What Drives A Screenplay? by Jeff Leisawitz, Author of Not F*ing Around: The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground
Film Courage: Jeff, regarding screenwriting, can you talk about the Power of Intention and how a writer needs to check their own intention, either during the writing of the script, before the writing of the script or afterward?
Jeff Leisawitz: Sure. So we’re all a bunch of humans running around and (on some level) we’re all pretty much the same. Right? Biologically, whatever. However, what really separates us is our experiences and our perspectives because everyone (although similar) you know. American culture is similar, let’s say. We’re growing up in a city or growing up in the suburbs or these kind of things. What you’ve experienced through your life and what you’re interested in and what you’re educated in, that is what really gives you your voice, right? So if you can tap in to what matters to you and understand why it matters to you, then you can write with power, not only from your head and imagination, but from your heart. If what you’re writing doesn’t matter to you, it’s going to be flat. It’s never really going to emote. But if you can tap in and understand what your gifts are and what your perspective is, what you believe, then you can create characters and stories based around that, fictionalize it, embellish it or whatever, (however you do it), dramatize it. And then create within a narrative structure as a screenplay. And that is where great screenplays come from.
Film Courage: Would someone really write or spend time on something that doesn’t matter?
Jeff Leisawitz: Yes…[laughs].
Film Courage: It happens? Okay…
“Often I think screenwriters don’t dig in deep enough to really understand where they’re coming from. The pain and the triumph that drives these stories. So continually digging deeper. Asking yourself why are you doing this? Why do you care about these characters?”
Jeff Leisawitz: I think people do. I think people chase trends… “Oh, romantic comedies are big this year. Let’s write romantic comedies.” Okay? Is that really coming from what you’re passionate about? Maybe, but maybe not.
Often I also think screenwriters don’t dig in deep enough to really understand where they’re coming from. The pain and the triumph that drives these stories. So continually digging deeper. Asking yourself ‘Why are you doing this? Why do you care about these characters?’
For instance, one of my screenplays is called PANACEA’s DREAM. It’s about a shaman and a scientist who develop this pill that heals anybody. And they’re making a fortune off of this thing. And…it works! But they don’t know why it works. The science is driving the scientist crazy and the shaman takes it on faith (it’s the power of faith in this pill).
So this is a huge expression for me because part of me is like “I’m a scientist. I’m skeptical. I want to know where things are coming from in the world.” And the other part believes that this is a magical world where the metaphysics and the mysteries are everywhere. Both of these are within me. And then both of them are in my screenplay. So by digging into these kind of questions, these kinds of truths and subjects, a screenwriter can get a lot deeper into what they believe and then express is.
Film Courage: Why do you think a writer has not dug deeper? Are they just not that self-aware?
Jeff Leisawitz: I don’t know. I mean, there are all kinds of screenwriters. Some are going to be completely self-aware, some are going to be completely clueless, you know (just like people). But I guess I’m just suggesting that as you’re considering what to write, these kinds of questions can really inform and activate and engage your stories and characters. If they matter to you, they will matter to somebody else. And if they don’t, then they just won’t.
Question for the Viewers: How much does your current script matter to you?
Jeff Leisawitz burns with a mission— to inspire writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs (and everyone else) to amp up their creativity, heal their hearts and shine in the world.
Jeff is an award-winning musician/ producer, a critically acclaimed author and internationally distributed filmmaker who has devoted his life to creativity.
As the guy behind Electron Love Theory, Jeff fused interviews with Seattle’s WTO demonstrators into electronic music, garnering more than a quarter million downloads worldwide. Jeff has released five studio albums and has landed thousands of music placements in film, TV and multimedia for clients like HBO, MTV, Discovery, Microsoft, NBC and many others.
As the founding writer for Seattle’s taste-making alternative rock station 107.7 The End, he chronicled the alternative grunge scene in the 90s. After training as a Life Coach and practicing NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Re-Patterning) Jeff landed a gig as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific Lutheran University— teaching college students to rock. (Seriously)
When creative businesses, schools and organizations like Brown Paper Tickets, Tacoma School of the Arts, Gage Academy of Art, Northwest Film Forum and others need to amp up the creativity, Jeff leads workshops and events to fire up the creative spirit and empower people to tap into their true potential.
Jeff is available for workshops and speaking gigs in the Seattle metro area and select cities across the country. Not F*ing Around— the No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground is Jeff’s first book.
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