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 whose credits include "Family Ties," "Benson," "Love Boat," "Relic Hunter," and the film, "The Real Howard Spitz," starring Kelsey Grammer. I also wrote two TV movies for the Olsen twins back when they were just millionaires instead of billionaires, and the mini-series, "Midnight Man," starring Rob Lowe. Jurgen has been a script doctor on numerous projects.

His books include, "Focus: the power of targeted thinking" (Pearson 2008), "Your Writing Coach" (Nicholas Brealey, 2007) and "Do Something Different" (Virgin Business Books, 2005). He has two more coming out in 2009, "Marketing for Entrepreneurs" and "Creativity Now" (both from Pearson). Previous books also include "Successful Scriptwriting," "Successful Sitcom Writing," and "Top Secrets: Screenwriting." My ebook Time Management for Writers, is available from my website,

Jurgen teachs writing workshops internationally, and divide my time between London and Southern California. He teaches Script Coach at Raindance