Seven Ninja Mindsets
For The Writer And Film-Maker

With Jurgen Wolff

As a screenwriter or film-maker you have a bold vision that the rest of the world may not yet appreciate. To reach your goal you need talent and craft, but you also need the right mindset. That’s what will allow you to reach your goal while most of the people around you fritter away their time and stay in the land of “Someday I will…”

1: Commit now

Forget about waiting for some magic future when you’ll have more time.
You will never have more time. It’ll always be 24 hours a day, and there will always be more things to fill it. Decide that the time to go for your goal is now. Committing to that will give you strength and determination.

2: Don’t waste your talent on the ordinary

Seth Godin wrote a book called Purple Cow, about making your product or service one that truly stands out. He says, "I'm the first to agree that the ideas in Purple Cow are really simple. Scary simple, in fact. Yet simple doesn't mean widespread. Every year, 75,000 books are published, and 90% are boring, safe, average books for average people. And they don't sell. McDonald's is big, but it's not profitable. American Airlines sells to the middle of the market, and they're a total failure from a business perspective. There's no money left in the middle anymore."
If you suspect that your project isn’t different enough to stand out, dedicate some time every day to brainstorming how you could tweak it. If you draw a blank, make a list of the movies you consider outstanding, decide what makes them so, and consider how you might imbue your project with some of these qualities.

3: Watch your language

Along the way you’re going to have to convince a lot of people that what you’re doing is worthwhile. How you speak to agents, financiers, actors, studio or network people and even how you speak to yourself can make a big difference to the results you get.
Nick Kemp is an Neuro Linguistic Programming trainer who has worked  in  schools  to  help  students and teachers be more effective.  In  an  article  published  in the magazine  ReSource  he reveals a  simple  change  in language  that  creates positive effects.
He noticed that in interviews with staff, many of them used phrases like "We'll try  to..."  or  "We'll aim to..." or "Hopefully..." or "All being  well..."  All of these imply that failure is possible (perhaps  even that it's likely). When he had them switch to definite  statements  like  "We  will..."  it  changed their thinking and their whole state in the classroom. 
Listen to how you speak about things you are about to  undertake.  Do  you  use qualifiers that suggest you may not/will  not succeed? If you find it difficult to be aware of this as it goes on, try tape recording yourself for a few hours.  
Switch  to  definite  statements  that  presuppose success  and  notice  the difference in how you feel, how you carry out your work, and the level of cooperation you get from others.

4: Focus your attention.

The goal of making a feature film can be intimidating because it involves so many things. Even writing a feature script is a big undertaking.
Identify the logical first chunk. Focus 90% of your attention on that. Don’t be distracted by what needs to be done later.
Approach each step calmly and with intensity.
This is another quality that sets you apart from the majority,  who either never get started or get distracted or intimidated halfway through and stop.

5: Be humble enough to learn, bold enough to ask

Whatever problem you encounter in writing your script or making your film, somebody else has had it and figured out how to solve it. Of course the internet makes it much easier to access solutions but sometimes there’s no substitute for sitting down face to face and getting advice.
Most newer film-makers or writers assume that more experienced people are too busy or just can’t be bothered to help them.
Most of those people had somebody give them a hand when they started out and are willing to do the same for somebody else.
Raindance is a great place to find people who are at least a few steps ahead of you in some areas. Other places to make contact with such people are Meetup groups (see, film festivals, writers’ conferences, and workshops. Online you have Facebook and Yahoo groups as well as sites like If you are humble enough to admit you need some help, mentors will appear.

6: Manage your moods

Is there somebody in your life who has the unique ability to bring down everybody else's mood (while not necessarily intending to do so)? Sigal Barsade, a Wharton management professor who studies the influence of emotions on the workplace, says, "We engage in emotional contagion. Emotions travel from person to person like a virus."
Of course, this can be a positive as well: you may also know people who lift everybody's mood. Barsade says being positive not only makes you more popular but has other practical benefits: "Positive people cognitively process more efficiently and more appropriately. If you're in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you're in a positive mood, you're more open to taking in information and handling it effectively."
Some people don't recognize how negative they are. I used to know one man who would automatically undermine any positive statement he made. For example, he would say, "Congratulations on getting your book published! Let's hope it sells more than most new books do."
If you tend to be negative yourself, try following one of Grandma's Laws: "If you have nothing positive to say, don't say anything at all." And if negative people regularly bring your mood down, avoid them if  possible. If not, the next time you deal with them imagine a little storm cloud above their head, following them wherever they go. Make sure it stays above their head, not yours.

7: Get a fit body, get a creative mind

There's  a great deal of evidence  that  exercise is good  for  your creativity as well as your body. Marketing professor Stephen Ramocki,  of  Rhode  Island  College,  found  that  a single aerobic  workout  was  enough  to make college students more creative  for  the  two hours following their exercise. This has  been demonstrated previously with animals: fit rats and monkeys  do  better  at  problem-solving than inactive ones. Exercise  increases  the  supply  of oxygen and blood to the brain  and  stimulates  the  production  of  important brain chemicals. 
Find an exercise that doesn't require your full concentration,  so  that  your mind can wander. Walking in a park,  swimming,  or  using a cross-trainer at a gym are all ideal.  Be sure to have a pen and pad with you or nearby you so you can record the ideas that come up.
Put these seven together and you will have an indomitable spirit. That’s not enough to bring you success as a writer or filmmaker but it will take you far in that direction.
Jurgen Wolff is a screenwriter, author, and lecturer, and an NLP practitioner and licensed hypnotherapist.  His book on how to use your mind to get more done is called “Focus: Use the Power of Targeted Thinking to Get More Done” and is available from Amazon and other booksellers. On January 7 he is hosting an online MAD—Massive Action Day—that you can use to start your year with a blast of energy and achievement.
 Now it’s your turn. Email your questions to and he will answer them here. His books, Your Writing Coach and Your Creative Writing Masterclass, both published by Nicholas Brealey,  are available from Amazon and other book sellers.  You may also be interested in his Breakthrough Writing Strategy online group coaching programme. It starts on January 16 and there are bonuses for early signup. You can find out more and get his free 2012 Writing Breakthrough Report.

Casting Your Film

Learn about the casting process and the best ways to get the right actors for your production.

Tutors: Rory O'Donnell Venue: Raindance Film Centre
10 Craven Street, WC2N 5PE
Date: April 9 Duration: Single Eveninng
Time: 6:30pm - 9:30pm Price: £48

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About Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen WolffJurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and creativity consultant. In the United States, he wrote for sitcoms including “Benson” and “Family Ties.” He wrote the feature film, “The Real Howard Spitz,” starring Kelsey Grammer and directed by Vadim Jean. He was a script doctor on the hit film, “Mannequin” and others starring Michael Caine, Walter Matthau, and Eddie Murphy. For Germany, he co-created the comedy series, “Lukas,” which ran for 65 episodes, and an original comedy series called “Krista.” He also wrote nine episodes of the series,” Relic Hunter.” He wrote two TV movies for the Olsen Twins, and several the German TV movies including, “On Top of the Volcano,” starring Maria Schrader and Sebastian Koch (2007). His play, “Killing Mother,” was produced at the Gorky Theatre in Berlin, and he’s also had plays produced in New York, Los Angeles, and London.
As a writing and creativity teacher, his courses include “Beyond Brainstorming,” “Create Your Future,” and “The Creative Breakthrough Workshop.” He has presented his courses at the University of Southern California, the University of Barcelona, the Skyros Institute, many films schools, and groups and organisations including The Academy for Chief Executives, Egmont, Grundy-UFA, and Columbia-Tri-Star. For eight years he was a visiting lecturer for the Pilots Program in Sitges.
His books include “Your Writing Coach” and “Your Creative Writing Masterclass” (Nicholas Brealey Publishing), “Creativity Now” (Pearson),“Do Something Different” (Virgin Business Books), “Successful Scriptwriting” (Writers Digest Press), “Top Secrets: Screenwriting” (Lone Eagle Press), and “Successful Sitcom Writing” (St. Martin’s Press). He has written for many publications including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Broadcast Magazine, and he is the editor of “Brainstorm,” the creativity ebulletin.
His writing blogs are at and He runs the Writing Breakthrough Strategy Program, an online group coaching program ( He is based in London but spends part of each year in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at

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7 Ninja Mindsets For The Writer and Film Maker