Working as a psychotherapist in Romania for 14 years has brought me the need to challenge myself – to continue learning new things from different fields, like acting, video editing, filmmaking, and screenwriting. Keeping the curiosity flame alive helps protect me against the dangerous tendency of viewing the world through deformed glasses.
The ancient philosopher Lao Tse had a way of seeing life as “a series of natural and spontaneous changes.” He also said we should not resist them because that only creates sorrow.
When I started learning about the world of filmmaking, I was surprised to find a lot of psychology principles and techniques to overcome procrastination and the struggle with creativity. They were being applied to screenwriting and filmmaking in seminars conducted by filmmaker Olaf de Fleur. If this does not appear to be something special, the way the seminar was conducted surely is.
I do not want to use big words, but the smoothness and natural flow of discussions, and the way the participants effortlessly end up with a structured screenplay outline from just a couple of ideas in only six weeks, is surely a remarkable result. This smoothness is something invaluable in our time, it is something from another era where the pressure of life was different.
The tasks Olaf assigns us to make our progress measurable, writing itself is about containing our thoughts.
The ancient philosopher Lao Tse had a way of seeing life as “a series of natural and spontaneous changes.” He also said we should not resist them because that only creates sorrow. Instead, Lao Tse recommended that we “Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
This philosophy characterizes Olaf’s sessions very well. Is he following the Taoist way? Who knows. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe only the results matter. Still, there is a self-therapy to the experience Olaf creates with each session that I value.
To get a sense of how therapeutic these Saturday sessions can be, let me share a few of the techniques Olaf uses when we are together:
- FOOD for THOUGHT
During the sessions, as a participant, a lot of times we listen to other participants and complete simple tasks. This approach exceeds the goal of using the group to stimulate creativity and motivation. The most important part happens inside each of the participants, having good “food for thought” is similar to the results we achieve when we follow a healthy diet, we overcome procrastination and are doing it without feeling the effort.
- SHOOT the HOSTAGE
The creator mindset could make or break a session of work. Using ideas like focus on what you have, and not what you don’t have, or do not compare your inside with others’ outsides, Olaf helps the participants focus on what is doable. He showed us how a beloved idea, combined with self-doubt or self-criticism, can effectively keep us from moving forward. Instead, Olaf suggests we eliminate, or “shoot” the precious ideas that hold us, our creativity, and our progress hostage.
- FIND your FLOW
The main idea here is to focus on simple and specific tasks in such a way that we disconnect ourselves from the pressure of results and time. It opens us up to more possibilities and allows us to enter a kind of writing state — a moment that feels as if “we are threatening time”. Olaf’s sessions increase the probability of entering a state of flow.
Besides the positive atmosphere of the sessions, the forking stream of discussions, and the tasks Olaf assigns us to make our progress measurable, writing itself is about containing our thoughts. To stop the river of ideas and to withhold a piece of us. A piece that becomes immortalised through sharing with members of the group, publication as a finished work, or screening as a released film.