When the writer of Aladdin, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Charlie’s Angels talks about screenwriting, we listen. And we think you should too.
John August: ‘The Greatest Barrier To Writing Is Just Starting”
by Lucy V Hay
I had the pleasure of talking with ALADDIN, BIG FISH, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and CHARLIE’S ANGELS screenwriter John August recently.
John is not only an amazing and successful screenwriter, he is also generous in terms of the knowledge that he gives away. His in-depth podcast Scriptnotes (hosted with CHERNOBYL writer Craig Mazin) has more than 400 episodes and his blog (which can be found at www.JohnAugust.com) has more than 1500 posts.
Because he has already given away so much instruction in screenwriting, it was hard to find things to ask him that he hasn’t already answered a thousand times.
So instead of talking about the biz per se, we talked about his writing and his personal approach to the craft. I was thrilled to learn that despite his impressive CV, he’s a lot like the rest of us and his core advice is simple and actionable.
Famous screenwriters, they’re just like the rest of us … Who knew??
Here are three top insights from my chat with John. Enjoy!
1) Stop asking for permission
As a development executive and working screenwriter myself, I am always thinking about whether or not my ideas will sell. I get caught in the loop of wondering if something is marketable enough. This means I forget to just get on with creating a good story.
John echoed this when I asked him what questions he would like screenwriters to stop asking: “All the questions that start with some variation of “can I” or “am I allowed to” … That sense of needing permission.”
Now, of course there are basics like proper formatting, grammar, and structure that should be addressed and mastered. But in terms of making a gripping story, John says not to worry about that too much….