By Stéphanie Joalland
THERE IS POWER IN GROUP BRAINSTORMING
THEY PROVIDE A MUCH NEEDED SUPPORT SYSTEM
As a screenwriter, it’s easy to get stuck in your bubble and that’s not the ideal environment to turn an idea into a screenplay and keep the momentum going or to develop a screenplay once it's written. That’s why I love workshop environments, both as a writer and a tutor. I fell in love with writers workshops when I was a student at UCLA in Los Angeles, and I still find them invaluable. I love focus groups because they allow you to test your ideas at an early stage, and develop them before embarking on the journey of writing the actual script. They can also offer a bouncing board when you start doubting your idea, which inevitably happens no matter how experienced you are as a screenwriter and how many scripts you’ve written. There always comes a time when you start finding your idea silly, glib or too familiar and you have to push yourself to keep going. That’s when it’s great to have fellow writers who have your back and keep your on your toes. They keep you accountable, help you stick to deadlines, and ensure you remain focused on your end goal.
But there are other perks too to being part of writers workshops:
FIXING ISSUES BECOME EASIER
By suggesting how to fix things on your peers’ stories you become more relaxed about improving your own script because you know that there is always a solution, even if it can feel like a frustrating and meandering process at times. Some stories are harder to crack than others but you come to appreciate that you aren’t alone, that the creative process is a struggle for most people most of the time. Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”. And boy, was he right but the shared struggle is what makes the breakthroughs all the more amazing to be be privy to because it reminds us that even when we feel stuck in our writing there is always a way forward.
PATTERNS EMERGE ORGANICALLY
I am a big believer in identifying PATTERNS when seeking notes. I like receiving more than one set of notes on a draft of a treatment or script to ensure it’s not just one person’s idea or own subjective opinion but a general problem with the story. I look into what readers keep saying over and over, which often indicates it’s an objective issue. For example, when more than one person tells you that you could combine two characters or they don’t buy an event, which happens a lot. What I love about workshops is that patterns become obvious during the feedback discussions. And, conversely, workshops make it easier to get a sense of what people are actually like, what they get excited about, which is crucial to understand because at times we are tempted to get rid of what actually works because it has lost the initial shine of novelty to us.
YOU FIND YOUR TRIBE
Finally, an upside of writing workshops is that they allow writers to find kindred spirits. And I have occasions where I ended up swapping scripts with another writer I met at a workshop. Most people aren’t surrounded by creative kinds in their day-to-day life and building a tribe is essential to fuel one’s creativity.
There is power in group brainstorming. A book I recommend on the subject is “CREATIVITY, INC: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration”. It was written by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation who shares his extensive experience working with teams of writers and directors around a table.
If you feel that the workshopping experience is something that would be beneficial to your writing I have two online workshops coming up in the next couple of weeks:
THE ONLY PLACE TO TALK ABOUT THE CRAFT OF SCRIPTWRITING.