For screenwriters, some tools may have become more common than others — such as note cards, white boards, outlines, and story maps — but almost no two screenwriters have the exact same way of creating a screenplay. When I find myself stuck in a story and my usual tricks for getting ideas flowing just aren't working, I look for inspiration from better known and more accomplished screenwriters (also known as "procrastination", like what you are doing right now).
Thanks to the Academy Originals: Creative Spark series, in only fifteen minutes of
not writing inspiration, we get an inside look into the creative habits of three dynamic screenwriters: Ava DuVernay, whose work includes Selma, Middle of Nowhere, I Will Follow, David Magee, who has written Life of Pi, Finding Neverland, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, and Aline Brosh McKenna, scribe for The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, We Bought a Zoo.
Instead of sequestering herself in a quiet office, Ava DuVernay describes how she ventures out into the world when she writes, looking for unique people and voices, settling into inspiring locations with just enough vocal ambience to get her into her writing. DuVernay also has a great technique for sparking her creativity by cataloging visual moments everywhere she goes:
David Magee works out of his home office in New Jersey, but has hired a full-time writing assistant whom he met as one of his students during a recent screenwriting class at Emerson College. As you'll see in the video, Magee relies heavily on his assistant as a sounding board for his story ideas as well as a trusted ally who can do in-depth research and help outline new material:
Aline Brosh McKenna has an office outside of her home with three distinctly different workspaces to allow her to work at a traditional desk, on a sofa, or at a standing desk. In one of the most insightful parts of her video, McKenna explains why she stopped using note cards as she illustrates her simple yet visually compelling style of outlining her screenplays.
What are some creative habits you have developed over time that help you find your stories as you write screenplays?