Why To Go Big And How To Find The Courage To Do So

Most screenwriters and film-makers are guilty of thinking too small. There’s an African saying that it takes just as much effort to catch a mouse as to catch an antelope. Translating that to the creative fields, often it takes just as much time and effort to create something that represents a little (conventional, typical) idea as it does to create a big one. I know some film-makers who have taken longer to make a short film than others took to make a feature.

So why don’t we do think big more often?

One of the main reasons is fear. Fear that it won’t succeed, that we don’t know enough, fear that people will laugh at us or think less of us, and perhaps the biggest fear: that it’s not actually a good idea at all–that we are deluding ourselves.

There is one easy way to overcome the latter: find at least one genuine ally who also believes in what you are doing.


Maybe you’re familiar with the experiment in which a room full of people were asked which line on a chalkboard was longer, A or B. Actually they weren’t event close–one of them, let’s say A, was clearly longer. However, there was only one real test subject in the room. The others were all in on the experiment and had been instructed to say B was longer. They all went first and by the the time the unknowing subjects had a turn, they would say B as well. They believed the group assessment more than they believed their eyes.

However, as soon as just one other person in the group said that A was longer, so did most of the test subjects.

What this suggests to me is that with just one ally who sees things the same way we do, we are more confident in what we are doing.

Let me stress, though, the word “genuine”. It has to be somebody whose judgement you rate and who is being honest with you.


Once a group I was in was asked by one of the members whether we thought the masks she was making would appeal to the public and would sell. I didn’t think so, but everybody else was so fulsome in their praise and enthusiastic about the commercial prospects of her handiwork that I expressed only the mildest of reservations.

As soon as she left, most of the others revealed their true thoughts–which were that it would be tough sell. I guess they thought they were doing her a favour by not hurting her feelings, but in fact they were doing her a disservice (as did I, by muting my concerns that much).

Your ally may or may not be right about the value of your enterprise but you have to be able to trust that they’re telling you what they really think. If you found out at some point that they were faking it that would undermine your confidence.


Ultimately, of course, the larger marketplace will decide the appeal and commercial value of your screenplay or film or whatever you produce, but to get to the point where you can offer it to that marketplace, having at least one ally is invaluable.


This is just one of the many ways of building your confidence that Jurgen Wolff will cover in Session Four of the Screenwriting Coach series he’s presenting for Raindance. That session will also reveal innovative ways for you to find the time to achieve your creative projects.



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.