There comes a time in every aspiring screenwriter's life when they discover The Unknown Screenwriter. For many, including myself, it's the moment they happen across a much-needed blog post filled with juicy, rant-y, truth bombs about the craft and business of screenwriting. For others, it's finding his prolific and interactive Twitter feed. (If you stick around long enough you'll surely get a shout out.)
The presence of Unk, as he's affectionately known - though I'm sure he'd stare affection in the eye until it slunk away defeated - has brought me both comfort and unease over the years. There is no sugar-coating with Unk when it comes to the industry and the unforgiving structure of screenwriting, but there's always humor, surly charm, and hellluva lot of insight.
Unk, how would you define creativity?
Hard work. Long rides. Long drives. Daydreaming. New. Valuable. What if? Pushing the limit. Living on the edge. Luck.
Explain to those who don't know you - actually, even to those who do - a brief history of your anonymous screenwriting persona.
Brief... Okay. I was reading screenwriting blogs back in 2005 for no other reason than because I like screenwriting and there was nobody I could sit around have conversations about screenwriting with. And while I found some interesting sites, I kinda felt that most had very similar ways of looking at the craft similar to what you'd find in a book or article. And while there's nothing wrong with that, I wondered if sharing my own perspective might work for some of those who are tired of the usual perspective that seems to be out there in droves.
I work with a production company and we make films but we also do script consulting on studio and larger indie films. We fix screenplays... Movies you've either seen or heard of. We do this for absolutely NO CREDIT -- just pay -- and business is good since the meltdown because everyone wants to keep their credit. Hence, Unknown Screenwriter.
How did you get involved in screenwriting?
No different than a lot of people... Grew up loving movies. I never really thought, "I could do that," or I can do better than that..." I was always thinking, "I WANT TO DO THAT!"
Just started writing with abandon in the 80s. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Bought a couple of screenplays of my favorite films, BLADERUNNER and THE THING. I still have those two scripts today and read them at least once a year.
Between the mid 80s and early 90s, I wrote but I wrote for myself because I was trying to become a filmmaker -- not a screenwriter. I was inspired by John Sayles, actually. I figured out very early on that if I was going to make my own films, I needed to know how to write. So while I had several completed scripts lying around, I knew they were for ME and not for the market. In the early 90s, I finally sat down and wrote my first screenplay that I hoped would sell. This was at the beginning of the Internet and I used email for querying producers. Back then, a lot more producers were willing to post email addresses on websites. I queried 7 or 8 producers and one very well-known producer who I cannot identify here, got back to me and wanted to shop the script around Hollywood. I let her but after a few months, she finally wanted to meet. At the time, I was in the Navy and nowhere near Los Angeles and when she found that out? She abandoned the script which was fine because it validated to me that I was on the right track when it came to both concept and writing.
I kept sending the script out and eventually got some meetings and a few uncredited (do you see the theme here?) rewrites, tweaks, and polishes. I kept reading scripts and now screenwriting books were coming out so I devoured them for years until one day I realized that while I still had a ton to learn about the craft, wasn't going to learn it from reading any more books.
And often, writing a blog post about some element of the craft is what solidifies my knowledge of it. I've read so much good and bad information... Read so many screenplays... Seen so many films that I have all this information bouncing around up here but it's not until I focus, think it through, and write it down that I finally get it. So The Unknown Screenwriter site is just as much for me as it is anyone else interested in the craft.
I've found screenwriting to be one of the most challenging art forms I've ever worked in. Why is it so darn hard, and yet so satisfying at the same time?
I think it's hard because it's so different from traditional writing. While it certainly does contain elements of traditional writing, let's face it... You can't write about what's going on inside a character's head and that's often what makes a novel so compelling and whether we realize it or not? It's what makes characters in a movie so compelling as well.
As a screenwriter, we have to figure out a way to SHOW and NOT TELL i.e., through exposition, subtext, and action, we have to show what our characters are thinking. That's yet another perspective a lot of screenwriters don't seem to get. We're simply making the INTERNAL EXTERNAL.