I think most of us will agree that it’s difficult to watch movies in the same way we did before we decided to become screenwriters. I know for me, I only watch what I hope is going to be a movie worth watching — at the theater.

Everything else I watch on DVD.

I like watching movies on DVDs not because I get to watch at home while I twiddle my thumbs but because at home, I get to make lists.

These days, let’s face it… Most movies SUCK… But even so, you never know when you’re gonna find a needle in the haystack.

When I say STEAL your favorite scenes, I’m talking about those scenes even in less than fantastic movies that make you FEEL some kind of emotion.

Some of us cry. Some of us laugh. Some of us get scared. Some of us get pissed. Some of us feel sorry.

Take those scenes that make YOU feel something and break it down to its essence.

Why did that particular scene make YOU feel that particular emotion?

Is that an emotion you’re going after in some part of your screenplay? How can you break it down and rebuild it for your characters and story to elicit the same or even greater emotion?

Maybe there’s something that a character did in a movie that took no longer than a couple of seconds to create that emotion inside of you…

Write it down. Make a list. I have a complete journal containing scenes like this. I often go back to these scenes and add notes over a period of years because as I get older, some of these scenes play a little different to me.

No… This isn’t a great revelation. Hopefully, a lot of you are already doing this — but if you’re not, you might consider starting.

These days, I still add to the list but I’ve gone through my list so many thousands of times that I really feel like I know most of them by heart. Often, I’ll go back to the list and read something I wrote, pull out the DVD and watch it again to see what I might have missed and almost assuredly I did in fact miss something.

Who gives a shit about emotion?

You should.

Plot is fine and sure, movies get made because of plot but if you know how to create a fantastic plot AND characters that elicit emotion from an audience, you’re definitely going to be on your way to doing this for a living.

Even if 17 other writers take your spec and fuck it up — as they usually do — at least it got sold and chances are that it got sold NOT just because of concept and plot but because of concept, plot, and the characters… More specifically, the emotion that the characters elicited from whomever read it.

The real beauty here is that it doesn’t even matter what kind of movie you steal from… LOL. That’s why I watch EVERYTHING. That’s why I have every movie channel there is on my satellite subscription. I watch and if and when I feel, I add that scene to the list.

When I come across a part of my story that I feel needs to elicit a particular emotion and I feel a little stumped, I just go to the list and thumb through it… Watch a few of those scenes to see if they still make me feel the same way I felt when I first saw them.

I can’t tell you how invaluable this list has been to me over the years…

So let’s get a jumpstart on your list… What movies, however pathetic they might have been, elicited some kind of real emotion from you while you watched a particular scene?

Okay… We can even use movies that weren’t pathetic… LOL.

Give us the movie, the scene, the emotion you felt, and why you think it elicited that emotion…

Could be very educational… Especially for me.


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