Productivity tips for screenwriters
David Esteban Cubero is a professional screenwriter that has worked on projects such as the Spanish musical “Explota, Explota” (My Heart Goes Boom!) and TV programs such as “Caiga quién caiga”, “Saturday Night Live” or “El gran juego de la oca”. Additionally, he’s become a reference in the Spanish-speaking industry thanks to his educational content in Guiones y guionistas (Screenwriters and scripts) podcast, with more than 1.000.000 reproductions, and through the platform curossdeguion.com, online academia for aspiring and professional screenwriters.
We’ve asked him to share with us a series of pieces of advice to improve our productivity as creators.
1. Don’t fall apart in face of adversity.
Taking forward an audiovisual project is a long-distance run. No doubt it is crucial to submit your project to pitch events, development programs or script labs to count on professional assessment and credits that endorse your work. It is just as important to brace yourself to receive a “no” to many of these calls. Even Guillermo del Toro has numerous scripts in his drawer. What differentiates a professional writer from an amateur, is that the professional never threw the towel.
The work of a screenwriter can be a very lonely one. So, interacting with other professionals, sharing knowledge, resources, concerns or opinions is essential to develop as a professional. Additionally, working with other screenwriters is good to build new mental mechanisms to help you develop ideas.
3. Work on your personal brand.
In the freelance world, it’s very important to work your public profiles in professional and social media. If you’re presently online, you amplify your opportunities on a global level. Formerly, the personal brand you had were those people you’d worked with and that would recommend you for a new job. But now, if a screenwriter creates a web page, a blog, has a podcast, or creates a public LinkedIn or Filmarket Hub screenwriter profile, you exponentially improve your opportunities to find a job.
A screenwriter has to learn to sell his script but oneself too. The companies may be interested in your script, but also in you as a professional. If everything goes well, you’ll be working together during the long development process, which is why you should convey trustfulness.
4. Build habits.
There is too much mythology around the Muses and divine inspiration. Setting up a work time, finding a quiet and comfortable place as you work is one of the best ways to find inspiration. To organize your time, we can use apps such as Toggl, which helps us control the time we dedicate to each task.
5. Identify which stories you can tell in line with your abilities.
I recommend the use of tools such as SWOT analysis. Identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of your profile as a screenwriter and present market. Which is the format, the genre or the theme more in vogue? As a screenwriter, could you create a good script that could interest the producers?
You can also use a Japanese concept: Ikigai. The idea is to find the equilibrium between the following 4 elements: What are you good at, what do you enjoy, for which ability would they contract you and what do people need. This way you can find something you’d enjoy writing about, that you’re good at and that you could be paid for because there is a target for this content.
6. Try to tell stories close to you.
Look inside yourself, look at what stories you know. It’s not necessary to write your autobiography, but you could use personal experiences or your context to a fictional or fantastic universe. This will make your stories more genuine and avoid stereotypes or comparisons with other scripts. Even if you’re writing about something that is unknown to you, do your research and deepen in that pond of experiences.
7. Take care of your finances.
The life of a screenwriter can be unstable. Learn to save money in times of work, in case there are valleys in the future. Never leave any work left unpaid, as hard as it may be and insisting that you’d have to be, sadly. Read the contracts well to know what you can ask or not, how to protect your registration rights. And try to get paid, in part at least in advance.
8. Invest in yourself.
A screenwriter is a screenwriter thanks to two stools. Experience and Training. Just as much as you should write everyday, you shouldn’t stop learning. Don’t stop signing up to courses or seminars, reading screenwriting books or scripts, or visiting webs, listening to podcasts, about audiovisual narrative. Sign up to contests, labs, workshops, pitch events, etc. And to close the cycle, don’t forget the first point of this article: Don’t fall apart in the face of adversity.