers for the breadth of work and the consistency of quality and craftsmanship. And, to cheat slightly since he’s not a screenwriter, Alan Moore, the man who wrote the original sources of V for Vendetta and Watchman, for a huge body of work that spans everything from irreverent humour to romance to science fiction to superheros to everyday tales of Northampton. He has broken boundaries, never shied away from ambitious goals and pioneered new storytelling techniques, while never losing sight of the fact that you need to entertain the audience. The man is a giant.’

‘Dean Georgaris…the subjects that interest him are similar to my interests.’

‘David Twohy. He makes you fall in love with words. The right word or phrasing can be as lethal as the visual association. Makes you want to be an assassin. And his words target A-list every time.’

‘Steven Moffatt. I have seen very few television writers who can compare with him. Sherlock was so superior to any other production in the last two years that I wish he wrote half the dramas the BBC produce. The episode penned by Mark Gattiss (Hound of the Baskervilles) was noticeably weaker than Moffat’s efforts which just served to highlight the point.’

‘Vince Gilligan is just so damn good, he makes my head spin!  He’s a master storyteller with a truly original mind and has created characters that are fascinating and compelling to watch. He combines high drama and black comedy with such skill, it makes me green with envy. Breaking Bad is one of the few shows where I genuinely don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next and that is why the man is a genius.’

‘Mike Leigh – He doesn’t rely on set-pieces or grandstanding – he tells warm tales about ‘real’ people.’

‘Joss Whedon and Russell T Davies. Both have such imagination anchored to a sense of humanity.’

‘Robert Siegel (The Wrestler), Andres Heinz (Black Swan), Hossein Amini (Drive), Christopher and Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento, etc.), David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master) – Their work is intelligent, original and thought provoking, but doesn’t position itself exclusively in an arthouse niche. Their scripts have breakout appeal. They understand people are jaded and want to see things on screen they haven’t seen before, and they know the only way to make good films is to sweat blood and go the extra mile to put things on screen that will make people’s jaw drop (think of the wrestling scenes in The Wrestler, what Natalie Portman went through to achieve the required effect in Black Swan, the visceral realism of Daniel Day Lewis’ gold-mining and oil-digging agonies in There Will Be Blood). These are also writers that obviously work closely with directors to create something unique and visual. These writers and directors know that Art is Blood, and that collaboration between writer, director and actor is paramount to creative achievement.’

‘Can I have Nora Ephron, please? Real, poignant, unforgettable human dialogue.’

‘The Coen brothers. Maybe two heads are better than one, they continually thrill, pulling trick after trick out of their bag and combine it with a musical score that leave us wanting more (as long as they stay away from the remakes)’

‘One of my favourite writers is David Renwick, who has managed in Jonathan Creek to create a world you want to return to again and again. The series, especially the first three with Caroline Quentin’s character Maddy, is imaginative, clever and funny. He often writes a very small cast but they are terrifically bold characters that really stand out. Maddy Magellan, in my opinion, is up there as one of the greatest female TV characters alongside Emma Peel and Buffy Summers.’

‘I find Debbie Moon very inspiring. She created CBBC series Wolf Blood, nurturing it through a two-year development series. It might be a werewolf show for pre-teens, but it exhibits none of the lesser traits that something like Twilight does. Most of all, Wolf Blood is about something universal – feeling like an outsider, being different in a crowd. Just lovely writing.’

Until next week

All the very best


Twitter: @philipshelley1

March 7th 2014