Where do you live (City, State, or Country)?
I live in Nanaimo, British Columbia in Canada. I was born in Florida and have lived in New York City, San Francisco, and Manchester England. We moved to Vancouver in 2017 to have a better quality of life and out to Vancouver Island, where Nanaimo is, last year.
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?
I’m not a swamp person exactly, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never swam with alligators. I grew up in the seventies and eighties as a weird gay kid in Florida. My mother was wild. We moved houses all the time. And you never knew what strange character was going to show up at her parties. I got out as soon as I could. But the Sunshine State stayed with me.
Last year, when my mother was suddenly widowed from husband number three, I discovered Florida’s The Villages - the largest retirement community in the US. We were looking for a place for my mother to live that would enable her to have some independence. And she wanted to be in Florida. The villages was in the news during the Trump campaign when swarms of retirees paraded their golf carts in full MAGA regalia. It is possibly the strangest place in the strangest state.
The more I researched about The Villages, the more I was drawn in. I loved the idea of focusing on older characters whose lives have been unconventional. Now that I’m turning fifty, next year, I’ve been more and more interested in stories about people who are not well represented in culture. I’m Not Dead, I’m Dreaming, is my way of exploring what it means to still be a hot mess, even in your 70s.
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?
This script took me about six months to get to the current version. But honestly, I wrote the first draft in a matter of a few weeks. I initially started by mapping out the characters including writing their full biographies. I then made a drawing of the fictional community they lived in and started ideating on different plot points and story engines. I then wrote the whole thing, pretty quickly…in a matter of weeks. After that, I went through a dozen revisions and I eventually mapped the episode, and the entire first season, out using a Find The Cat beat sheet. I met with a number of executives to get their feedback. And I met with friends of mine who are either screenwriters, actors, or producers working professionally. I learned an enormous amount about the story, and about my own writing, by sharing it with people who I could trust to give me honest feedback. At a certain point, only recently, I’ve stopped taking feedback unless it’s related to getting the show into production. I know the world and the characters so well, that I feel more confident that the show is ready to go.
What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?
I’ve been lucky enough to have written a lot in the past – I’ve written over a dozen plays / performance pieces that have premiered on four continents. I’ve also written for video games, for marketing/advertising, and for academic publications. I want to continue to be able to write things that I love. I want to tell stories about people who we don’t see very often in media. And more than anything, I want my work to find its audience. I’d love to work as a showrunner on one of my pieces, eventually. I have four other TV pilots that are in varying states of completion, a feature film, a hybrid memoir, and a new one act play that I’m writing. I have lots to say and am excited to meet producers, managers, and others who are looking for a new voice.
Was your entry at The Wiki Screenplay Contest a full script or “the first ten pages”? Why did you make that choice?
It was the full script. I felt like it would be hard to fully judge an hour-long TV pilot without the reader having time to truly get to know the world.
What’s your all-time favorite movie or television show...and why?
That’s hard! There are so many amazing movies and tv shows. My favorite film right now is probably Melancholia, by Lars van Trier. It beautifully captures the feeling of depression in a way I’ve never seen before. I found myself barely keeping it together when I went to see it. I think Baskets is one of the best things that’s ever been on tv. Zach Galfanakis and Lous Anderson are absolute geniuses as performers. They have an incredible ability to ride the line between funny and upsetting. I love the ridiculousness of the plot (Zach is a clown who moves back home) and how despite it being silly it feels totally authentic and deeply meaningful.
What advice do you have for writers hoping to win a contest or place as a finalist as you have?
Honestly, keep going. Keep writing. Listen to your instinct. Take feedback from others with grace and really try to understand the core lessons in what they tell you. But stick to your instincts. We all have a unique voice. Don’t let your voice succumb to the pressure of homogenization that industry folks might push on you. Hold true to yourself. Keep working. And know that for every declination you get to a contest, you’re proving that you’re resilient.
What else are you working on that the world needs to know about?
I’m really excited about a coming-of-age film I’m writing called Staring At The Sea. It’s about a teenager navigating the complexities of coming out as gay in 1990 in Central Florida. And about his relationship with his best friend, who he plans to move to NYC with. I’m also revising my half-hour pilot, Sweet Science, about a middle-aged gay man who is suddenly single and realizes he’s lost his spark. He takes up amateur boxing, launches a baking business, and navigates being single in your forties.