Martin Scorsese 10 Screenwriting Tips
1. Write what you know.
When you're starting, the easiest way to get into a story is to write about what you know, or what you're curious to learn. Use screenwriting as a way to deconstruct your world and the characters you see.
2. Have confidence and passion while promoting yourself shamelessly.
This is a hard one for people to straddle. How can you brag without bragging? Some of it requires presenting your ideas in a way that leads others to ask questions or ask to read. Another strategy is just to get your ideas to where they're perfect, and then confidently ping your network to see who might be interested in reading.
3. Write with music in mind.
I usually do a lot of my writing in silence. But when I play music, I try to match it to the scenes I'm writing. I want to feel that flow in the scene. the movement to the rhythm. Try it out and see if it cures writer's block.
4. Write empathetic characters that the audience will care about.
When people ask me what I think is the most important trait for a writer to have, I tell them empathy. You need to be able to feel what the characters want and need. Create characters that the audience is invested in. They don't have to like them, they just have to care where they're going.
5. Watch a lot of movies and study them for visual literacy.
Man, I cannot tell you how many writers I meet who have no literacy when it comes to watching movies.
Watch movies—that's it. Watch as many as you can. Watch ones from all over the world. Steal. Pastiche. Borrow. Homage. Watch them and see where they take you.
6. Include your family when starting out.
Whether it's raising money, using them for locations, or just asking them to read your screenplays, your family matters. Lean on them when you can. Sometimes they'll be the only ones who believe in you. And then thank them in awards speeches.
7. Find the humanity in your anti-heroes.
We know a thing or two about anti-heroes here. Here's a little hint—no matter who you're writing, approach them like they have wants, desires, goals, and reasoning. You know, treat them like they're human beings! This will help the audience connect to the story.
8. Use anger for dedication and humor to get through.
I like to joke around that my writing is revenge for anyone who ever doubted me. But the truth is, the ups and downs of Hollywood make anger a good motivator, but humor is the only way you can deal with the lowest lows. Try to keep a balance of both. Lead with being a good person, a great writer, and the rest will fall into place.
9. Make your own industry.
So many people focus on what they can't do that they turn a blind eye to what they can do. You can network with your friends. Write low-budget ideas that you can shoot either as proof of concepts or short films you can market yourself. Do what you can control, don't whine about what you cannot.
10. Use projects to learn more about yourself and important life questions.
Everything I write is me digging into an emotion or a situation. Use your work to explore life's great mysteries. Ask the big questions and distill them into character journeys. Take some risks and put yourself out there. What does the world mean to you?