By Glenn Lissner: Screenwriter of GRIEVERS (Short film screenplay), Winner FFTG Awards Film Fest Screenplay Competition 2020.
I don’t know that there is any one way that works for everyone. I’ve read where some writers commit a part of each day to write. I’m happy for them, but to be honest, I’m kinda old, tired, and lazy at times. I find it hard to come how from work on any given day and sit back in front of a computer with the goal of being creative. I’m not sure how to force that. I’ve had much greater success when something just hits me. I could be driving or in the shower or anywhere and an idea comes to me. Let me be clear, not all of those ideas have worked for me, but most have. It happens more when I’m really into writing something and the characters may chose to speak to me at 2am for whatever reason. It’s been harder to just wait for an idea to get things started, but it has happened that way as well. I can be lazy, but I’m also impatient. I don’t feel OK, if I haven’t been working on anything for a stretch of time. It’s almost like feeding a compulsion.
On the other hand, I will say that a feature I wrote and a 1 hour pilot both started by forcing myself just to think about a genre of film that I love with the desire to add something different to it. The feature script was horror and I dove into it thinking about all the horror films I’ve seen, which worked for me, which didn’t, and ultimately what scares me and may disturb others. I was finally able to hammer out a premise from which everything else eventually flowed. The pilot was steeped in the Western genre. I once again thought about the Westerns I have seen and eventually came up with the beginnings of a premise. I did some research in the effort to find a real person from history that went from being a lawman to being an outlaw. I found him and named the main character after him and included that character transformation into the thought process. Eventually, something odd happened. It may have been because I was wrapping up the horror feature or my love of shows like Supernatural, but suddenly and out of the blue, I had a premise with the main character, but it morphed into a supernatural Western and once again everything else flowed from this moment.
This idea of contemplating a genre hasn’t always rendered something. I have had two feature screenplays that were simply autobiographical. I was my own source material. This was in part born of the idea that every one has a story to tell. Granted, some may be more interesting than others, but we all have a story to tell based on our mere existence. Within that, I’ve tried to look at themes that transcend a specific experience in my life and examine what may be the relatable part of that experience. Ideally, I would consider some of my life experiences with some imagination to bring it all together. I haven’t always been able to do this, but life itself can be your source material or at least a spring board into writing a script.
This past year, one of the things I focused on was a conscious decision to write shorts. Even though I’m not a filmmaker, the endgame has always been having something I have written made into a film. I had the feeling that someone may be more able to make a short with limited characters and locations into a movie more so than a feature. I wrote three shorts this year. Two were back to horror, but the other, Grievers was one of the few things I have written where life experience and imagination have merged smoothly. I’m just guessing here, but I imagine having a variety of writing samples in your cannon is a good thing. If stumped, why not write a spec script for an existing show? Note to self, write a spec script for an existing show.
Whether it’s type of script, type of genre, waiting for inspiration or forcing things forward, you have to find what works for you. I will clarify, that for me, the necessary rewriting is more forced, but that’s a whole ‘nother animal.