Imagine Vividly, Communicate Clearly

The failure of the student is the failure of the teacher. I want to get better at explaining screenwriting. What do you really want to know about the craft?

If I had to express screenwriting into four words, it would be these: Imagine vividly, communicate clearly.

These make me feel pretty good about myself, but I’ll admit that they’re of minimal value to the struggling beginner who’s trying to develop a sense of competence

I like to break things down into primitives, into functions. When I talk about acts, arcs, and incidents, I don’t mean it to be a dogma or a “system,” I think of it like grammar or music theory – it’s simply labeling the parts so you can think about them if you want to.

Unfortunately, the more practical advice is, the more controversial it becomes. This is true on all advice forums: bland, “you can do it if you really want” advice is always popular, specific approaches runs up against other people’s personal narratives and causes arguments.

I think there’s something fundamentally flawed with our understand of learning, teaching, and how information is transmitted. You see it all the time, one size fits all approaches, slick answers, easy solutions.

The truth is that every one learns differently, and everyone has different life experiences and skill sets that are both a boon and a hindrance to learning new information. Teachers should be sensitive to that.

I believe that good advice is friendly advice. It should be practical, real, and often challenging, but it should embrace the spirit of the question and truly seek to address the root issue beneath whatever concrete language it’s enshrined in.

To this end, ask me any question, no matter how stupid or abstract. I’ll do my best to provide an useful answer.

Matt Lazarus
Matt Lazarus
Articles: 15


  1. While brief, this is a good post. I have been struggling to teach myself to write screenplays well. The struggle more comes down to making the time than anything else. Nevertheless, I have come to realise recently that I do have potential and that any single book or websites I consult for guidance does not possess all that I need to progress in my skill. This I believe is largely due to the difference in how I learn and develop in any pursuit. So I find it useful to browse until I find components/modules of larger processes that help me move forward, then adapt them to fit into my process. This is proving to be a lengthy exercise as after advancing a project I realise something doesnt feel right so I go in search of what it is I don’t know. That in itself is a challenging overcoming the “not knowing what it is you don’t know”. But the motivation is there, I just wish there was more free time available.

    Many thanks,

  2. Thanks for your reply. You’ve touched on two things that my coaching helps.

    1. Discipline. We make time for things by making time for them. Coaching helps you make time for them. It gives you a focal point to work towards and it invests you in a project. Currently, if you blow a deadline, there are no real consequences. If you invest in coaching, you’re going to want to work so your investment isn’t wasted.

    2. Learning. When I was learning dance, my teachers used to say “feel the music” or “just have fun with it.” That wasn’t actionable and it didn’t help. Eventually I found a teacher who broke things down into small, logical techniques which helped me learn procedurally. Most people need that, but few things are actually taught that way.

    if you’re interested in learning more, email me at mattjlazarus AT g mail DOT com.

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