Why did you start writing screenplays?
Therapy. I never felt I was really good at anything growing up, except explaining myself with passion, which, by the way, always annoyed my parents. What good would that be? Activism and acting as became outlets for me, which is why I studied so long, but it still wasn’t enough and after years of analyzing scripts for character study, I found another outlet that I could fit in with.
How many screenplays have you finished?
Two features. Currently writing my third. Three shorts. Several outlines. I’m looking forward to BlueCat’s upcoming 100 page challenge!
How do you find time to write?
I left Los Angeles. Sold my car, got a clunker, towed it on the back of a moving truck and moved to New Orleans. A new town I’d never been in, where I knew nobody, to focus on writing and working less. People often tell me I went backwards and suggest I move back so I can network. I may go eventually, but not while I’m writing and I can’t seem to stop.
I never go out at night. On days off I can always be found at a coffee shop, writing or researching till close at 10:00 pm. Then I go home and write, sometimes until 3am, sometimes 6 am, sometimes noon the next day… sleep for a few, wake, write. When I’m flowing, I shut off the world around me, sometimes for weeks, months. I find it’s important to stay off networking sites that will distract me.
What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the most?
Technique. There’s so many scripts out there with bad technique, it becomes difficult to comprehend right from wrong. Especially as an actor, you’re often sent Mickey Mouse scripts from your agent. Sometimes there is no right way, only different and unique, but there’s many wrong ways that are forbidden, so I’ve been working hard on trying to eliminate all the wrong. I’ve definitely learned a lot from other writers. Oh, and then there’s my dyslexia.
What do you feel you do well as a screenwriter?
People have told me my screenplays feel like a movie. I think it comes from 71/2 years of acting and filmmaking classes with teachers who really pushed me to focus on character study and reading as many screenplays that I can as well as writing shorts and shooting them. Working behind and in front of the camera really helps.
One teacher who was a fairly successful writer/director/producer told us, “If you’re in it just to become rich and famous, that will probably never happen, but if you’re in it because you truly love it and are willing to spend a lifetime learning the craft, you can create art, making it the most fulfilling job there is.” I agree 100%.
It may take me a lifetime to become satisfied with my craft, maybe I never will, but my goal is to learn all I can and keep pushing myself to take risks, developing my creativity and technique.
How does screenwriting make you happy?
I lose myself in my screenplays and find myself at the same time through my characters. Falling in love with them makes it enjoyable. It also makes me happy to know that I’m writing something that could possibly make somebody laugh, think, cry.
What do you see is the biggest problem with storytelling in Hollywood?
What bothers me the most is that many screenplays look like a first draft, not very developed, holes, many times the actors can’t even make it good, but people watch them and they make money, so they keep producing them.
How can you improve in how you handle feedback?
Feedback is a scary thing for me. I’m quite sensitive. Honestly, really bad feedback from anyone would probably make me cry, but I know it’s in my best interest and if it were from those who know good screenplays, I’d gladly apply their feedback the best I could. Especially with technique. Taking direction from those who are more educated is a powerful tool. Unless I strongly feel they’re wrong. A writer does have to take a few risks every now and then.
What are your greatest fears about screenwriting?
Honestly, what will I do with it now? What if they hate it? What if it never gets made?
What is your highest screenwriting goal for yourself?
I mostly strive to be unique. Also, stepping away from comedy, something I’m most comfortable with, to writing genres more challenging for me. My highest goal, box office success.
What do you do to achieve that goal?
A lot of research. Then, I allow myself to not be afraid to think, and push myself to do the work.
What screenplay have you written which you feel most proud of and what’s it about?
Although my newest screenplay “The Childe of Hale” has been much more difficult, set in the 1500’s and the challenge of my life, I am by far most proud of, “Pieces of Gumm”.
Pieces of Gumm started out as a “commercial” idea to make profit for charitable causes as well as a fun project to take adults back to the 80’s comedy feel, updated with the technology, language and social groups that teens can relate to today.
I even had a “commercial title”, but as it developed, the characters and story became so real and important to me, it just became clear, “PIECES OF GUMM.” Why would I do that? Why would I take a commercial title and make it plain? One that nobody will really understand until they watch it? I did it because the screenplay was no longer just a commercial idea and I wanted the title to be true to my screenplay and simple like my protagonist Patti Gumm.
— Pieces of Patti Gumm’s life.
— Pieces of gum stuck on Patti by bullies since childhood.
— Patti’s poem titled, “Pieces of Gumm” starts, “Why do we show favoritism to the wealthy and beautiful people?”
After numerous rewrites, Patti Gumm became more and more accepting in herself, challenging her creative side, which became her weapon to ward off bullies and even teach them right from wrong, which at the same time challenged me to find more and more creativity within myself. I found tricks I could play so that people might want to watch and could relate — Class, ethnicity, social groups, networking sites, technology, music, silliness, gross humor, a lot of weed. Love, romance, funny, embarrassing and sad moments. There’s a message I want people to see and I thought comedy would be a good and tricky way to get it to them.
Growing up poor and tormented, now at Gene Autry High, Patti Gumm has had enough. She sets out on a clever mission with her quirky-nerd friends to teach the rich, beautiful girls a lesson.
Pieces of Gumm, though written with an enormous amount of gross humor, sexuality and dirty language, was written with love and a plan, in hopes to open some eyes on how we treat others.← Back to Entrant Profiles