Where do you live (City, State, or Country)?
Modesto, CA - USA
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?
My winning script Sandi Claus is the culmination of both a dream of writing a family Christmas story that would bring joy and inspiration to audiences (and script readers too) at that special time of the year, but also to convey, in a fun and emotional way, the problems that lack of understanding between fathers and their teenage kids can cause in families and how communication and mutual empathy can make the going a lot easier. And of course, very few people read Christmas stories anymore, and the mythology, music and visuals in this script are so dynamic that a feature script for a movie is by far the best way to convey the story and bring it to the largest possible audience.
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?
Writing Sandi Claus took an unusually long time as it was originally a family-friendly adaptation of a raucous, R-rated Christmas comedy (different title) written by a close friend. He was told in a live pitch session that a more family-friendly story with Santa having a daughter would be much more marketable. He doesn’t do kids, so he gave the project to me. The first iteration of Sandi Claus emerged about 9 months after I took it over. It had its first significant contest finalist successes in 2007 (PAGE, Writers on the Storm) and 2009 (Top Ten Finalist in PAGE’s Family category) before its latest iterations have been semi-finalists in two Stage 32 contests (2020, 2021), a finalist in the Santa Barbara Contest, a “recommend” rating through Stage 32’s executive development coverage, and winning the Wiki, all in 2021. Hopefully these attests to both the quality of the writing as well as the timeless nature of the concept and story.
My writing process normally involves compacting a high concept into an irresistible log line with a great title, then fleshing out main characters and key conflicts that would hopefully attract great actors, and eventually organizing these into a story outline based on one of several story structures that I’ve learned. I fill details into the basic outline, then bang out a first draft without regard to much else other than just getting the basic story down (I try to get this done in one-two months). And then I rewrite, refine, get feedback, rewrite, refine, get feedback, etc. etc.
What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?
My ultimate ambition is to sell my scripts to credible production companies who can package them in such a way as to gain the elements needed (talent, financing, studio interest, etc.) to get them produced and distributed on some widely accessible platform (theatrical, popular streaming outlet, TV network, etc.). I also enjoy working on assignments (rewrites, book adaptations, etc.) and have done several, both free and paid. Finding a manager who could assist me with refining my work, marketing it, and guide my efforts would be wonderful as well.
Was your entry at The Wiki Screenplay Contest a full script or “the first ten pages”? Why did you make that choice?
My entries are always a full-script entry with senior executive notes. I made this choice with the first two scripts I ever entered in Wiki and was so blown away by the quality of the notes I got on both that I decided that I’d always go that way. Where else can you get outstanding notes from seasoned professional writers AND a potentially meaningful placement in a well-regarded contest for well under $100? It’s a total no-brainer. AND you get such quick results! AND you can enter a new contest every month! Thanks to all of you guys at Wiki!
What’s your all-time favorite movie or television show...and why?
Sorry, can’t just name one. But here’s some favs and why.
What advice do you have for writers hoping to win a contest or place as a finalist as you have?
Assuming that you’re already a competent screenwriter, check your script for… A beginning that pops and intrigues, interesting and unique characters involved in compelling conflict, scenes that keep the pages turning building to an amazing (and perhaps unexpected) climax that’s filled with emotion and heart, all told in your own unique voice. Re-read over and over to make sure formatting, grammar, spelling, etc is flawless. Get feedback from reputable sources who are currently in the biz, know their stuff, and you yourself trust, and don’t be afraid to make changes if warranted. When feedback from people in the biz is very positive from several different sources, then you’ve got a real chance of placing high or even winning a contest. But if you don’t, DON’T QUIT! Keep working, improving, and trying.
What else are you working on that the world needs to know about? At this time, I’m working on a couple book adaptations-for-hire projects that I’m very much enjoying (suspense thriller, sci-fi adventure), but I’m most excited about an original family sci-fi/superhero saga that I’ve created and written several award-winning screenplays/published novels for but need time and direction to develop properly and get to market. I’ve also got a family sci-fi/action-adventure script and a quirky teen rom-com based on Greek mythology that are very “ready” for the right producers, and I’d like to develop a middle-grades published novel I’ve written, currently a period/mystery epic, into a family suspense thriller project (ala A Quiet Place, Stranger Things, Locke and Key, etc.).