Monday, 4 May 2020

Discovering A Story That Audiences Will Love: An Interview with Story Coach Sandy Comstock



It's a pleasure to be able to welcome today's guest to Into The Script, not just because I know you're all going to love her and get SO much from her interview, but because she is also my creative coach. Since working with Sandy, she has totally transformed my creative process, but believe me - I will be sharing more on that with you all later!


Sandy Comstock is a story coach, writer, and producer living in Los Angeles. She currently works on international marketing campaigns at Warner Bros. for blockbuster films like Fantastic Beasts, Wonder Woman, and Lego Movie 2

Sandy has worked with writers that have been accepted into elite writer’s workshops and found success writing for popular TV shows such as Netflix's You.


1)     Can you share with us what first inspired your path as a creative coach and storyteller? 

Photo Credit to Sandy Comstock


Storytelling was something that always came very naturally to me – my mind works in metaphor, I see things multidimensionally, and I’m fascinated by the human condition (why we do what we do). 

I always wanted to work in the film industry, so when I walked into my first screenwriting class in college, it was a totally paradigm shift, where my worlds collided, and it set my course. 

As for the creative coaching, it was something that I absently stumbled into. I would give notes on friends’ projects for fun on the side and soon realized that I had a knack for seeing their vision clearly and offering feedback that would expand and support their idea.

I didn’t know at the time that not everyone approached notes that way, objectively and without agenda. 

I loved witnessing writer after writer transform from uncertainty to excitement about their project in the space of an hour. 

That feeling of reignited passion was contagious and I would leave meetings buzzing with my own excitement. 

It was that feeling that convinced me to pivot my focus from writer to coach. 


2)     As a meditation and yoga teacher, writer and creative coach (to name just a few of your titles), you have multiple skills you can utilise on various projects. 

Can you share with our readers the benefits you have found when it comes to having a multi-pronged approach and skill-set when forging your own path as a creative?


Weaving my knowledge of yoga and meditation into my creative process has been essential to my evolution as a writer. Yoga philosophy is rife with insights on how to combat mental overwhelm and find a more neutral balance within yourself. 

For me, personally, this is super necessary because my creative side is wild, chaotic and nonlinear. I need something to ground me, so that I can creatively take flight. 

I find that meditation and creativity are two sides of a similar coin. 

When working with clients, challenging emotions are known to rise up, sometimes unexpectedly, and having practical tools has been beneficial when helping writers navigate their fear, doubt, perfectionism, etc. so their creative flow continues unencumbered.  


3)     What do you feel transforms a mediocre story into a great script and marketable concept? Can you elaborate on these elements?


Two things: Technicality and Truth


Technicality is not just about having your act structure mapped out or the inciting incident on the right page (although that’s important too), it’s about pacing and flow. 

Anyone reading your script wants to be on the ride with your heroine (or hero, I guess J). They want to feel their pulse quicken or gasp in surprise. 

All of that is dictated by the execution of where you put your action lines or paragraphs (which should be no longer than 3 lines maximum) and how you place dialogue. If you’re reading a draft and you’re getting tripped up in the action, then so will your reader. 

Less is always more. 

Truth (Heart): The creative process, similar to a spiritual journey, requires an exploration of the inner depths of your being, figuring out what makes you/the character tick and why.

You search for the truth within and then return to the surface and share what you’ve found in a dynamic and digestible way. It’s fucking powerful. 

This is why we need good storytelling. 

People are looking for a sliver of their own reflection in story and film, and as writers we have a responsibility to hand them the mirror.


4)     What advice do you have for other writers regarding networking and building professional relationships in the industry?


This business is all about who you know and cultivating long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. 

A self-serving agenda will be sniffed out a mile away. 

Approach any conversation not only with “How can you help me?” but “How can I help you?”.  

And don’t underestimate the power of your own intuition. 

If you’re feeling off about someone, trust it. 

5) You are at the forefront of the creative hub, working with your clients on their story from concept to end product.  

Due to current circumstances that we’re facing on a global scale, what advice would you give other creatives to utilise this time and create content for when the industry resumes as normal? 


With countless digital platforms launching, and continuing to pop up, networks and studios are rapidly expanding their slate and requiring more and more content. 

Not to mention that a few networks have recently decided to double their pilots in development for the 2020-2021 TV season. 

When the isolation lifts, productions are going to be in full force and they’ll be searching for compelling, new content. 

If you’re feeling inspired, take advantage of this forced pause. 

6) Can you talk a bit about your creative process and how you approach a new project – from initial idea right through to finishing the first-draft?


I usually start with a morsel of an idea for a plot. 

As I build out the story, I’ll start to incorporate characters that move the plot forward. This seamlessly turns into a detailed, scene by scene outline. 

I used to be so resistant to outlines. I just wanted to dive into the story and see where it wanted to go, but since my creative process is innately nonlinear, my mind likes to jump around and write scenes out of order, I find that having an outline was essential in anchoring me to the story, so I don’t get lost in the imaginative world of possibilities.

After the outline, I surrender to my chaotic creativity and write scenes as they come. 

I’ll try and start at the beginning but ultimately get pulled somewhere else. 

The vivid scenes are like balloons whipping in the wind. 

When I find one, I just have to tie it down or I’ll lose it. 

Once I have the first draft, I’ll sit down a read a printed copy. 

My brain works better with a pen in my hand. I read it once all the way through without stopping. 

Then I note my initial thoughts on a separate piece of paper – character weaknesses, areas that need addressing, etc. 

After a rewrite (or two), I force myself to let it go. 

This is a vital step. 

If I don’t, I’ll spend far too long tinkering. 

I’m a perfectionist, after all. 


7) What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given for working as a creative, and would you mind sharing with us?

Image Credit to Sandy Comstock


There are 6 Aristotlean elements of a play. 

Know which one you are and where your strength lies. 

Once you identify the part of the process that comes most naturally – plot, character, theme, language, rhythm, or spectacle – then that’s your center and you build all the other elements around it.
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2 comments

  1. Nice tips! Who could imagine that yoga, meditation and the process of spiritual evolution would be linked to the enhancement of the capacity for creativity. Great interview!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a clear and insightful interview. Sandy has everything going for her. Such talent.

    ReplyDelete

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