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Anthony Minghella quotes

Here are some of my favourite Anthony Minghella quotes for writers and filmmakers:

1. “I’ve been writing for over twenty years, all my adult life, and so I suppose that I’ve made peace with myself and my hopeless, undisciplined technique. I’ve stopped unravelling everytime I’m unable to write. I wait. The drawer opens. Waiting is part of writing. When I write the word ‘waiting’ by hand it even looks like ‘writing.’”

2. “You know, you lose a lot of social skills if you’re a writer. You spend too long alone. And it’s forced me to address that.”

3. “The imaginative leap for me of writing for women is no more difficult than the one of writing for men. I’ve always wanted to have women well represented in the work that I’ve done because I’ve always been around them and around the way they look at the world.”

4. “Nobody wants to make any film, ever. I mean, you can assume that every head of every studio would be perfectly happy never to make another film, because making films is dangerous, costs too much money, none of them make sense, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they’re going to work – the best thing is not to make any; you can’t get fired for not making a film – you’re going to get fired for making the wrong film. And so you realise that the first words anybody in the movies wants to say is no, and the job of the director or producer or writer is finding the area of least resistance to get the film made. There’s never been any movie I’ve made that anybody’s wanted to make, ever.”

5. “I feel like such an amateur film-maker, but not an amateur writer. I will always feel like a writer who directs and not the other way round. An American studio don’t understand why I feel the need to write my own work because they don’t respect that the screenplay is everything. The screenplay is the musical notes, and then you play the notes to make the film”.

Anthony Minghella

6. “The writer has to be indifferent to the realities of filming. The well-behaved film writer, the writer who’s writing for his or her director, is of no use. There has to be a kind of antic level to writing, which the director then has to formalise in some way…I try to never censor myself when I’m writing”.

7. “The madman should be writing and the sane person should be trying to work out how to do it. You can’t be sane and insane simultaneously. I think that I’m a very rebellious writer of screenplays and a quite conservative director of them”.

8. “The film community has all these redefinitions of terms, often amusing: net profit means no profit, residuals means no profit, producer equals liar, lawyer equals frustrated agent, agent equals frustrated director, director equals frustrated actor.”

Anthony Minghella, 1954 – 2008

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First draft word vomit…

I recently met with someone who admired my bravery in pursuing writing.

They’ve known me since I was a small child and told me I’d always been writing. (They told me about things I don’t even remember writing.) They told me that they had wanted to be a writer when they were younger and still wish they could. When I asked what stopped them, they said everything they write is rubbish or seems trite.

I got news for you: most of first drafts are awful. It’s word vomit…

Here’s the good news: that’s okay!

You’ve got the ideas on paper or out of your head and in front of you. The more the merrier. That way you can work out what sounds good, what doesn’t sound good, what works and what doesn’t work. Just persevere and get it out.

That’s not to say it should all stay in the final draft. Hell no! sayeth I. But you’ve got out everything that’s been buzzing around in your head, you’ve laid the foundations on which you can build something amazing.

I recently completed a first draft of a sitcom. It was a sleep-deprived splurge of everything that had whizzed around my brain since I started thinking about it last year. Last year it was about a bunch of middle-aged men. Then I realised that patriarchy courses through my veins but I had a choice to write the same ol’ stories or write the stories I wanted to see. It’s now a female-centric sitcom.

The minute I hit send, the flaws came flooding in and the desire to consign it to the trash increased. I didn’t though. I didn’t do it because I’ve been talking about it for so long I have friends who want to read it so I can’t just archive it like I have with everything else. It’s time for me to be brave. To step up to the plate. To be the writer I know I can be. Without the wibbling.

I’ve got some feedback from an independent script editor so I’m going to take a break, take a step away, and go back to it next week.

There’s another project I’m working on for theatre to occupy my brain. I spent the entire day yesterday trawling through my research pile. I say pile because that’s what it is. It’s a pile of clippings, photos, postcards, scraps of paper, scraps of scenes and dialogue. I’ve found a lots of things I’d forgotten about. It was wonderful to go through it and rediscover gems, not to mention a rather cathartic tidy-up! So I think I have a direction to head in with a project two. I’m going to spend the rest of the weekend writing more scraps of dialogue, more word-vomit and a little digging through my collection of scraps and see what emerges.

It’s not that I think I’m a better writer than anyone else or that I might make a decent living from writing – far from it – I just have stories I want to tell.

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Emma Coats (@lawnrocket) 22 Basic Rules of storytelling.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for her or his successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about till you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard — get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what wouldn’t happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell this story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on — it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make you act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? [The] most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.


Twitter | Stephan Bugaj ( has analysed these 22 basic rules in a Bugaj’s free eBook.

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Taken from Chuck Wendig’s excellent site, Terrible Minds. These are just the headings. For the full scope, head to Chuck’s website which is a gem.

1. Real People With People Problems

2. Meaning, They’re Not Just Fuel For The Plot Engine

3. Like I Just Said, Opposition Is Key

4. I Like Kittens, You Punch Kittens, Now We Fight!

5. Like Krishna, Except A Total Jerkoff

6. Antagonists Think They’re The Protagonists

7. Evil For The Sake Of Evil Is Yawntastic, Snoretacular

8. The Motivations Of Awful People

9. Black Hats, White Hats, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

10. Nemeses And Arch-Enemies

11. Vivisect Your Favorite Antagonists In Pop Culture

12. Now Look To Your Own Life

13. Write From Within The Enemy Camp

14. Holding Hands With Monsters

15. Over-Powered Is Under-Interesting

16. (But We Won’t Buy “Under-Powered,” Either)

17. Still Abide By The Rules And Laws Of The Storyworld

18. Chatty Cathy Clip Your Strings

19. Freak Me Out By Forcing Me To Emotionally Connect

20. Antagapalooza

21. Arctagonist

21. Ideas And Institutions And Other Non-Charactery Antagonists

23. The “Kick The Cat” Moment

24. Let The Antagonist Win

25. Love To Hate, Hate To Love



Procrastination station

Procrastinations says “wurt?”

Recently I’ve been struggling. Struggling with motivation, struggle with structure and struggling with faith.

I’m all very new to writing and started when I took a playwrighting module because I liked the tutors and to fill time in my timetable for my final year of uni. I chose to write a play with the parameters open time (any time frame), open space (any place) and no sex assigned to characters so as to leave it as a blank canvas for the director to use to interpret whatever theme they saw fit: be it racism, sexism, oppressive regimes, etc. I later submitted 20 minutes of this to the Royal Court and they accepted me on to one of their writer’s programmes.

The advice of one of the mentors on the programme was: “Put that one aside and write a new one so you’ll have two plays under your belt.” So I wrote a play that I submitted to the Court for feedback (which I have and I will go back to eventually, make my decisions and edit). In the meantime, I’m giving it some space and going back my first, ambiguous play. Sort of.

From all the conversations, blogs and books I’ve been perusing, I’m guessing I’m not alone in struggling either.

At the moment, the main issue I have is that I have a few ideas swimming around in my head and I’m trying to be disciplined about it: Finish one before you galavant off on the other. So I’ve been diligently carrying around a notebook and jotting down any ideas or lines in there for when I can return to the stories.

Back to the drawing (cork)board...

Back to the drawing (cork)board…

And though my friends have been saying it for a while, it was only after bumping into a kind and generous actor who, after listening to me bemoan my own silliness, gently said “You can only procrastinate for so long” before giving me a big hug. And of course he is right, as were my friends, he just caught me at the right time, on the right day and said it in the right way so that it clicked.

The next day, I went back to my corkboard pulled everything off and started to restructure my thoughts. (This is how I’ve found I work best – we all work differently.) I noted all the things I knew about my characters, their relationships with each other and about the plot but also all the questions that I didn’t know the answers to so, instead of procrastinating about it, I could write scenes to see how they go.

I have no idea what the main struggles I’ve had or why, but I have struggled with where to start. I knew what I had, I knew what I was trying to do but I was finding it very difficult to find a way in.

I must say though that I found it all rather freeing. It’s feeling pretty good and I’m working with renewed vigour. I don’t want to speak too soon but it’s seems good so let’s see how things go now, shall we?

So, because they were so useful to me, here’s me sending out good vibes into the universe and hope you receive them too.

Good luck!

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Creating characters #AtTheSpa with @youngswain and @ideastap


So many of the blogs and online forums I’ve seen have recommended just completing the draft. (There is something strange and powerful about finishing a draft. A magical power that you want to achieve but sometimes everything under the sun will stop you from doing so.) I started off okay, but yesterday I came to a bit of a standstill just after 2. Which was a relief really because when I went back online, I realised I’d booked an Ideastap workshop with Kirstie Swain on Creating Characters.

First off, we told the room about ourselves: names, what kind of writer we identified ourselves as and a fun fact. (Mine was my crush that applies only to Bruce Willis, while he’s in a sweaty, grubby vest.) The point? These are all random things that make me “me”, or you “you” or a character different to the archetype.

We went on to consider things that defines a character. The OED defines character as

the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character”

So what are the mental and moral qualities that define an individual? Some of the ones we came up with are:

  • Personality
  • Opinions
  • Status
  • Temperament
  • World view (Reaction to events)
  • Motivation
  • Taste
  • Emotions
  • Habits
  • Fears
  • Morals
  • Beliefs / Values
  • Actions – what do they do? What is their journey?

In order to go beyond the archetypes, you need to know what they are. So here you go:

8 Archetypes

  1. Hero
  2. Shadow (Villain or Enemy within)
  3. Mentor
  4. Herald (Who brings the “call to arms”)
  5. Threshold Guardian (who stands in the way at important moments)
  6. Shapeshifter (Vampires to the two-faced)
  7. Tricksters (think Shakespeare’s Clowns)
  8. Allies

“The sum of all observable qualities of a human being, everything knowable through careful scrutiny: age and IQ, sex and sexuality, style of speech and gesture, choices of home, car and dress, education and occupation, personality and nervosity, values and attitudes – all aspects of humanity we could know by taking notes on someone day in and day out.” (Robert McKee)

What do they do with all these characteristics? And do we make characters realACTION! Where are they going? EMPATHY! As a writer, you have to like them in some way. One example was the Jackson kids in Eastenders. Robbie and Sonia weren’t that popular to begin with so Robbie got Well’ard and Sonia got a Trumpet. Apparently this worked in making them likeable. DESIRE! What are there goals? Their aim for the story? OBSTACLES! what are the desires, flaws. people or events that stand in the way of their desire? WORLD VIEWS! What drives them? What stops them? How would they react in certain situations? STATUS! Where are they in the pecking order? Are they moving up or down? Is it a slow or fast ascent or descent?

We then chose an image and a quote that Kirstie had been lovingly collecting from magazines for the last few weeks and answered the following questions, anything to help you get inside their head.


  • Gender and age
  • Name
  • Nationality
  • Place of birth
  • Distinguishing features
  • Living arrangements
  • Job
  • Financial situation
  • Education
  • Who are there parents?
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Best friends
  • What was their childhood like?
  • How do they travel to work?
  • Hobbies
  • Earliest memory
  • Martial Status
  • Any previous criminal convictions?

Other questions could be:

    • Fancy dress costumes?
    • Their last meal?
    • Where are they happiest?
    • Greatest fear?
    • Which living person they most admire, and why?
    • Most embarrassing moment?
    • When were they happiest?
    • What makes they unhappy?
    • What do they most dislike about their appearance?
    • Favourite word?
    • Who they would apologise to, and why?
    • Who or what is their love of their life?
    • What they think love feels like?
    • Their dream dinner party guests?
    • Words or phrases most overused?
    • Their most treasured possession?
    • What is their favourite smell?
    • One single thing to improve the quality of their life?
    • Have they ever said “I love you” and not meant it?
    • If they went back in time, where would they go, and why?
    • How would they like to be remembered?
    • Their most important lesson life has taught them?
    • Their darkest secret?

Here’s my image. (I took the girl on the far right as my inspiration.) The quote, in case you can’t see it, is “I don’t eat any fish. I don’t like any part of it – smell, taste, texture.” Here are my answers:

Georgia-Louise is 5 years old and was born in Beverley Hills, LA. She is single. Brady was last week, Toby is this week and possible Mark will be her boyfriend next week. 

She has a heart-shaped birthmark on her right shoulder blade. Everyone loves it, she hates it. 

She is in pre-school. She doesn’t need a job and her daddy’s credit card is all she needs. 

She has no criminal convictions. Yet.

She lives in a house overlooking the beach, their own private beach. It has 5 bathrooms, 7 bedrooms, a home cinema, 1 outdoor and 1 indoor swimming pool and a summerhouse, where her nanny, Ling, lives.

She lives with her mom and her dad. Her mom is a socialite – a big funder in the political world – and her father runs a big talent agency in Hollywood with a bunch of spoilt brats on the books.

Her best friend is Cecelia (second from right) and she likes manicures and facials. She hates pedicures: People shouldn’t touch your feet.

Wilson, her chauffeur, drives her to and from school in a Silver Mercedes S-Class.

Her earliest memory is of her parents arguing, She doesn’t know what about but she hated having to be locked in her nursery with her nanny instead of playing in the pool.

Her ideal fancy dress costume is Marilyn Munroe. Or Lindsay Lohan.

She hates fish, refuses all carbs and only eat sweets on Sundays when her mom’s out and her nanny is studying. After she binges on chocolate and haribos, she makes herself sick,

She hates Mondays and Mrs Galeki’s mole.

The next thing we did was to write A-Z and pass the paper/book around the room until we all had a word or a phrase each.

  1. Animalistic
  2. Brick
  3. Carless
  4. Define my role
  5. Everything is pointless
  6. False alarm
  7. Great Britain is
  8. Holy
  9. Illegible
  10. Jugular
  11. Kraken
  12. Lauren
  13. Memories
  14. Neon lights
  15. Okra
  16. Prague is great right now
  17. Illegible
  18. Red rum
  19. Snuggle
  20. Toddlers … So cute
  21. Undeniable longing
  22. Illegible
  23. Wicked
  24. Xanthe
  25. Yes
  26. Zzz…

Then, alongside the original quote, we had 10 minutes to put them together in a little monologue.

[Sunday afternoon, the nursery. Georgia-Louise is surrounded  by toys and wrappers and is playing with two Barbie dolls and a Barbie Volkswagon.]

(Sings) “Memories. All alone in the moonlight!”

(Offstage, there is a mumbled yell.)

(Wired.) No, Ling, I’ve told you before: I don’t eat any fish. I don’t like any part of it – smell, taste, texture. Okay? The Kracken was a fish, I don’t eat fish and I don’t eat Okra. (She continues playing with her dolls, reenacting a conversation she’s heard elsewhere.)
“Ohmygod, Xanthe, believe me: Prague is great right now.”
“Lauren, err, no! And Great Britain is falling. I’m so over Europe. Europe is for hicks”
“I just have this undeniable longing: Toddlers… So cute.”
“You really go for the jugular, you bitch. I will find a surrogate. I will! You’re so animalistic.”
“Me? I’m not still wearing animal print. It’s all about Neon. Lights.”
“Did you hear? Ken is carless.”
“Yes Barbie took him for everything. Everything.
(She hurls the dolls across the room.) Everything is so pointless.
(She is manic.) It’s holy! HOLY! Stupid fucking brick. What a stupid fucking brick.
(She screams:) STUPID FUCKING BRICK. Red rum. RED RUM! An-an-an-animal-maul-mauling-shopping-malling-animal-hiss-hiss-tic. Tick, tick, tick. It’s a false alarm, a false alarm. False, false, false. False.
(She slumps.) Why won’t you let me snuggle mommy? (She falls asleep.) Zzz…

 It’s not particularly easy to do but it’s a good way to get out of your head. If you can’t get enough minds together to find a variety of 26 words, grab a dictionary and see what you can randomly find.

A Recommended Reading list is below and under that is a Character Questionnaire that Kirstie gave us in case you ever get stuck…

  • The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
  • Into The Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke

Everyone is different and prefer different structures, so other books to check out are:

  • The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
  • The Crafty Art of Playmaking by Alan Ayckbourn
  • Playwriting: A Practical Guide by Noël Greig
  • The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby
  • The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting by Syd Field
  • Story Maps: How To Write a Great Screenplay by Daniel P. Calvisi
  • and you can’t beat reading your favourite script or screenplay to help you learn your art.


  • Name
  • Gender
  • D.O.B
  • Place of birth
  • Marital status
  • Distinguishing physical features – scars? tattoos? piercings? imperfections?
  • Job
  • Financial situation
  • Criminal record
  • Education
  • Where do they live now
  • Who are their parents?
  • What’s their relationship with them?
  • Any siblings? Relationship?
  • Who’s their best friend?
  • What was their childhood like?
  • What are some special relationships in their life?
  • How do they travel?
  • Do they read? If so, what? Books? Magazines? Newspapers? Which ones?
  • Hobbies?
  • Are they a cat or dog person?
  • Flaw?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Which living person do you most admire and why?
  • What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment?
  • What makes you unhappy?
  • What is your most unappealing habit?
  • What is your favourite smell?
  • What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
  • What is the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
  • What is your guiltiest pleasure?
  • To whom would you most like to say sorry and why?
  • What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  • What does love feel like?
  • Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
  • If you could edit your past, what would you change?
  • How often do you have sex?
  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • What song would you like played at your funeral?
  • What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
  • Tell us a secret
  • When were you happiest?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  • Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment?
  • What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  • Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  • What has been your biggest disappointment?
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go?
  • How do you relax?
  • What is your favourite word?
  • What do you owe your parents?
  • What is the worst job you’ve done?
  • What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
  • If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
  • What is your favourite book?
  • What is your guiltiest pleasure?
  • If you could edit your past, what would you change?
  • When did you last cry, and why?
  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • What would your super power be?
  • What is your most treasured possession?
  • What was the best kiss of your life?
  • Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?
  • What is the closest you’ve come to death?
  • Who are you closest to?
  • What would you save in a fire?
  • What can’t you live without?
  • Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
  • Where would you like to live?
  • How would you like to be remembered?

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Writing is rewriting, 6 tips via @Raindance

Over the next few weeks I’ll be heading out and about to the various events being put on the London Screenwriters Festival and the Future Film Festival at the BFI. I’m a little bit excited and a little bit nervous – as it should be – and really must get cracking on actually writing, or more importantly editing. So here are some tips to get started:

Stressed? Moi?

1.   Remember:  The first draft of anything is shit

2.   Accept that bruises to your ego are part of the process

3.   Stop putting pressure on yourself

4.   Re-outline your screenplay

5.   Don’t be stubborn

6.   Find the tools that work for you


“More than a half, maybe as much as two thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.”

There’s a whole heap more on this so head over to Raindance to read the full article. You won’t regret it!

By the way if you  love scripts, sign up to Raindance updates, they often give away screenplays, for free! How cool is that.