6 Tips From Screenwriter Christopher Landon About Inspiration & Creativity

“If you can write, write. That is you controlling your own IP. That is you having a ticket for getting in front of people and that’s critical.”

Brock Swinson
3 min readFeb 26, 2024

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Photo Courtesy of Looper

Christopher Landon is a renowned American filmmaker and screenwriter who gained recognition for his work on films like Disturbia (2007) and Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4.

Continuing to explore the horror genre, Landon further showcased his directorial skills with the critically acclaimed Happy Death Day (2017) and its sequel Happy Death Day 2U (2019).

Here are a few things screenwriters can learn from Christopher Landon

1.

Keep your eyes open, inspiration can come from anywhere. “I’m not a factory brain. I can’t sit there and come up with twelve loglines to see which one sticks. For me, it’s about inspiration coming from a myriad of ideas — a song, a short story, a photograph — and I try to hew towards things as character-driven as possible.”

2.

Find what helps you draw out more ideas. “If I have an inspiration, I tend to sit down with a notepad and pen. I handwrite everything first. As the idea starts to evolve, I put together a playlist for the movie in my head because I need a soundtrack for it, and that helps generate more ideas. But I try to push through the idea as far as I can get it.”

3.

Try finding inspiration in different kinds of films and genres. “I avoid movies that I think might be similar. I don’t want that to sort of taint or pollute what I’m trying to do. I try to find inspiration from different kinds of film that might evoke a certain feeling or tone, but I don’t go back to a movie that feels similar or close to it.”

4.

Humor is a good tool to help the audience get invested. “I don’t consider myself funny, but I do think I have a sense of humor. And, so even with Disturbia, there are a lot of humorous moments. I find it’s a very powerful tool to engage the audience or to introduce them to your characters. If your characters are doing funny things, the audience is more willing to go along with them, so you can drop [the characters] into peril and the audience is invested.”

5.

Never give up on a script you love. “I have stuff, even now, where I have a script I’ve been carrying around for over a decade. It takes time. You have to be patient and see where things line up.”

6.

Go big or go home. “Write the best version of the movie first. When I wrote We Have a Ghost, I was in the low-budget world for a while, so when I delivered my first draft, [an executive] said, ‘This feels small. I want you to write bigger. You can go for this.’ I was like, ‘Oh, fuck. I forgot about that.’ So I went back and wrote some big, fun set pieces. Now I try to write the best version of the movie first and if I’m getting to the next stage, I get studio notes and try to figure out how to get the movie to fit into the budget box without compromising the integrity of what I’m trying to do.”

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Bonus: Here’s a video we created on Found Footage Films with Paranormal Activity franchise screenwriter Christopher Landon:

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