Newsletters from Gary S Thomas

Sign up to my weekly newsletter here:

What would you do if the worst thing in the world happened??

Interesting phrase, isn’t it.

The worst thing in the world.  

It’s interesting because it would be different for different people. I mean sure, the end of the world would rank quite highly for most, but what about on a more personal, macro level?

This is how you create interesting characters. Character’s who have to choose, not between right or wrong (that’s too obvious) but maybe they have a choice where if they choice this thing, they get stronger, but if they choose the other thing, they get weaker, but they save the world. (OK, I may have seen Thor this weekend lol)

How would this kind of choice apply to the genre that you’re working in?

Especially in a romantic comedy, it’s the fate of the couple in love that’s at stake. Will they stay together, won’t they. But what do they face, what’s THEIR worst thing in the world? Do they have separate worst things?

Maybe the worst thing for one of them is the partner leaving. But that’s not the worst thing for the partner. Imagine the conflict of finding that out!

All this goes to creating compelling characters, whether it be for a short or feature script.


Hey how are you?
If you’re ever stuck about what makes a film a film, or a TV series a TV series (rather than a short film, or short story say) it comes down to a few things, but also one thing.
This is the most important part of the screenplay to some extent. Characters actions create the plot that your screenplay hangs off.
Watch the news today? Even this week?
Look at all those characters as politicians! Sorry, I meant look at all those politicians as characters.
Imagine the egos, the personalities, the stories they could all tell. Big characters make big stories.
What are you favourite films? Think about the characters. What story do they tell? Is it theirs? Is it their families story?
More about this next week, especially on Point Of View.
Let me know about your favourite characters!

Last week I said I’ll tell you more about my trip.
After my writers retreat in Mexico, I spent a week in LA and I had 3 meetings lined up. One with a manager, one with a development person and one with an exec.
The meetings all went well, and I’m going to keep in touch with them as I go on, and email them every couple of months with script updates and any other news I have.
It was great to be out there in LA with the sunshine and everything that felt so familiar from film and TV shows over the years. As it was a special birthday treat, I stayed at the Hilton for a week, right by Universal Studios. This was an absolute dream. And only happens every so often. (I won’t always be staying at the Hilton!)
I did the VIP experience of the Universal Studios and Warner Brothers Studio tours which were amazing. At Warner Brothers they were filming a TV show which starred Harrison Ford, but alas, we never saw him.
But it was so much fun, and I think I’d take a job at either one of those studios in any capacity.
Hopefully that will be a reality one day!
PS If you’ve missed any of my previous emails, you can find them here::

Best wishes

The same song, 32 years apart.

Hey, how are you?

Back in April, I went on a Roadmap Writers retreat in Mexico. While I was there, I heard Elton John’s song, Sacrifice, 32 years after it’s original release. Aside from being a remix version I heard, I couldn’t help realising how far I’d come, as on its 1989 release I was at one of the worst points in my life.

In 1990 I entered a clinic for depression and anxiety, as among other things I was born with a flat nose & cleft palate. I had major corrective surgery to the point that nobody made fun of me any more, and I thought that would change my life. To some extent it did, but around 6 months after surgery, I fell back to who I was before. The painfully shy teenager that wouldn’t talk to anyone, and I despised him.

Prior to going into the clinic it’s no exaggeration that I felt the worst I’d ever felt in my life. I had suffered through years of bullying because of my appearance, people calling me flat nose, elephant man, squash nose, for the first 17 years of my life.

I was so afraid to talk to anyone. I couldn’t see a way out of this severe emotional anguish I was going through. My mum took me to a friend of the family who had been through his own breakdown, so I could talk to him, which I did a bit, before visiting the clinic.

In the Summer of 1990, I went on holiday with my cousins. It was a friend of my god mother we went to visit, somewhere ‘up North’ in the UK.

Sacrifice reached number one in June 1990, and I vividly remember going ice skating with my cousins, trying not to show the anguish I was in, desperately hiding it. I’d look around and see ordinary guys, people that I had no hope of relating to ever.

Or so I thought.

This was also before I came out, even though I knew I was gay, I was very unsure of myself.

My cousin’s and I were never close, so while I was ‘with others’ I didn’t accept I could have fun. And I hated that feeling of loneliness.

During the skating, the original version of Sacrifice was playing. I heard the lyrics, and they got to me, they were so personal and crushing. I started welling up in the rink as the lyrics pierced through me. The song got me on just about every level.

CUT TO 32 years later…

In April this year I was at a place called Blondies with the producer of one of my favourite films, and a group of amazing writers. We were all brought together by Roadmap Writers, on a writing retreat in what just happened to be one of the gayest parts of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta.

When I booked in November, I didn’t know anyone else who was going apart from the organisers, Roadmap. I was going to Mexico, then from there I booked a week in LA.
I still can’t believe I took myself from London to Mexico, but that’s what happened, and I didn’t really believe it until I was on the plane, sitting in first class (a cheap upgrade!) on Aero Mexico. We touched down in Mexico and I arrived in Puerto Vallarta a few days before the others so I could settle in. Everyone else was coming from the States.

I met 17 other amazing writers on that trip. We bonded as a group quickly, like when a group of actors bond on a show. One writer came the day after I arrived, we had dinner together that night. They said they were gay, I was able to say ‘so am I!’ We immediately had things in common. I was in the pool when the others began arriving, lying on an inflatable turtle, soaking up the sun. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be in the sun like that. I greeted and said ‘Hi’ to the writers as they arrived, like I was someone who knew how to be confident with complete strangers.

We bonded and formed friendships. I went for dinner with a smaller group of the writers, and we all had ice cream after. By mid week most of us were having dinner at the same table on the beach, watching the sunset. I saw the green flash of the sunset. Went zip-lining – that was intense!
I emailed a couple of execs about meeting up in LA. The nerves I felt about putting myself out there gone.
I went on a sunset cruise with most of my new writer friends, and had tons of conversations about everything under the sun. Even talking to strangers sharing the same yacht. Went snorkel diving and sat on beaches. Went swimming in the sea with just about everyone. Shared table reads. I became an actor during those. That was fun!

I’ve made friends for life on that trip, and while I was on my own in LA, I did similar things while I was there. I had meetings with execs lined up from actual Hollywood. I told them about the 15 short films I’ve made and about the 3 feature scripts I have.

On our last night in Mexico a group message went out that a couple of them were at Blondies bar with the Hollywood producer I’d got to know over the week. My reply was, ‘I guess I’ll put my pants back on and come down then!’

And that’s what I did. Some new friends and I in a gay club on the corner of a street, by the beach in Mexico. And they were playing the remix of Sacrifice. I knew the lyrics instantly from all those years ago, and started singing them in my head. Almost lip-syncing. Dancing (albeit discreetly) on the spot, as we talked about life, writing, what we’re doing next.

I was very tired (lots of early starts) but I didn’t care. I realised how happy I was. Listening to a new version of that song was, maybe not new version of me, but rather someone that’s grown into who I’m really meant to be. And I thought about all the things I’d missed if I stayed like the sacred teenager I was.

On that street corner I was going through an impressive list of my achievements in my head as I was dancing, trying to think how I’d write them all out. How I’d narrowed them down to a few words.

What are those words? What would I have missed?
And all those moments in between.

What’s a song for you that brings back memories? Let me know!
Hard to choose just one, right?

Hey, how are you?

I always remember reading the PILOT episode of the Friend’s script for the first time. I loved the character descriptions at the very beginning:

Just the first two characters:
MONICA – Smart, cynical, defended… Had to work for everything she’s ever had. An assistant chef for a chic uptown restaurant. And a romantic disaster area.

Rachel – Spoiled. Adorable. Courageous. Terrified. Monica’s best friend from high school. Has worked for none of what she has. On her own for the first time. And equipped to do nothing.

Personally I find these glorious! And doesn’t both those descriptions make them almost exact opposites?

This is what you want in your characters – and this is what creates conflict in your scenes. Every scene is a negotiation – somebody wants something, the other person doesn’t want them to have it. OR wants it for themselves. And these opposite characters create conflict in each of your scenes.

HINT: Watch any film and see if you can spot the conflict in each character. Can you see what they want, is it clearly defined? This doesn’t have to be raging arguments either.

Check out these couple of scenes from The Devil Wears Prada:

I love the scene with Miranda talking about fashion. Nobody’s shouting, but she has real passion for this stuff. And all it takes is a slight laugh from Andi to set her off.

Set a timer if you like for 20 mins or so and think about the conflict in each of your scenes. Is it strong enough? Do both characters want something?

Let me know about your ideas, I’d be excited to see them!

Best wishes

Hopefully by now you:
Picked an idea you love / is close to you
Know how your story ends
Know who the character(s) are

Now is the time to put it altogether is scenes – or scene ideas. This is where the pro writers break out the brand new pack of index cards and start writing ideas for scenes. Check out this film about writing from The ACADEMY

HINT: In the best screenplays, one character wants something & the other character (or even themselves if its about one person) isn’t letting them have it.

If each scene is no more than 2 pages, that gives you five scenes to write out.

What happens in the scene?
What do the characters want – in a short film this could be the same in every scene, and the whole film could be about whether they get it or not.

Use a timer if you like, for 20- 30 minutes and think about what happens in each scene. Type it out, use pen & paper, use index cards if you like. I like the cards cos you can move them around.

What are your ideas for each scene? Let me know if you like!

best wishes

In feature & TV screenplay terms, each section can be thought of as an ACT of your script. Short films don’t have to be any different.
Feature film screenplay Acts:
OFTEN ACT 2 is split up into Act 2 A & B, otherwise there’s 60 whopping pages to think about.
In a 10 page (10 minute) script, you can divide that into 3, to give your acts.
Hopefully you’ve spent that last week thinking about which scenario you want to write about. Now is the time to puck one.
HINT: A powerful ending normally makes for a great film. (This is just one  component of the script)
By powerful, of its a comedy it could just be the biggest joke of the script, the funniest moment, the most dramatic, scary etc, depending on what type of film you want to write. Have a think about your ending and write some ideas for an ending for the next 20-30 minutes. (Set a timer if you like). Pick one and think over the next week how you might get there with the idea have.
Who is the main character? Are they on their own or is this a two character story? When ever you’re ready, write out some thoughts about your character.
For more info about me & what I’m doing, check out my website! 🙂
Gary’s Website

Hey, how are you?
The Imposter Syndrome and how to deal with it 

Do you ever feel this way, that you shouldn’t be writing, that you don’t know what you’re doing? You feel like you might be found out any minute? Like as soon as someone reads your script? 

Well, tons of us feel that way, often no matter how good things are going, that’s peak time for the imposter syndrome to show up. 


One way that I’ve found to deal with it is through meditation and positive thinking. Think about how things have gone well for you in the past, your success, and how you dealt with not so successful things. But mainly concentrate on your success and achievements. They don’t have to be big at all, just writing one page is an achievement for me sometimes. 

One other thing I’ve started doing is A & O’s. A & O is Achievements and Objectives. Make a list of all your achievements, which could be a simple as ‘wrote 1 page on new screenplay’. And then list out you Objectives for the following week. Let me know how you get on with this if you try it out!
— — 
Your next screenplay – 
I said I’d share a process where you can write a screenplay.

Your next screenplay could be a perfectly crafted short film by the end of the year. Imagine that! It doesn’t have to be huge and expensive either. 
Think about where you live. What conflict or arguments do you imagine have take place there? Is there anything from your own life that you want to reimagine?

HINT: Something that you care deeply about should be the subject of your screenplay. As long as you’re OK about writing it out. 

Imagine a two hander, what kind of conflict could it be about. Write some ideas down without censoring yourself & without editing. Maybe time yourself for 20 – 30 minutes of writing.

Are any ideas leaping out for you? Pick one to write about and try & think about where the story might lead to.
Sign up to my weekly newsletter here: