Ask A Professional Screenwriter
Part 3

With Jurgen Wolff

The UK’s top writing coach, Jurgen Wolff, joins us to answer your questions. Jurgen is the author of “Your Writing Coach” and writer of more than 100 episodes of TV, the feature film, “The Real Howard Spitz,” starring Kelsey Grammer, and script doctor on projects starring Kim Cattrall, Michael Caine, Eddie Murphy and more. We asked him to start with the questions he is asked most often about screenwriting.

What do you think of making a short film to showcase your writing, even if you don’t particularly want to be a filmmaker or a director? Does anybody pay attention to the writing or it just to show off directing?

You’re right, traditionally it’s more of a director’s tool. One option is to work with somebody who wants to direct but isn’t a writer, but frankly they will be looking for a script that can show off their skill in directing, cinematography and editing.
 
If you can make a film in which the writing is very much at the centre, it’s worth doing. What this means in practical terms is a dialogue-heavy script with some clever twists. If it’s really good it will stand out at festivals which will be laden with films made by people who have tried to show how fancy they can be on a low budget.

I have a great idea for a series of short episodes for the web but I’m not sure whether it’s worth doing. If I put it on  YouTube, what are the odds it will be discovered and go viral?

About the same as buying a winning lottery ticket. A better strategy is to find an already-popular site that is willing to feature it, because starting from zero and having to build up a following is a huge task.
 
I suggest pitching the series to some popular sites (one at a time) before you produce it. They may not commit until they see the finished product but at least you’ll know whether there’s a likely outlet if it turns out well.
 
Obviously this works best if the content relates to the subject of the site.

I’ve written a screenplay that has a lot of merchandising tie-ins possible. Should I mention this in letters when I approach agents or producers? I even have drawings of some possible products (toys).

Although this can be a factor in whether or  not a certain kind of script is bought, it’s not something for you to get into at this stage. The people looking for those kinds of scripts will see the potential but their first concern is whether or not the script works on its own terms. Don’t distract them from that, it will look unprofessional.

I’m dealing with a producer who has been to McKee’s class three times and couches all of his notes in McKee-speak, which I find really annoying. On the other hand, I don’t want to damage the working relationship, so I’m reluctant to say anything, but should I?

When I was starting out, they were all quoting Syd Field. I make it a general rule to try to work inside of somebody else’s view of the world because challenging it never works.
 
A lot of McKee’s concepts (and everybody else’s) are elastic enough that you can do what you want and justify it with one of them. It may be annoying but presumably you’re getting paid.


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Now it’s your turn.

Email your questions to JurgenWolff@gmail.com 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 www.TimeToWrite.blogs.com and www.SuccessfulScreenwriting.com. He runs the Writing Breakthrough Strategy Program, an online group coaching program (www.WritingBreakthroughStrategy.com). He is based in London but spends part of each year in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at jurgenwolff@gmail.com.

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