My fourth interview, Fred Perry won the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition for Television/Movie Script. He has a whole list of awards to his credit and (I sound like a broken record) I loved reading his answers. I love that this venture has allowed me to meet such different writers with such great responses. Enjoy!
Tell me about your winning story. Where did you get the idea? What do YOU like about it? Do you currently have plans to produce this?
FIVE DAYS IN CALCUTTA is a dark comedy about a ridiculously botched suicide attempt that reunites two brothers who are polar opposites.
A few years ago, a friend who had hit bottom, decided to end it all by hanging himself. But the rope broke, resulting in two broken ankles. I thought that was funny as hell. He did, too. So I used the event to open the story.
Although I love dry, cynical humor based on absurd, but believable situations, I am also a sucker for happy endings that seem to come out of left field. I think the script offers both elements.
How did you get into script writing? What do you love about it? Is there a common thread or theme to what you write?
I never aspired to be a writer. I just wanted to act. But when I was in the Army, I suffered nerve damage to my face. There went my fabulous close-ups. Since I still wanted to be a part of the biz, I thought screenwriting might be another route. So, while working as a parking attendant at Universal Studios in Hollywood, I used to sneak onto the lot and scrounge through the dumpsters behind the production offices for discarded scripts. This was how I learned basic screenplay format.
I can’t honestly say I love anything about the actual writing process; it’s more of a compulsion, frequently, an exhausting one. There is, however, one thing I do love. That’s when an unformed story idea suddenly takes seed, creating a snapshot of the entire story in my mind’s eye. Everything else is hard work.
Most of my scripts do seem to revolve around a number of common themes: rebirth, second chances, ascending to higher levels of consciousness, the metaphysical.
What are your current projects?
I am currently working on metaphysical drama about a traumatized war vet, radical, top secret PTSD experiments gone wrong, and states of existence beyond our physical world.
Who we are and what we believe often comes through in our writing since it influences our world view. Does your faith (whatever it might be, or even a lack of faith) play any part in what you write?
For me, God exists beyond religious doctrine or intellectual comprehension. I have experienced his presence on too many occasions to believe otherwise. So yes, most of my spec scripts do tend to touch on the metaphysical aspects of our existence.
My blog and book are about prayer, but focused more on creativity and about new ways of looking at things. Do you have any interesting or unusual approaches to writing and/or your writing process? Or anything to say about the connection between any other form of art and writing? Or any advice for someone who has the desire to pursue this passion? Or would you like to share the best writing advice anyone gave you? (Or any other semi-related topic?)
Though it shattered my ego at the time, the best and most graphic writing advice I ever got was from a producer at Paramount, who had called me in for a meeting about a spec script I had submitted. When I entered his office, the first thing he did, even before we introduced ourselves, was to unceremoniously toss my script into a wastebasket. As I stood there, utterly confused, he looked up at me from his desk and said, “It’s crap. What the hell is the ending supposed to mean?” Turned out, that was just his unique way of giving notes. Yikes! But today, I am grateful for that brutal assessment. Because from that moment on, my third-act endings became tight, unambiguous and consistent with every plot point introduced in the first two acts.
Incidentally, I ended up writing a number of assignments for this producer.
Don’t stop and think about it — can you name five books you’ve read fairly recently that you loved and would recommend to others?
IMPERIUM by Robert Harris, LUSTRUM by Robert Harris, REDEMPTION by Leon Uris, SERUM by Edward Rutherfurd, PROOF OF HEAVEN by Eben Alexander, M.D.
Where can people find you online?
Linked in is fine, I suppose. I’m not a real networking junky. In fact, I’m a techno-primitive, so I don’t know all the protocols, etc., et al. Hope the info I sent is useful.
Thanks for thinking of me. And good luck with the book!