“What does your character want?” was the familiar refrain from CJ Hopkins, our scriptwriting tutor, from his office off in Kottbusser Tor, Berlin.
What I wanted was to get a chunk of my screenplay written over February this year. So I rented my place out through Air BnB and found somewhere to stay in Berlin, on a beautiful tree-lined street beside a canal.
Walking around the streets, the buzz and pace of life made it easy to see why so many people think Berlin is special. Were the conversations taking place in the quirky, laidback cafes on every corner the equivalent of those taking place in Paris’s Left Bank in the 1920s? I don’t think any of mine were – but still, you could almost feel the city’s creativity seep into you.
In a circle of writers from all corners of the globe, we critiqued each other’s work. I am someone who started out believing that good writing couldn’t come from anything but unbridled creativity, but now I find the restrictions of craft strangely liberating. It’s reassuring how the three-act structure can be applied to even the most avant garde creations. Or is that another stage in the learning curve?
CJ’s knowledge of the craft of writing was unfailingly impressive (his plays have been produced all over the world to great critical acclaim), as was his ability to engage with your work. It was a great experience to have a fellow captain at the bow, however temporary.
By the end of the month Berlin’s streets had become familiar, the cafes like those of any other tourist hotspot. Berlin’s myths were starting to fade and I was ready to return home to steer my vessel alone, albeit armed with more valuable lessons of craft.
I came across CJ through The Reader Berlin: http://thereaderberlin.com/
Check out his website: http://cjhopkins.com/
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