How To Finish Writing A Screenplay by Jack Perez

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: When you were writing SEARCH AND RESCUE or any script in general, do you rely on a certain structure or a book to help you start the screenplay?

Jack Perez, Filmmaker: You mean a book for the source material or a book for inspiration?

Film Courage: A writing book for inspiration.

Jack: Well you know there is one book that I’ve probably mentioned this before…one book by Stephen King On Writing which was key when I started to sit down and do SEARCH AND RESCUE. I don’t know why because Valerie did not point me to that book but I think somebody introduced it to me or I just came across it right at the point where I was like “How am I going to do this? Am I really going to commit? Am I going to do this?”

And then I read that book which is this really thin book by Stephen King. Have you read it?

Film Courage:  Yes and it’s great. And he talks about his life. It’s not just a ‘how-to-book.’

Jack: Right. It’s not just one of these “This is how you write a book or a screenplay.” It was very conversational like his stuff is. It was very unpretentious and it somehow demystified it and made it easier to start. So that book was really key because I felt like I just needed to…it just seemed less complicated then reading one of these classic screenwriting books “Where’s the inciting incident?” And things like that. It wasn’t any of that stuff. It was just “This is how I do it. It works for me and maybe it will work for you?” And that was key and I actually recommend that book when people say “What’s the book?” That’s the book I recommend for writers.

Check out Stephen King’s ON WRITING here on Amazon

Film Courage: Yes I thought it was good too and I forgot exactly how he says it (it’s been a few years since I read it) when he actually became a writer (he was hired) and it was difficult to finish things without substances and all of that. And you wouldn’t think that this would be a problem because all of us are waiting to get to that level where we don’t have to have a day job. And then he talks about not having a day job and having to be disciplined and things like that. That’s a problem I think a lot of us don’t think about.

Jack: No, no and also there’s a pressure now you’re not…now you are this thing, you are this professional thing so you’re are expected to deliver you know?

I just think he made it easy for the prospective writer to realize that yes this is probably in you and you just have to be serious about it and get down to business. And it’s the unofficial-ness of it or not mathematical step-by-step process that I think made the book good. It spoke to me anyway because I didn’t think that way anyway. I didn’t naturally feel like I needed to outline every single scene of the movie before I wrote it.

And in a way it started to kill any of the joy because writing is so hard. To me the discovery of the piece as you write it as one of the most enjoyable parts of writing for me because otherwise you’re just executing something that has already been formed and to a certain degree that’s what you’re doing when you’re making a film. But there is such a translation from the word to the image with actors and everything, it’s such a huge translation that doesn’t feel boring. Although I’ve heard that Hitchcock used to say that By the time I made the movie it was so designed I was bored to death because I knew it so well that I didn’t even want to show up, it was done in my head.

But for writing I felt that it was so laid out that I would just be a slave to this outline…now I’ve got to write this scene…now I’ve got to write that scene. As opposed to something that would sort of reveal itself. So that to me is like the coolest part of writing when the story starts to reveal itself to you it becomes a living thing.

Film Courage: Have you ever followed a strict routine? You seem like maybe you vacillate?

Jack: Yes it depends on the situation. With SEARCH AND RESCUE I knew if I didn’t get up every day and write, I wouldn’t do it. It would never get done. I almost did it so I could just get it over with, you know what I mean? If you just get up and do it…that’s the math I did. If I can write three pages a day, it’s finite. That means if I can only have the burden of writing three pages, after 40 days or whatever it will be done at least there will be something done.

So just like a diet or something just do it. Nobody wants to do it but I can do it for a month, I can actually do it for a month.

Now that’s why (going back to the “real writer”) a “real writer” stays on that diet their whole life, they just keep doing it. But I also think that the “real writer” is addicted in the way that a filmmaker is. In other words it can’t just be a chore. As much as a writer will say it’s hard, it can’t be a chore. It has to be an addiction or else you will not (just like going to the gym for a lot of people is an addiction). There is something in the adrenaline, you just get jacked up and now you need to do this thing so I didn’t continue that once I started writing this script. It was like now I have to think about how I’m going to make it. That’s why I don’t say I’m a classic writer because if that was the case I would just put that away and start writing the next thing. But to me it’s just the step (necessary step) so I can now set about making the movie. So that’s where I am and I went through the writing process so I could make the movie…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


Watch the video interview on Youtube here





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¡CALAMBRE! is a 53 minute episodic black and white film about a poet who returns to his hometown of New York City to rekindle an old flame, only to complicate his return with new women in his life. A film by Carlos Renaso.