Q & A: The Working Screenwriter provides an in-the-trenches perspective from 16 screenwriters who broke the barriers, overcame the odds, and gained entry to the amazing, often exasperating, yet always exciting world of writing for the movies.
Join Brent Maddock (Tremors), John Rogers (The Core), David J. Schow (The Crow), Neal Marshall Stevens (Thirteen Ghosts), Stephen Susco (The Grudge I and 2), Katherine Fugate (The Prince and Me) and 10 other talented wordsmiths as they give first-hand insight into why they write, what keeps them motivated, how they got their scripts written—and ultimately optioned and/or sold. These writers impart a wealth of real-world experience that will truly inspire and encourage any budding screenwriter and help position them firmly on the road to becoming a working screenwriter.
If you want to stir your creative juices, bolster your confidence, and gain a better understanding of what it takes to become a working screenwriter in today’s film industry, you’ll find Q & A: The Working Screenwriter essential reading.
"When I began my own writing career, it was a book of interviews that inspired me the most." – David Trottier, from his foreword
PANEL OF SCREENWRITERS
Rebekah Bradford (Mafia Doctor, "Spawn")
Allison Burnett (Resurrecting the Champ, Autumn in New York , Red Meat, Perfect Romance)
Mylo Carbia (Statute of Limitations, Totally Lipstick)
Glen Gregory Doyle (Cold Vengeance, The Circuit)
Katherine Fugate (The Prince and Me, Carolina, "Army Wives")
Rolfe Kanefsky (There’s Nothing Out There, Tomorrow By Midnight, Shattered Lies, Pretty Cool, Corpses, Rod Steele 0014, Jacqueline Hyde, The Hazing)
Steve Latshaw (Invisible Dad, Crash Point Zero, Seals: Dead or Alive)
Bill Lundy (Alien Blood, Silent Warnings)
Brent Maddock (Batteries Not Included, Tremors, The Wild Wild West)
Ben Morris (Phat Beach)
John Rogers (Rush Hour 3, Catwoman, The Core, American Outlaws)
George Saunders (Her Perfect Spouse, Blind Obsession, The Landlady, Perfect Target, Intimate Deception, Vendetta, Blindside)
David J. Schow (The Crow, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3)
Neal Marshall Stevens (Thirteen Ghosts, Hellraiser: Deader)
Stephen Susco (The Grudge, The Grudge 2)
EXCERPTS FROM Q & A: THE WORKING SCREENWRITER(ISBN 10: 1425968465 / 236 pages / $14.95)
Why a screenwriter…
Katherine Fugate: "You either have a burning desire to tell stories that move other people or you don't. My father often asks in wonder how I can write 10 pages much less 120. I ask in wonder how he knows how to put a television together. It’s who I am."
Brent Maddock: "The single biggest mistake beginning screenwriters seem to make is to start writing the script before they should. What good is a beautifully crafted scene, great dialogue, nice visuals if you discover you don’t need it? Draw up the blueprints, then build the building."
Rebekah Bradford: "Rewriting is a very delicate subject among writers. It’s like having another artist come in and repaint your painting because someone thought you used the wrong colors, or the wrong canvas, or the wrong subject for your piece."
Allison Burnett: "I have had many movies inches from production and then at the last minute some executive decides it ‘needs something.’ So he hires another writer to do a three-week polish. Six months later, the new writer hands in crap. They panic and give him another chance. Six months later, it’s still crap and the movie has lost all its momentum and dies. I don’t mind being rewritten at all, I just want to be rewritten well."
Brent Maddock: "Steve [Wilson] and I wrote The Wild, Wild West. The difference between our script and the sad, muddled, rewritten thing they actually shot tells you all you need to know about why the studio system is so dysfunctional."
David J. Schow: "You have to know what you're talking about, or at least be able to fake it like a pro."
Katherine Fugate: "I imagine writing a check to pay back the producers or studio that hired me to write the movie. The thought of giving them their money back and saying, "I can't do it," usually scares the hell out of me so much it gets me back into my chair."
Doubting your own ability as a writer…
George Saunders: "There are innumerable ways for a writer to get gored in Hollywood ; probably actors and directors, too, but they get the real pretty girls. Writers end up with Door Number 3 and the ten cans of octopus food."
Why most first-time writers overwrite their scripts…
Rolfe Kanefsky: "The big thing to keep in mind is that a screenplay is not a novel. You don’t need to make complete sentences. It’s about getting an attitude and visual mood across. Not writing poetry. You don’t need to write five paragraphs to describe what a person looks like or what he or she is wearing.
On breaking the "screenwriting rules"…
Rolfe Kanefsky: "Picasso painted in the classical sense before he started adding three eyes and two noses to his painting. He mastered the traditions and then branched off. It’s the same with filmmaking. Learn how to put a camera on a tripod before you start to artistically hand-hold everything. I think the same goes for writing."
Receiving notes from development executives…
Katherine Fugate: "Everyone has notes and everyone feels compelled to share them. You have to learn how to accept them and keep an open mind; because sometimes something is said from the most unlikely of places that can trigger something else and there you go with a new idea."
Overwriting a script…
David J. Schow: "The arc of a script from first to final draft is all about condensation and concision, and the more scripts you write, the more you learn to express things visually instead of verbally, which is why they are called "motion" pictures in the first place."
A "submission" screenplay: An entertaining page-turner or a blueprint?
Neal Marshall Stevens: I've never bought into this 'blueprint' notion. When you write a screenplay, what you are trying to do at every stage within the limitations of a hundred or so pages, is to make people see the movie. Far from a blueprint, it's much closer to those architectural paintings they produce where they show the finished building in its natural environment, with the cityscape around it, and people and trees. That's what you want to create. That's what you want readers to get a sense of—not bare lines on a piece of paper, but that sense of a finished building as it will actually be when it's completed. That's what you want the reader to get a sense of—what the finished movie will be like up on the screen. Because if they don't see that, they won't buy your script.
Knowing your ending…
John Rogers: "I always know what the thematic end of the story is. What physical events occur within the script to get us there? Well, those can shift around depending on what you’ve discovered about the rhythm of the script or the characters along the way. But I always know how it ends emotionally, how the characters need to wind up."
Age limitations (too young or too old) for finding success as a screenwriter…
Allison Burnett: "In TV, yes. It’s a young person’s business and medium. When it comes to screenwriting, no. If an agent, producer, or executive loves a script and thinks it can make money, he doesn’t care if it was written by a toddler, a grandfather, or a moose."
David J. Schow: "One of the great myths that leads people to believe that anybody can undertake this sort of job is the idea that all someone has to do is "write a great screenplay," and the bitch goddess of Hollywood will flop on her back and spread her legs for you. That sort of thing hasn't happened since the 1940s..."
The importance of developing relationships in the film industry…
Mylo Carbia: "I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a producer with a stack of scripts on his desk read the one that was just hand delivered to him because someone he knows asked him to read it. I mean, L.A. waiters with connections get read more often than screenwriting scholars who mail their stuff in from somewhere else."
Pitching your scripts…
Steve Latshaw: "I went into a company with a director a few years back to pitch an adventure movie. The exec turned it down and said ‘what else do you guys have?’ I immediately pitched a spec action script I had about domestic right-wing terrorists. That was on a Friday. On the following Tuesday I was signing a contract for that same script. Be prepared."
When a writer knows he’s ready to seek representation…
Steven Susco: "It’s show business, not tell business—you can talk until you’re blue in the face about how you’re a wonderful writer. But if people don’t have anything to read, it’s not going to go anywhere."
To pick up YOUR copy of Q & A: The Working Screenwriter, please visit these fine book outlets:
Barnes & Noble
The Writers Store
If you’d like a personally inscribed (gosh!) copy of the book snail-mailed to you ASAP, just let me know (via e-mail: TheWorkingScreenwriter(at)yahoo.com).
Price: $20.00 (postage/shipping included, USA/Canada orders only).