“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.”
And yet, there you are. Sitting in front of your lap top with a long list of scenes to be mapped out, and dialogue to be written. The sun is up, and the page is blank. The possibilities are endless. So endless in fact, that it’s hard to know where exactly to begin. So, you don’t. At least, not yet. Instead, it’s off to Facebook, followed by Twitter. Then Instagram. Before long, you’re browsing Reddit memes, before swinging by the media blog of your choice (hopefully it’s this one). Soon enough, minutes turn to hours, and suddenly you’re looking up the dietary habits of arctic seals wondering, “how did I get here?”
… And the page is still blank.
Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Not all writing days are full of gold. In fact, sometimes it feels like the opposite is closer to the truth. Some days, our carefully-honed discipline decides to take a hike without warning, leaving us riddled with regrets and unwritten pages. There are productivity “hacks”, of course. Tips and tricks designed to keep you focused and working at optimal, peak efficiency. But in general? Resistance is futile.
Fortunately, accepting the inevitability of distraction is the first step in learning how to effectively deal with it. The second step? Picking the right stuff to get distracted by. Not all distractions are created equal, after all. And as much as a Wikipedia article concerning the migratory habits of Canadian geese might seem interesting at the time, it isn’t exactly something you can pump back into that script.
Try this instead: next time you feel your mind begin to wander, take off that writer’s cap and head on over to YouTube for some unofficial screenwriting wisdom. I mean it – there’s an entire MFA’s worth of film school quality material right at your finger tips, just waiting to distract you from whatever better things you had to do. We’re talking stuff you can actually use – philosophy, film theory, craft analysis, discussion of structure, theme, hidden meanings etc. Stuff that might just improve your writing.
Don’t believe us? See for yourself. Here are the eleven cinema-related YouTube channels most worthy of all that precious, wasted time.
Logline: “My name is Lewis. Art has moulded who I am today. I hope I and it can do the same for you.”
We hope so too, Lewis. If we could all be as cinematically literate as you appear to be in your videos, we wouldn’t need film school in the first place. We mean it – Channel Criswell is a smorgashboard of cinematic deep-dives into some of the best films and filmmakers of all time. For screenwriters, it’s akin to looking under the hood of the very things that inspired you in the first place. From subversion in the French New Wave, to David Lynch’s relationship with the subconscious. Strap yourself in, kiddos (and don’t forget to click the pictures)!
Logline: “CineFix is the ultimate destination for true movie buffs & filmmakers on YouTube.”
Right. So, as you can probably tell from the screencap above, CineFix is basically the buzzfeed of YouTube cinefiles. Not that that’s a bad thing – just know what it is you’re signing up for: always entertaining, sometimes insightful nuggets of cinematic gold presented in easy, digestible, attention-grabbing chunks. Some of it’s a tad click-baity, (we’re not quite sure how one goes about determining the 5 best plot points of all time) but hey – we’re screenwriters, so at least it’s on topic.
Logline: “No movie is without sin. We exist mostly just to remind you of that.”
Well, if you’re not entirely sure what to do, at least figure out what not to do. CinemaSins is a well-known shade-thrower with an eye for plot holes, and a penchant for rapid-fire criticism. To be fair, many of their complaints boil down to nitpicks, but it can be surprising education to watch a film get torn to shreds. Especially if it’s a film you adore. Prepare to have your eyes opened – just try not to take it personally.
Every Frame a Painting
Logline: “Every Frame a Painting is dedicated to the analysis of film form. Pictures and sound all the way, baby.”
Every Frame a Painting has an impressive following, and it’s easy to see why. He has a keen eye for visuals – from cinematography, and imagery, to staging and blocking. For all you aspiring filmmakers out there, this is one of the few YouTube channels that manages to demsytify the hazier parts of the process (directorial style, for example) in a way that’s both illuminating and surprisingly technical.
Logline: “I make video essays on blockbuster films. If you want to know why you love the films you love, you’ve come to the right place!”
The aptly titled Films&Stuff is still a relatively new channel, but its stock is rapidly growing in the YouTube commuity. As the channel’s description state, the focus is mostly on Hollywood fare – Star Wars, Marvel, that sort of thing (you know, movies the average person has actually seen). The library is small compared to other channels, but the quality is routinely excellent with topics ranging from the art of adapting The Lord of the Rings, to the structural perfection of The Empire Strikes Back.
Lessons from the Screenplay
Logline: I believe that a more informed audience raises the bar for storytelling. That examining the techniques used to tell great stories makes your own writing better and your appreciation for the stories deeper. I make videos that analyze movie scripts to examine exactly how and why they are so good at telling their stories.
The draw here should obvious enough. Lessons from the Screenplay begins and ends with the all things script-related. The library is small, but growing, and if the quality of the videos released thus far are any indication, this is definitely a “screenwriting” channel to watch. Add it to your subscription list and strap in.
Logline: “The Nerdwriter is a weekly video essay series that puts ideas to work.”
The Nerdwriter’s hard to pin down. His channel isn’t explicitly film-related, though many of his most popular videos explore cinema through a very sophisticated lens. In fact, unless this is your first rodeo, chances are good you’ve encountered one or two of his videos before. How does Hitchcock block a scene? What’s the difference between a “moment” and a “scene”? What does A Serious Man teach us about understanding life? How does Children of Men communicate meaning through its backgrounds? Seriously – the amount of sheer wisdom on display in any single Nerdwriter video puts the vast majority of film theory classes to shame.
Now You See It
Logline: “Now You See It explores film themes and tropes. It’s like a college film analysis class minus the lecture halls, essay assignments, and student loan debts.”
In other words, it’s film school with all the bad bits cut out. There’s a lot to soak in here, from nitty-gritty filmmaking breakdowns, to more analytically minded film theory. Why do so many characters play chess in movies? Why are opening shots so important? What’s so special about long takes? “Aspect ratio”, how does it work? Like we said – film school.
Script Reader Pro
Logline: “Script Reader Pro are a small team of pro screenwriters who help aspiring screenwriters break into the industry.
We recently started this YouTube channel to bring our ethos of actionable, “no-fluff” advice to the small screen 🙂 “
The School of Life
Logline: “We love the humanities, especially philosophy, psychotherapy, literature and art – always going to them in search of ideas that are thought-provoking, useful and consoling.”
Of all the channels on this list, this is the only one that ostensibly has nothing to do with movies. Instead, it’s a channel that covers just about everything – from art, literature, and philosophy, to everyday life experiences and emotions. Think of it as a curriculum of “things worth writing about”. After all, a story can only be as good as the knowledge and experiences the storyteller has to draw from (that means you). And if that doesn’t sell you, then hey – at least you’ll finally know what the phrase “Kafka-esque” means.
Logline: “We’re Wisecrack, a collective of comedians, academics, filmmakers, and artists who are super curious about the world around us. Our channel explores cool topics in unusual (and hopefully super entertaining) ways.”
Wisecrack is by far the most entertaining channel on this list. I mean it. Don’t believe me? Check out their “Earthling Cinema” series in which an alien named Garyx unpacks the hidden meanings from some of the best (and worst) films of all time. Or, if you want something with a bit more substance, check out their incredibly well-researched “Philosophy of” videos, or their “What Went Wrong” post-mortems of flicks like The Dark Knight Rises. The folks at Wisecrack are funny, no doubt – but they’re also passionate, intelligent filmmakers in their own right.