Alpha State

By Elliot Grove

Write and sell the Hot ScriptAn extract from his book Raindance Writers' Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay.

Capturing ideas in alpha state is easy and fun. But like a muscle, it improves with practice.


Identifying Alpha State

The moment you do any physical movement you will be in alpha state. You may not realize it. Tasks like walking, driving, cycling, ironing and cleaning send me into alpha state in seconds. Here is a simple exercise that you can perform to put yourself into alpha state.

Close your eyes and roll your eyes upwards until you feel your eyelids flutter. The effort of keeping your eyelids fluttering will put you in alpha state. If you want to take this exercise a step further, close your eyes, roll your eyes upwards for exactly a minute. Can you see the first minute of your movie? Are you aware of a color? An image? An emotion? If yes, perhaps these ideas can give you an idea for your movie. If not - perhaps this is just too crazy for you, or you were distracted by a noise.

Capturing the Moment

The only way to capturing those wonderful alpha state ideas is to jot them down as they happen.

How you jot them down is important. You should carry a small pad and pencil with you all the time. If you are a frequent driver, perhaps a Dictaphone is a safer idea. When you have an idea, whip out your pad and jot down a couple of words that will jog you back to the moment when you are next at your computer. I never write down more than eight words. The words you write should just be enough to jog your memory, and allow you to return to the moment that you had the idea. You will then be able to finish off your alpha state daydream and experiment with different possibilities. I discovered alpha state by accident.

I live with a dog, and walking the dog every morning is my responsibility. It is a task that takes twenty minutes, rain or shine. I used to hate taking the dog out, until I discovered alpha state. Now I look forward to those precious twenty minutes at the start of each day where I can see what the solutions are to the problems at hand.

I can't assign tasks to alpha state, tasks like 'I'm two hundred short for the rent today - what am I going to do?' But solutions to the problems and opportunities in my life get answered every single morning. I just don't know which ones -which is why I always carry a notebook.

Hint If you utilize alpha state while writing your movie make sure you really get to know your characters inside out. If you do they will actually talk to you during your alpha state moments.

While I was writing Table 5, I was struggling with the relationships between the girl and her ex. I had a scene that just wasn't working. One morning, while walking the dog, I realized I had rewritten this scene at least a dozen times. At that moment I thought I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around, and heard Ramona's voice saying Elliot, I wouldn't ever say that. I would say this.' What would you say instead?' I asked. And she spoke the lines. I scribbled down a few key words, raced back to my desk and finished the scene in under an hour.

Alpha state will work for you like this as long as you don't ask it to solve mechanical problems like your overdraft!

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About Elliot Grove

Elliot GroveCanadian born Elliot Grove founded Raindance Film Festival in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998, and Raindance.TV in 2007, the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree in 2011 and Raindance Raw Talent in 2013.

He has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films incuding his latest feature film, Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe. Japan and America.

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008),  RAINDANCE PRODUCERS LAB (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Open University awarded Elliot and Honourary Doctorate for services to film education in 2009.
He is regularly interviewed. Here is an interview for Canadian television

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 Alpha State