How Does A Screenwriter Tell Their Best Stories? by Justin Warren

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: So I am taking a quote that you have here “I’m at my best when I’m telling extremely personal stories.”

Justin Warren, Screenwriter/Director: Yes.

Film Courage: Would you say you’re an open book? You’re okay with people knowing things about you?

Justin: Absolutely, yeah. In fact I try to challenge myself to be even more open. I don’t feel like I’m as open as I need to be. And what I mean by that is that I’ve always had an outsider perspective growing up and I’ve always felt I have a reservoir of almost like pain and truth from which to draw from. And I’ve noticed that whenever I’m telling stories that aren’t very personal, there is like something kind of missing about it. There’s like…it’s almost like an athlete in the fourth quarter who doesn’t have their legs under them (you know what I mean) to shoot a jump.

But I notice that when I really lean into my truth and I lean into the things that mean a lot to me and I lean into the things that have value and things I can talk about at length and just kind of keep going on and seem to never really run out of energy, those are my best stories that I tell.

And I also think there is something to be said about…because a professor of mine when I was at school (it’s Vincent Robert said this to me), he said “Why do we tell stories?” And he asked that one day and everybody in class was raising their hands, saying all these different things and we were all wrong. And he “No, no, no, we tell stories to heal. That’s why we tell stories.”  And I had a moment where I almost couldn’t breathe because I realized he was totally right. At least for me, I realize that is why I tell stories. Because there is something about opening up an old wound, trying to heal it in a way where other people can see it, that absolutely heals them, too. At least that is what I’ve experienced.

So my film [THEN THERE WAS JOE] is about these two strangers who are actually brothers who learn to become…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Watch the video interview on Youtube here



JUSTIN WARREN was born in Little, Rock Arkansas in 1987. He started making movies at the age of eight, making his own stop-motion animated Star Wars films. He graduated from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and Dance, where he took the lead in numerous stage plays and won awards for his bold playwriting. In 2008, Justin and his family were featured in the 2008 CNN documentary “Black in America” with Soledad O’Brien which was broadcast globally. In 2014, Justin graduated from the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts with an M.F.A. in Film and Television Production. In addition to writing, directing, and co-editing his own films, Justin has also written, performed, arranged, and engineered three albums of original music. In 2018, his first comedy feature film, Then There Was Joe, made its World Premiere at Jeff Nichol’s (Mud, Midnight Special, Loving) Arkansas Cinema Society to sold out crowds. The film is currently screening around the country on the festival circuit and received a glowing review in the L.A. Times, which declared Justin as having a “bright future” in Hollywood. You can visit him online at




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