It all started pleasantly enough. The sun was shining, it was warm, and I was hurrying along the tree-lined road. The concrete island in the middle of the street was not exactly where I should be crossing but… I was in a hurry and the regular crossing was further down the way.

As I rushed across intersection, my foot slipped and I took a tumble toward the pavement. My head hit the pavement so hard it shattered my sunglasses. The plastic pieces cut my forehead above and near my eyebrow. Blood ran down my face. I tried to break my fall with my left hand. My fingers were forced into an almost right angles to my hand. In other words, two fingers were now in an an “L” shape! My knee was slammed and skinned.

But momentarily, almost as my head was hitting the pavement, several people rushed to my aid. A nurse showed up out of nowhere who checked my vital signs and made sure my neck wasn’t broken. Then the ambulance drove up. I was whisked off to A&E or the emergency room.

One of the burly young ambulance EMTs had his name written in elvish on his arm. How nerdy is that– and how nerdy is the fact I recognized it as elvish. He’s the dad of small daughter and has a job that daily points out just how fragile the human body is and the staggering variety of ways in which it’s possible to injure it. So he has a guardian angel prayer on his inner bicep. Then he’s got a full guardian angel on his upper shoulder. I felt very protected.

Now the irony of all this is– next week I am going to work with the writers, directors, and producers of Casualty. The show is a long running drama on the order of ER. I’d never been in a British emergency room before and my bed was placed with a full view of everyone coming and going. It was the perfect vantage point. In came the young and old, the critical and the minor accidents, like me.

I had an X-ray to make sure my fingers weren’t broken. They weren’t, only severely dislocated. Then a doctor who specialized in anesthetic injected my fingers and joints and the bone doctor snapped them back into place. I didn’t feel a thing except a small pop. They were straight again! I had another X-ray to make the bone didn’t when the fingers were repositioned. While I was waiting I was served a selection of sandwiches and a very nice milky tea. The report came back from radiology, all was okay. My fingers were taped, I got a few stitches and I was sent on my way.

I asked the doctor who administered the anesthetic why he chose that particular specialty. He said there was great variety of cases. You are only responsible for one patient at a time. And when you are done, you are done. You leave your work at work.

That brings me to the point of this post. There are a number of ways to approach being in the medical profession —

1. It’s a job. Being a doctor is solid professional employment and a good way to make a living or support a family. The doctor does what is expected and punches out. He or she puts in the time and is concerned and responsible when on the job. But the doctor doesn’t take the job home and retires as soon as is age-appropriate and financially feasible.

2. It’s a career. Being a doctor is a good opportunity for getting ahead in life. The doctor is working to achieve advancement either in the organization (or hospital) or in the specialty. The job is a means to an end (rising through the ranks, achieving greater recognition, becoming a sought after expert etc.) It is a stepping- stone to something else and worth the hard work, discipline, and extra effort to achieve a larger goal.

3. It’s a vocation. Being a doctor is a life mission or a higher calling. The doctor is there to make a difference and impact people’s lives. The work is a consuming passion for the doctor. There is no dividing line between work and personal life. Work is the doctor’s life.

4. It’s a mistake. Being a doctor is not a good fit. The individual is in medicine for the wrong reasons, the wrong motivations, or to please someone else. Or the reality of the job doesn’t conform to the ideal of the job or the fantasy of being a doctor. In any case, the individual puts in the time and effort, got the job, and now feels trapped.

Any kind of employment, but particularly in medicine, has a variety of people who look at the “Why” of doing the job very differently. All individuals naturally assume their “Why” is the most valid reason or, if everyone else was honest, is the real motivation “Why” anyone works at the hospital. This is a great area of opportunity for personal conflict in a story. Too often in medical shows, or shows about other professions, everyone is doing the job for the same reason. That isn’t the case in life and it shouldn’t be the case in a drama.

$ $ $ $ $ $

As a side note, the whole experience cost me exactly nothing. No charge. Zip. Zero. Nada. My care was prompt, professional, and very concerned and personable. Despite paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment for health insurance in the US our deductible is $1600. The whole bill including ambulance would have cost several thousand dollars– or my deductible at the very least. When I tell this to my British friends they shake their heads and mutter softly, “Madness. Absolute madness.”

Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield UK

The Children’s Media Conference is the only gathering in the UK for everyone involved in developing, producing and distributing content to kids – on all platforms.

The CMC welcome delegates from TV, interactive media, games, licensing, toys, radio, book and magazine publishing and the arts and culture sector – with speakers from all those areas and beyond.

It’s the only time when delegates from across the whole industry get together and, in the UK, it’s the best and most cost-effective way of meeting people relevant to your business.

My Character Map session is on Wednesday July 3, 2013

Register now for the full Conference, for the popular Wednesday Workshops and for the new International Exchange – and of course don’t miss out on the Pizza Express Networking Dinner.

The list of speakers is growing daily in over 50 sessions and workshops, including a whole strand of “Focus On…” international business issues at the International Exchange.

A Few Observations About Life in Europe & the UK

I’ve been living in Bristol for about three months now, interspersed with frequent trips to the Continent.  Here are some general observations on a few key differences with the US.

1.  Men here wear red pants– if you are in the UK that will read as underwear– so I mean trousers.  They also wear orange, bright green, pink, and turquoise trousers.  Men here are much more sartorially adventurous.  They also wear silk scarves, wool scarves, and cotton scarves which are meant to be decorative as well as warm.

2.  If someone tells you– “Oh it’s just 5 minutes further on” expect it to be about a 20 minute walk.  People here walk much much more than in the US.  They always vastly underestimate how long a walk it is between here and there.  Buy comfortable shoes.

3.  They also smoke more– much more.  Perhaps the walking counter balances this. But expect smoke to be wafting everywhere people gather outside.  Most places do forbid smoking inside restaurants and other public venues but the walking includes walking past lots of smokers.

4.  People live at much colder temperatures, especially in the UK.  Central heating is still an advertised special feature in apartment ads.  Maybe that’s why they smoke– to keep warm.  It could also be why they drink.  People drink way more, especially in the UK, than in the US.  I am talking about middle-aged professionals here– not kids.  Black-out drinking is not uncommon.  I’ve overheard several conversations between colleagues about this in my travels.  Or maybe it’s just the people in the entertainment industry?  Or just people I know.

5.  Whenever there is the least glimmer of sun people sit outdoors in cafes, etc.  It can be freezing cold but people still dine and drink outside if there is any spot of brightness.

6.  People actually take vacations.  Yes, they turn off their mobile phones, their email, and are unreachable– for weeks!  It’s called relaxing.  This is a concept Americans seem to have trouble grasping, especially in the television business.  I am getting used to it.

7.  Things are more expensive here.  People tended to have fewer really nice things and not all the cheap crap that Americans tend to horde.  What they do have they use a lot and enjoy.  Yes yes there is cheaper crap over here but there is somehow a different mind set about things.  Physical evidence is the general lack of gigantic closets and tons of storage space.  This is not necessarily a matter of room size.  A good-sized bedroom might still have no closet and a just a medium sized wardrobe– a few shelves and a small single rack to hang clothes.

8.  Dining is a form of pleasure.  It takes much longer to be served at restaurants and no one rushes the bill.  People linger and talk.  There are certainly American fast food places but when having dinner with friends or colleagues it is a much slower process.  Waiters aren’t rushing to “turn over” the tables.

9.  People here are much more knowledgeable about the US and elsewhere than Americans are about anywhere. In general, they understand the mechanics of the US political process better than a lot of Americans or will quiz you on this to improve their understanding.  They are absolutely astonished at the lack of affordable healthcare and mass shootings of children– and the seeming lack of will to do much about either issue.

10.  They are much more energy conscious.  They drive smaller cars.  In the UK they have individual switches to turn off the current for each plug.  They seem to recycle more and don’t have the animosity some Americans have about alternative energy sources.  Germany, for instance, gets the vast majority of its electricity from solar power.  It’s not a particularly sunny country but they have developed the technology to improve on performance.

No things are not perfect here.  We all know about the economic troubles everywhere.  And yes you can complain about “socialism.”  But I am enjoying my time here and it is changing me, in lots of ways for the better.  I find my self collecting experiences rather than things– yes yes I know I did some shopping in Milan– but I bought a couple of really nice, if a bit expensive things.  I am learning a lot about myself and others.  There is nothing like travel to enrich perspectives and broaden personal horizons.  I am doubly blessed to be working on the stories of other cultures and having the deep intimate conversations that storytelling stimulates.  It’s been a great three months.

Join Me In Sweden in April and May

I will be in Stockholm from April 29 to May 5.  I will be meeting one-on-one with writers, producers, and productions executives but there are three workshops open to the public.

Character Map Workshop – April 29

  • What tools are in storyteller’s Emotional Toolbox?
  • What determines a character emotional power in a story?
  • How does a storyteller create fictional characters that always “ring true”?
  • What is the Character Map?
  • What six questions define a character?
  • What are the four dynamic conflicts that motivate any character’s actions?
  • Character Map demonstration/exercise:
  • How does emotion generate action?
  • What key emotion does the hero/protagonist always share with the villain/antagonist?
  • How does the antagonist attack or tempt the hero emotionally?
  • How do heroes/protagonists fall to the ”Dark Side”?
  • What must the protagonist surrender in order to prevail in the story?
  • What important emotional step must a character take to complete his/her emotional journey successfully?

Thriller Workshop – April 30

  • Emotion Power vs Genre
  • What is a Thriller vs a Detective Story vs a Crime Story?
  • How motivation and character determine Story Type
  • What is the Power of Truth?
  • How the Power of Truth propels a protagonist through the thriller plot line and creates an emotional bond with the audience.
  • How great story twists develop Power of Truth themes of loyalty and betrayal.
  • How deceit and deception keeps the audience off balance.
  • How storytellers can increase mistrust and suspicion by turning allies into enemies and enemies into allies
  • What drives a Power of Truth story?
  • How storytellers create a compelling internal emotion dynamic for a thriller protagonist
  • How the motivation and psychology of a male protagonist differs from that of a female protagonist.
  • How non-traditional narrative structure is created through character development.
  • How storytellers can re-imagine and refresh this popular film genre and make it uniquely their own.

RomCom Workshop – May 2

This program will help you get to the heart of one of the most beloved film genres. Great ”date movies” are often the biggest box office hits. Most other kinds of films have a love story or buddy subplot.  The program includes a complete discussion of:

  • How the Power of Love drives the protagonist through the story
  • How to couple and uncouple lovers or buddies in sequences that are both entertaining and emotionally moving
  • How to develop the psychological pairings that create the most sparks and ignite the hottest romance
  • How to use the three key elements that make the romantic journey interesting and worthwhile
  • How to establish the qualities of attraction and repulsion that keep the characters and the audience off balance
  • How the motivation and psychology of a male protagonist differs from that of a female protagonist
  • How to re-imagine and re-invent this enduring film genre and make it uniquely your own


Netta Frister Aaron
0725 – 24 99 85

For more information



Summer Workshop in Italy

Friend and colleague from UCLA, Paul Chitlik, now a clinical assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, holds a residential writing seminar in Europe every summer. This year, the seminar is in Cairo Montenotte, Italy. Here are the details as provided by Paul, who is also the author of Rewrite: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in Your Screenplay.

Are you thinking about how you can get to the next level with a script you’ve been meaning to write or rewrite? Probably you are. You can deal with both at the same time by signing up for a screenwriting retreat coming up June 16-June 29 in Cairo, Italy. Yes. Cairo Montenotte in the Liguria region of Northern Italy.

We’ll be staying in a sumptuous villa with ten bedrooms, a huge kitchen and 2 living rooms as well as a large swimming pool, a tennis court, a separate pizza house and nineteen acres of land with breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. It is a mere 3 minutes drive from the city center of Cairo Montenotte and 25 minutes drive from the beach. Cairo Montenotte lies in the region of Liguria in the North Western part of Italy and borders on the Piedmonte region to the North. Combined, the two regions boast a long shore-line on the Mediterranean, seaside resorts, ancient ports and towns, hills, plains and many places of historic interest. This part of Italy is known for its delicate food and famous wine.

But you don’t go to a screenwriting retreat for lodging or the food, although we will be having our own local chef prepare lunch and dinner. You go for the concentrated writing experience. This year there will again be two seminars at the same time! I will lead one that will focus on rewriting an existing script. If you prefer to write a new script from scratch, Nanou Matteson, UCLA MFA grad, who has been expertly teaching and coaching writers for 20 years, will lead our second annual first draft seminar.

Nanou has worked with hundreds of writers in addition to attending many of my retreats. She knows my method and has always been a leader in my classes. Her students last year were wowed by her passion, wit, and knowledge.

I’ll be focusing on the usual – story, character, dialogue, then more story, then more story (not a typo), then pages until we get your existing script up to the next level. Nanou will take those who face the blank page through the whole process as if you were in a UCLA 434 graduate seminar, only better since she’ll have only 5 in her section.

Talk to a former participant – it’s intense. There are three hours of seminar every afternoon, office hours in the morning, group meals, long walks after – all focused on script work. Mornings, early afternoons, and, if you’re a night writer, nights will be for writing.

If you were not able to get into one of my 434s or Professional Program advanced classes at UCLA, this may be your only opportunity to see why more than one MFA grad has said, “I learned more in ten weeks with Paul than I learned in two years at bleep University.” By the way, I will not be teaching at UCLA again as I am exclusive to Loyola Marymount University now.

The level is always high – last year we had several MFAs, MFA candidates, and alumni of UCLA’s Professional Program in screenwriting, not to mention professionals from Australia, England, and Germany. Oh, and me, the not-tooting-my-horn former UCLA Prof Program instructor and sometime Visiting Assistant Professor in the MFA program, currently Clinical Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University, and author of Rewrite, A Step by Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Character, and Drama in Your Screenplay, now in its second printing. BTW, you’ll get a copy of the book on your arrival.

The villa is about an hour from Turin, about 45 minutes to Genoa, less than 25 minutes to Savona on the Med. Lots of small villages to explore if you rent a car (you can share – we’ll put you in touch with others in the program). And if you’re feeling frisky, Nice, France is 90 minutes up the coast.

You’re wondering about cost. For Paul’s program, if you have a single room, it will be $3745 by check ($3858 if by PayPal). A shared room will be $3245 ($3343 via PayPal). If you go for Nanou’s startup workshop, a single will be $3495 ($3599 via PayPal) and a double will be the incredibly affordable $2950 ($3039 via PayPal). If there is demand, there will be three triples available at $2745 ($2828 via Paypal). There’s a 10% discount for you if you’ve taken one of our private workshops before.

Think about it – 13 days and nights in an Italian villa, room and board plus instruction for a lot less than, say, tuition only for an equivalent course at a private university. My section will be limited to seven, and Nanou’s section will be limited to five, so you’ll get lots of personal attention.

Deadline has been extended to March 1 for Laurie’s readers for the initial deposit of $200 to hold your place. Contact Nanou immediately, though, if you want to make sure you have a spot. We have only one place left in each seminar. First come, first served.


#MondayMusings – Luck to Start the New Year

I was doing an end of year clean-up on my computer and stumbled across a very old newsletter article from

This article on luck is a great post to open the New Year.  Make 2013 your luckiest year yet by following these simple guidelines.

There are people who seem to have been born lucky. They know what they want, set out to get it, and somehow, everything falls into place. Even if something goes wrong along the way, they still manage to land on their feet.

Some people, on the other hand, who just can’t seem to catch a break. These are the people who believe that someday their luck will turn, and that someday, the “lucky ones” will run out of luck too. Some of them will simply blame the stars – they believe they’re fated to be unlucky, and they can’t do anything about it.

In a strange way, the unlucky ones are right, or so says Drawk Kwast. In his article Science of Luck on Small Business CEO Magazine, he explains that “The biggest reason you don’t have the life you want is because you are focused on what you aren’t getting. You see only your lack of luck. Successful people live life as they desire because they focus on what they are getting.”

The unlucky ones are unlucky because they believe they’re unlucky. Makes sense, right?

Drawk shares the results of a study conducted by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. In the study, he asked two groups of people, a “lucky” group and an “unlucky” one, to look through a newspaper and tell him how many photographs were in it. On average, the lucky people had their answers in seconds, while the unlucky ones took two minutes.

Luck is about keeping your eyes open

The lucky ones saw a large message taking up half of the second page that said: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The unlucky ones totally missed it and kept counting.

The key, as Drawk puts it is this: “It’s not about luck. It’s about keeping your eyes open.” He goes on to say that he’s among the lucky ones, “not that I have better luck than other people; it’s that I can see things that others can’t.” Drawk can identify opportunities for growth and success that many others can’t, and he also interacts with as many people as possible to create those opportunities.

Luck is about extending your hand

This idea is shared by other lucky people. One of them is Tom McCarthy, whom was interviewed a few months back for a NOBS TALK on Increasing Your Luck. Tom explains: “One of the things lucky people do that unlucky people tend not to do is they maximize the number of opportunities that come to them.” By being outgoing, by introducing yourself to others, and by expanding your network, you create opportunities for yourself, and improve your luck.

Luck is about listening to your gut

Tom also shares that lucky people listen to their “lucky hunches,” while unlucky ones go against them. If that doesn’t quite make sense, replace “lucky hunches” with gut or intuition. You improve your luck by following your gut – it might not get it 100% right, but more often than not, your intuition will steer you in the right direction, and you’ll be happier for it.

Luck is about keeping a smile on your face

This brings us two the idea that lucky people are happier. The idea seems so obvious – if things just seem to fall in place for you, of course you’ll be happy about that. What most people don’t see, however, is that it works when you flip things around – happy people are luckier too.

J.D. Roth discusses this on Zen Habits in his article How to Make the Most Out of Luck in Your Career and Life. “A person who leads a balanced life is happier, more relaxed, more open to new experiences,” J.D. Explains. “If you maintain good relationships, pursue satisfying hobbies, go out of your way to help others, and continue to pursue personal growth, you will become a well-rounded person, just the sort that ‘luck’ favors.”

Michael Levy also discusses this briefly in his article The Five Principles for Prosperity. The first principle he shares is to Enjoy Everything. Enthusiasm and exploration, he says, “leave the door open for future development.”

Drawk Kwast really sums it up well: “This has nothing to do with luck. It’s pure science.” Luck is all about your attitude and your outlook. It’s about opening your eyes, creating opportunities, following your gut, and maintaining a positive attitude. The question now is this:

Will you create your own luck, or will you be one of those who do nothing but complain?

Photo by billaday

What Gangnam Style Tells Us about Writing

Gangnam Style by Psy became the first YouTube video to cross the one billion view threshold, making it the most popular viral video in history.  In case you’re not familiar with this sensation– What’s Gangnam Style?

According to Wikipedia–

“Gangnam Style” (Korean: 강남스타일, IPA: [kaŋnam sɯtʰail]) is a K-pop single by the South Korean musician PSY. The song was released in July 2012 as the lead single of his sixth studio album PSY 6 (Six Rules), Part 1, and debuted at number one on South Korea’s Gaon Chart. On December 21, 2012, at around 15:50 UTC, “Gangnam Style” became the first video in the history of the Internet to be viewed more than a billion times. As of December 25, 2012, the music video has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube, and it is the site’s most watched video after surpassing Justin Bieber’s single “Baby”.

There have been pages and pages of analysis as to the odd-ball video’s popularity.  My take comes down to one word– Enthusiasm.

Psy is a short chubby guy with very unsophisticated, slightly awkward dance moves.  But he sings his songs and repeats his moves with absolute conviction and, most important, with wholehearted energy and individuality.

What does this song and dance video have to do with writing?   Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best–

“When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it.
Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful,
and you will accomplish your object. “

Does everything you write and the way you approach your writing have this crackling enthusiasm, passion, and authenticity?

Can you make everything you do in 2013 reflect your very own unique take on Gangnam Style?  If you do so you will be much more likely to succeed and to have more fun along the way!

#ThinkpieceThursday – Zig Ziglar Rules for Success

Zig Ziglar recently passed away.  He was a motivational speaker and author.  My father was a Mad Men era ad man.  He always liked Ziglar’s comments and books.  Here are Ziglar’s top ten rules for success– with my comments on how they apply to writing.

10) “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”  This is a great one to remember when rejection feels like failure.  Just because you have a bunch of pitches or scripts that haven’t sold doesn’t make YOU a failure.

9) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”  When you are pitching a project are you clear about the company’s mandate?  Have you researched their past films or television shows?  How does your project fit in with their goals? How would it enhance their portfolio?  Different producers and production companies have very different taste.  Don’t waste their time or yours by pitching something that doesn’t fit in with what they want to achieve.

8 ) “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” Write for at least one hour every day. Find ways to keep yourself motivated every day.

7) “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.” Be a creator as well as a critic.

6) “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”  Does your story have a strong emotional through line?  The definition of entertainment is to feel something.  What does your story make people feel?

5) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”  Be hopeful and optimistic, be prepared, and be flexible.  Most people miss opportunities because they can’t see them coming.  The best goal going o into a pitch meeting is to create a relationship, not sell a project.  Getting another meeting should be the objective.  The longer you can engage others enough to ask “tell me more” the better chance you have of success.

4) “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”  To have a friend you must be a friend.  Writing tends to be isolating.  Find ways to be of service to others.  A generous spirit is always repaid ten-fold and in very unexpected ways.

3) “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Set small achievable incremental goals every day.  Find time to write every day even if it is only for an hour.

2) “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” A good attitude is crucial to being a success and appreciating success once you are there.

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”  This speaks for itself.

Half of being a writer is selling yourself and your projects.  Learning how to sell with authenticity and integrity is crucial to success.  Ziglar is a great mentor.

#MondayMusings – Nordkapp Film Festival

Monday, 10 September 2012

I arrived in Tromso and am having dinner with the festival organizers.  Had a brief tour of the local area.  I must say that Norway makes my heart sing.  Its beauty is breathtaking and its people are open and friendly.  Also the fish is the best in the world.  Fish restaurant for me tonight.

For the next several weeks this blog will be a sort of travelogue along with musing and observations in my consulting and teaching travels.

Here are a couple of observations from the plane:

1.  Nordic men are stunningly handsome. Just sayin’

2.  Scandinavians love America. I sat next to two Norwegian plumbers on the plan.  They were part of a group of 15 plumbers who were wrapping up a trip to New York.  They saved their money and met company performance goals– so off all the plumbers went as a company reward.  (Would this happen in America as a reward?) They had a fabulous time and the guy I sat next to is eager to return for a longer stay with his wife.

3.  The Norwegians are open and friendly observation is totally true.  Tall blond and handsome guy sitting one row forward helped me put my iPhone on non-roaming International mode so I wouldn’t rack up thousand of AT&T charge while in Europe.

Here is a look at Tromso–

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Tony Soprano is a Mafia Power of Will character. He believes that expanding his power base, extending his territory, protecting and defending what is rightfully his (according to Tony) and swiftly avenging any wrong (or perceived wrong) is how one gets along, gets ahead and stays ahead in the world. Life is a battleground.