Where do you live (City, State, or Country)?
I write from Los Angeles, California.
Your script stood out among hundreds of others. What was the inspiration for your story and why did you write a script instead of a short story or a novel?
Before even getting words on a page, I would see the story and its world play out in my mind as if there’s a mini move theater in my head. That’s when I knew that if my story is to be written, it is going to be written as a script for the screen. My enthusiasm for the cyberpunk genre is what inspired me to write my script. There’s something prophetic about a future where huge strides in technological advancement do not translate to the world being better for people. Having watched Blade Runner, read Akira, and experienced Cyberpunk 2077, I wanted to write my own tale of a dystopian future that examines where humanity stands in a world filled with machine.
How long did it take you to write your script...and what is your writing process? Do you outline...use index cards...white board...or just start with FADE IN?
I began writing Deus Ex Machina as my thesis script while I was completing my MFA. I did extensive outlining before moving onto script, which is followed by rewrite after rewrite after rewrite. But the most important piece to the puzzle of getting my script to where it needs to be is getting feedback and notes from my peers. They helped me see flaws in character work or inconsistencies with the plot, and without such supportive colleagues, my script would not be in the state that it is today.
What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?
When I write, I always think about the reader and my audience. I want my words to make them laugh, smile, or even cry because that would mean that I’ve done my job. To know that my scripts are making readers feel a certain emotion after the very last page is turned motivates me to continuing writing.
Which film or television writers inspire you? Why?
Even though he’s known more for his role as a director than a screenwriter, Christopher Nolan is who I look to when I feel like I’ve bitten more than I can chew with a script that I’m writing. To me, he inspires limitless creativity by turning a curious idea into a script and then translating it to the screen. I think of Inception and Tenet as bold stories that sounded impossible to pitch, let alone write, but they went on to become extravagant movie-going experiences. This fearlessness to write even the most complex stories is what inspires me to keep pushing for what can be achieved on the page.
What’s your all-time favorite movie or television show?
Blade Runner 2049 has a special place in my heart. Its themes, its world, and its characters have had a lasting impact on me as a storyteller, and the movie inspired me to write my script. Undoubtedly, I am intrigued with the debate on whether Deckard is a human or replicant, but in thinking about that, I found myself asking what does it even mean to be a human. Does it have to do with biology? Is that what separates a human from let’s say, a replicant? Or is there something more abstract, like feelings and emotions, that determines humanity? Those are the thoughts that accompanied me throughout the writing of Deus Ex Machina.
What advice do you have for writers hoping to win a contest or place as a finalist as you have?
Don’t chase trends and keep writing stories that you want to tell. Because by the time you’ve written something that is the talk of the town, the industry may already be moving on to something else. Instead, set the trend with your unique story that only you can bring to the table.
What else are you working on that the world needs to know about?
I want to write a story about struggling with language barriers. I am Chinese American, and people often assume that I know how to speak Chinese. But I can hardly even hold a conversation in Cantonese with my parents. Not being able to fluently speak my parents’ language is one regret that I have in life because I feel like I’m less connected with my mom and dad. The story that I have in mind focuses on finding ways to overcome a language hurdle in order to communicate with those important to us. Just get ready to read subtitles if it ever turns into a movie!