Performances always seem to work better when an actor has their own bearing as a human being. To be someone else, it helps to know who you are and this is also true of screenwriting. The art form requires an outpouring of yourself, making the writing not only yours but defining your voice in the process. There’s only one of you and identifying some of what makes you you is an important step in your journey as a writer.
While coffee cups serve as “I read this” stamps on screenplays and jolt you awake in the morning, they actually have a lot more versatility when it comes to screenwriting. It’s a bit of a roundabout way of getting down to it… but they help you observe people.
Some screenwriters thrive on working in bustling coffee shops. There’s a reason for that… beyond trying to have a change of scenery or mimic the white noise of being unborn! As hubs of human activity, they’re wonderfully inspiring places that tend to attract some of the most curious characters.
Having spent many hours in a coffee shop following a regular gym visit with my father, we’d often find ourselves lounging side-by-side in two comfortable recliners over a warm cup of the good stuff. From this viewpoint, we were able to survey the room… picking up the nods from the regulars but also taking delight in people-watching the newbies.
Each person has a story, starting their day in a similar way, but branching out into the world with different hopes, dreams and motivations. It’s a wonderful proving ground for characters, dreaming up new ones and maybe even fleshing out some of your pre-existing characters. As Helen Mirren says there’s nothing as interesting as life… and people. She even takes buses or the subway from time-to-time to simply observe people going about their day.
Having a coffee cup in your hand makes you much less suspicious in a coffee shop, which is why it’s an amazing screenwriting tool. To add to that, it also makes people more at ease and approachable – at least after a couple of sips! Having a chat with someone from a completely different walk of life, getting an inside scoop from a regular or just seeing people come and go is an undervalued resource and that’s why the coffee cup is one of your best screenwriting tools.