What A New Screenwriter Should Know About Screenwriting by Jeffrey Reddick

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: Would you say screenwriting is hard? Because I’m sure people can look at your story, they could look at your credits, you make it look easy in terms of Wow, that’s a really cool story. Here you were age 14 and you send this script idea off and it’s rejected and you don’t know what the notes are but you still have this relationship that really shaped you in a lot of ways and a lot of people probably had that opportunity [but didn’t follow up on it]. But is it hard? It looks easy from an outsiders view.

Jeffrey Reddick, Horror Screenwriter/Producer:  It’s hard. It’s always interesting because sometimes if I have a story that I love and I’ve outlined it, then it’s just fun. But again when you’re definitely trying to do a lot of things and get a lot of things done because I’m at a point in my career where I want to branch out and still tell horror stories but do something like the Lionsgate project which I think is a really important kind of thing where you had to fight for it.

It is hard because you want to write something that is going to strike a chord with people but you want to write something that is successful. You want to write something that is going to spawn a franchise.

For better or for worse, some of my films have done really well. And other ones that were supposed to turn out well that didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to and went direct-to-video or didn’t get a good release.

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“That’s why I always tell people don’t judge yourself harshly if your process isn’t the same as somebody else’s because it really is your end result that matters.”

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You definitely have to stay in gratitude a lot of times and you have to find the joy in it all, the joy in writing. And I still love writing specially if I’m writing something else and something inspires me…I hate to say like a kill scene, but you know I just thought of a great scene for a movie that I was so excited and I called the producer about it and he was in love with it. That’s the fun stuff, trying to come up with new things.

It is hard to sit down in front of a computer everyday and writing a 100-page script. It is work and it’s not easy because you’re trying to write something that is going to be creatively satisfying, you’re trying to write something that you think will sell because this is your livelihood. You’re trying to juggle both of those things but not get too far down the road that you’re not focused on finishing the actual script. You’ve got to try to keep all those other things out of your head about is this going to sell, is this going to make money, are people going to like this? Try not to focus too much on that and just get the script done. But that can be hard in and of itself, not future-tripping about what’s going to happen with the script once you’re done with it. It’s fun but it’s not easy.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

And there are harder…you know it’s like with actors because acting is not easy, to be a good actor is not easy. But it’s not like we’re putting our fires and putting our lives in danger and doing physically hard labor, it’s just mental exhaustion (a lot of mental work).

Film Courage: Did the screenwriting career that you envisioned look the same in terms of the day-to-day? Because you know how people have a romantic notion about what something is?

Jeffrey: No, not at all because you don’t really envision with the writing…you don’t realize how long it takes to write a script first of all.

And then I had a friend once who was like Oh yeahl I just took a weekend trip to Hawaii and wrote my script on the beach with some Mai Tais.

And I’m like Oh that’s what writing is like. You just go out for a weekend and you write a script. Yeah, no…the day-to-day grind of getting two or three or four or five pages a day done, it’s a grind and then you’ve also got life that you’re living and you’ve also got to try and get out to have a life. I’m kind of joking because writers are very solitary. I do go out to the movies and I do go out to dinner and I do go out and do stuff with my friends because otherwise if you sit at home all the time you’re not experiencing life, you can’t bring anything else to your script than what you’ve experienced. You’re just kind of regurgitating the same experiences that you’ve already had. You’ve got to make sure that your cup is flowing over with other things besides just work, you have to take time out to do that too.

Film Courage: In terms of what most people would envision, you’re at the keyboard and got…well not a drink…but some people they think that is what is part of [the writing process] with the cigarette and just like this tortured existence and you’re pounding out your beautiful story. But it sounds like there is more of a science with it?

Jeffrey: There’s a science but for some people (again everybody has a different method), it’s like with acting you have your method actors, they have to become the character. You have your other actors that when the director says Rolling then they go and then Cut! And they drop back into who they are. And I think there are writers who are the same way too.

There’s that stereotype, that’s why I quit drinking. I was becoming that stereotype, sitting here drinking at home and thinking I’m writing some brilliant stuff. And yeah, the first couple pages were great and then the rest of it is What the hell a I writing?

I do have some friends that do torture themselves without the drinking or anything. They obsess about every single line of dialogue and it’s like you’re never going to finish your script if you are like that. But again that’s how they are, everybody got a whole different process.

That’s why I always tell people don’t judge yourself harshly if your process isn’t the same as somebody else’s because it really is your end result that matters. It’s getting a script finished. You do obviously have to follow certain structural rules and your dialogue needs to be good, it has to be an engaging story but sometimes it takes people a lot longer. I’ve know friends where it’s taken them 10 years to write a script and it’s not like they are working every day, 8 hours a day on it.

Film Courage: 10 years, wow?

Jeffrey: Yeah I have a couple of friends who are I’ve been working on this for 10 years. And some of their stuff is great and I’ve read some scripts where people have written a script in a week and it’s great, not consistently. Everybody has got a different thing and I think that’s always interesting too is we always have our ideas in our head of what everybody’s life is like and even what you think an actor’s life is like their lives (the celebrities lives) are trudging into Starbucks with their dog and their kid is crying and they have to go change their kid’s diaper, they are just like everybody else’s.

You definitely have the glamour of Hollywood that used to project and was so important back in the days, the olden days with the Hollywood stars where the stars ran everything and they have to give them these perfect images. We’ve lost all of that with the Internet and access to everybody’s private lives and we see people now on the street and people are taking pictures of people And oh wait a minute, they are just like us. I think People had a headline Celebrities Are Just Like Us. And it shows pictures of them walking a dog. Before that you thought they were these magical creatures and you thought these writers were like tortured sitting in a dark room just pounding away at the keyboard and sipping from their bottle of whiskey and cursing the heavens. It’s different for everybody. But they are all at Starbucks. Coffee shops are full of writers in California. That’s definitely one cliché that’s true. Every coffee shop, there are five people working on a screenplay at any coffee shop that you walk into, so it’s pretty funny.

Question For The Viewers: Would you say screenwriting is hard?

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

 

Bio (via IMDB):

Jeffrey Reddick is best known for creating the Final Destination (2000) film franchise. He also co-wrote the story for, and executive produced, Final Destination 2 (2003). Jeffrey lives in Los Angeles. He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and attended Berea College. Jeffrey made his first connection to the film industry at age 14, when he wrote a prequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and mailed it Bob Shaye, the President of New Line Cinema. Bob returned the material for being unsolicited. But the young man wrote Bob an aggressive reply, which won him over. Bob read the treatment and got back to Jeffrey. Bob, and his assistant, Joy Mann, stayed in contact with Jeffrey for over five years. When he went to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York at age 19, Bob offered him an internship at New Line Cinema. This internship turned into an 11-year stint at the studio.

Aside from Final Destination (2000), which spawned four successful sequels, Jeffrey’s other credits include Lions Gate’s thriller, Tamara (2005) and the remake of George Romero’s classic, Day of the Dead (2008).

Jeffrey has several feature and TV projects in development and he directed his first short, Good Samaritan (2014) in 2014.

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How does a screenwriter break into the business? Is it all about who you know? How much networking, hustle, and craft does it take? Once you break in, how do you survive and sustain a career? In this 2 hour speaker series(that will include Q&A), screenwriter Mark Sanderson (aka @scriptcat) will take us through his journey of graduating from UCLA and how he balanced various odd jobs with his writing for years until he reached the point where screenwriting became his career. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy. His story shows us it’s possible and in this talk Mark is going to share the particulars of how he did it.