Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes (Songwriter)

I took Barry’s 6 week Introduction to Screenwriting  course recently as I was intrigued by the approach he describes in his outline. I had done a couple of screenwriting courses previously but that left me feeling kind of flat, drained out and disillusioned. I was amazed at how formulaic the whole process had become.I couldn’t see the point in writing to comply with a checklist. Where’s the joy in that?

No joy means no passion. No passion means no creativity. And absent all 3 means no point. Why bother trying to tell a story to a tickbox. 

But Barry’s approach takes no hero’s journey. Instead he just says put the thumbscrews on your chief schmuck and see how he/she reacts. Maybe they will surprise everybody, including themselves. Maybe they will turn out to be a stand up guy/gal. Or not. Maybe they should just remain seated. The point is nobody knows till they do. Life is unpredictable. Just ask a physicist or your mother.

This willingness to embrace the  principle of uncertainty is so refreshing. It’s like putting the wolves back in Yellowstone and seeing what happens. They could eat the tourists or reboot the ecosystem (the latter as it turns out).

But this commitment to the importance of uncertainty for the creative process is such an essential ingredient to liberating the story in Barry’s approach. It allows that tension to dwell in the undecided moments before the world becomes what it does and right there I think is where creation happens. It is never random. It is chaos. And chaos operates according to an implicate order.

Barry knows this both intuitively and explicitly. He operates from a well thought through framework of guiding principles born of a lifetime’s experience in the world he deals with.

He is steeped in storytelling, in the love of it, in the joy of it, in the fun and the passion of it. It oozes from his very pores. His stories about storytelling are littered with nuggets of the real world of makebelieve, vivid, informative and entertaining .

There are years of experiences there which he can reach into to match almost any scenario.

And while he has a pure wild twinkle in his eye he also has an eagle eyed attention to details that count.

That’s the other refreshing thing about his style. He is not a nit picker. He knows how not to kill the learner’s enthusiasm but he is very clear about the lines that should not be crossed.

Doing this course has renewed my faith in storytelling about a world that looks and behaves like the one i live in; unpredictable, ambiguous, nuanced, risky, funny and fraught.  Not a freeze framed checklist to be ticked off to the sound of elevator muzak as Barry might, in fact did, say.

So thank you for showing me all is not lost Barry McEvoy.