When I was first started writing, I stumbled upon a great book that taught me the basics of screenwriting.
Today, after three years, 12+ features later, I keep that book by desk, because I know, the secret to writing a good movie is in the basics.
Watch Avatar or Titanic — both are written by James Cameron. These movies are based on the most basic plot ever written (Romeo & Juliet). They are universal stories retold in different fashion. Both movies killed at the box office, with huge budgets and plenty of kudos to James Cameron.
He told a story and people enjoyed it. They really enjoyed it. That’s the basic reason for writing a movie, for people to enjoy it. To be moved. To be changed.
I sometimes I take that book to bed with me. After a long day, I browse it late at night under a small light. I skim through structure, good dialogue, building characters and how to rewrite. Reviewing the basics gives me confidence in writing screenplays.
Often I spend a lot of time, digging into my characters, building subtext and fine-tuning my three-act structure. Through all this I sometimes lose focus on the basics.
Like an athlete, musician, or an artist, we carry a basic skill set that got us where we our. These skills are the foundation to our talent. If that foundation is forgotten, it often leads to unsatisfying work.
Of course it takes much more than basics to be successful in this business. My point is that we often worry about things when we shouldn’t. We have to take time and rewind, go back to where we started, and remember what skills got us here in the first place. Fine tune those skills and press forward. It’s a mindset.
Always be writing. Everyday.