Why Scriptwriters & Filmmakers Need Strategy & Tactics

If you want to have a career as a writer (and to keep it once you have it), you need to think about both the long term (which requires strategy) and short term (which requires tactics).
On the Campaign site, Dave Trott writes an interesting post about this, with the example of the German general, Rommel, who was a brilliant tactician. Trott points out that the German army won the early stages of the war because it had excellent tactics, and lost over the long run partly because it lacked a coherent strategy.


As a writer, some of the elements you want to think about in terms of strategy include:

  • Which genre do you want to work in?
  • Which formats you want to master (film, TV, transmedia)?
  • What kind of support team you want to build as your career expands (agent, researcher, admin assistant, etc.)?

It’s also useful to think about your strategy when you see big changes coming in your realm. For instance, writers need to be aware of huge changes taking place in publishing and TV and film.

My personal example: in light of  Hollywood’s increased commitment to huge budget special-effects movies, I’ve stopped pitching ideas or writing spec scripts for that market and started looking toward micro-budget and low-budget films made for distribution via the internet.  At the moment I’m exploring enhanced ebooks and transmedia. My guess is that this is where there are going to be major opportunities for writers to have creative control over their work and—eventually—make serious money.


Tactics are about adapting to and taking advantage of opportunities as they come up.  For instance:

  • Where are the opportunities for you to improve your skills right now?
  • Where are the opportunities for you to get produced right now?
  • What’s going on now that you could use to promote yourself?
  • What is the best use of your time today?

Here are some tactical examples from my own experience:

Not having any contacts in Hollywood, I started a newsletter and used that to get to interview major players in the TV and film business.

  • When one of my plays got bad reviews (but a good audience response), I took out an ad in Variety that said: “The critics are unanimous!” I didn’t mention they were unanimously negative.
  • When I saw that a particular publisher was starting a new lifestyles imprint, I contacted the editor via email and pitched an idea to her. They have since published three books by me. Two of them are in their second editions and one of them has more than a dozen foreign editions.

I suggest that once a week or so you take fifteen minutes to review your tactics; once a month take time to go over your strategies and check whether your tactics are supporting your strategy—or whether you may need to adjust your strategy.

These are just a few of the ideas I’ll be sharing in week 5 of my Raindance Script Coach Series. I invite you to join me and let’s figure out how you can make in impression in the crowded marketplace.



Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and creativity consultant. In the United States, he wrote for sitcoms including Benson and Family Ties. He wrote the feature film, The Real Howard Spitz, starring Kelsey Grammer and directed by Vadim Jean. He was a script doctor on the hit film, Mannequin and others starring Michael Caine, Walter Matthau, and Eddie Murphy. For Germany, he co-created the comedy series, Lukas, which ran for 65 episodes, and an original comedy series called Krista. He also wrote nine episodes of the series, Relic Hunter. He wrote two TV movies for the Olsen Twins, and several the German TV movies including, On Top of the Volcano, starring Maria Schrader and Sebastian Koch (2007). His play, Killing Mother, was produced at the Gorky Theatre in Berlin, and he’s also had plays produced in New York, Los Angeles, and London.

As a writing and creativity teacher, his courses include Beyond Brainstorming, Create Your Future, The Creative Breakthrough Workshop and the ground-breaking Script Coach Series developed exclusively for Raindance. He has presented his courses at the University of Southern California, the University of Barcelona, the Skyros Institute, many films schools, and groups and organisations including The Academy for Chief Executives, Egmont, Grundy-UFA, and Columbia-Tri-Star. For eight years he was a visiting lecturer for the Pilots Program in Sitges.

His books include Your Writing Coach and Your Creative Writing Masterclass (Nicholas Brealey Publishing), Creativity Now (Pearson), Do Something Different (Virgin Business Books), Successful Scriptwriting (Writers Digest Press), Top Secrets: Screenwriting (Lone Eagle Press), and Successful Sitcom Writing (St. Martin’s Press).

He has written for many publications including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Broadcast Magazine, and he is the editor of Brainstorm, the creativity ebulletin.