Last month I checked out a short film I’ve been hearing fellow twitter-users rave about called “Connect To“. After finding it on vimeo, I sat back to watch only to pause it immediately to count the number of awards and festival selections listed before the opening credits: a whopping 14 ranging from Best Film and Best Drama, to Best Score.
Watching the movie, I was not surprised by the accolades it received. It’s a lovely touching drama depicting the surprisingly precious moments, and people, we experience in our lives.
My kind of entertainment.
The acting was very high caliber by Lisa LeVan and Wonder Russell, as was the filming, and of course the musical score by Eric Goetz. But as I’m all about the writing, I quickly sought to learn more about the man behind the script. An interview was definitely in order here.
Q1. Thank you for agreeing to do this. To start off, I’m always interested to learn about writers’ backgrounds and how they chose their career paths. So can you talk a little about that? For example, what was your academic background and did it affect your writing?
I was born in Panama where I was adopted by two parents who had no idea what they were getting into. I was a troubled student, diagnosed with ADD when I was six and placed in Special Ed. for the rest of my public school life. Rather than listen to lessons, I wrote stories that were insane. Stories about me, sitting in class, suddenly leaping onto my desk and beating one of my many bullies to death with a 600 pound sea lion that was barking at the top of it’s lungs. Making myself laugh pushed me to write more and more. When I left High School, my test scores and grades were abysmal. I was at the bottom of my class with no prospects for my future. One thing I had been noticed for, was acting. I moved to LA in 2000 after gaining a lot of attention from LA Agents who were scouting in Texas. I flew out here with a duffle bag full of clothes and a pillow, slept on a floor for a month and went through college savings as I found a place to live.
The turning point came when I met a man named Steven Anderson, who coaches here in Los Angeles. Steven would encourage me to write my own scenes for class. After a few years of this, other actors would start approaching me and asking me to write scenes for them as well. After a few years of this, Steven himself approached me and hired me to write his acting workshops.
As of this month, we both approximate that I have written over 800 scenes for him. So, there was never a definitive moment when I realized I wanted to be a writer. Writing chose me and I was too busy writing to notice.
Q2. That’s amazing. I’m curious, who do you consider inspirations for your writing?
I can say that I am influenced by the writing’s of Jane Espenson, Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin and the cast of Monty Python. I love writing that is so genuine, it seems to surprises itself. Each one of these writers, in their own way, brings such humanity to their characters, but also a surrealism that can only be found in the random die rolls that life throws. I’m also a huge fan of Anne Bogart and I always recommend that painters, actors, poets, dancers, musicians, figure skaters etc., read her book, A Director Prepares: Seven Essay’s on Art and Theater.
Q3. Let’s move on to “Connect To”, the script that inspired this interview. How did that take off?
Connect To began as one of the five page scenes I wrote for Steven Anderson’s Actorsworkworkshops. This one was based in Seattle. He gave me descriptions of two girls, Wonder Russell and Lisa LeVan. Both were talented, genuine actresses. One note he gave me was for Wonder, who played Whitney (the crazy one): “Give her something eccentric, something oddball”. I proceeded to write a scene that gave voice to my own duality. The first was my judgmental side, locked up in frustration over it’s total inability to follow through on anything, whether because of my ADD or just general, boring personal flaws. The other side was sort of like the inner child, whimsical and wise, awake and nonjudgmental but trapped by a psychosis that won’t let it find the middle ground.
Wonder Russell contacted me shortly after that workshop and asked me to make it into a short film. They loved the characters and their journey. I figured I would humor them and scribble something down. I had no idea they were not only going to be crazy enough to actually film it, but be crazy enough to create a beautiful film that is reminiscent of styles of Sophia Coppola, complete with moving performances. I really have to tip my hat to everyone who worked on that film. I first watched it in stunned silence at the Dances with Films Festival and thought “wait… I wrote this”?
Q4. It certainly was a significant, stirring film. So what are you currently working on?
I’m diving into New Media in a big way. I am currently writing the Geek Therapy Sketches at Comediva.com, which were recently featured on CNN’s Geek Out! And also Season 2 of a Web Series.
Q5. Can you elaborate on that?
The web series is called Damsels & Dragons. It’s technically 2nd Season, but our first real stab at making it a full fledged Web Series. The show is about an all female LARP group (live action role playing) and how they not only try to balance their lives while engaging in this fun but unusual hobby, but also address the rise of Geek elitism. Mostly though, it’s just about a bunch of girls having fun and beating the crap out of each other with fake medieval weapons. It’s being produced by actress/producer America Young from Goodnight Burbank & Geek Therapy. It’s also produced by Jessica Mills , the IAWTV Award nominated writer and creator of @AwkwardEmbraces. Some other folks might be jumpin’ on board to to help us out, names some folks might recognize so stay tuned!
Q6. What about collaboration? Have you ever contributed past the writing stage?
I’ve only collaborated on Web Series. For the most part, people seem to be more interested in what I write, when they set me loose. That’s how Damsels Season 1 & 2 were written. Season 2 is becoming a collaboration however, due to the fact we’re bringing in some brilliant talent that has done a ton of work on The Guild. Nothing is locked down, but the notes I am getting on the next draft of the season are exciting. Collaboration is a great exercise in letting go of Ego hah! But it’s also rewarding as hell, watching colors get added to the canvas.
Note: Damsels Season 1 can be found on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/larptheseries/featured
Q7. I’m no gamer but I’ll definitely be checking it out. Now, there’s something I have to ask. Many aspiring writers are told that they can’t submit their work without an agent or manager, but getting one in itself can be very challenging. What has your experience been in this area?
I’ve never had representation for anything I’ve written. I’ve actually never sought representation. I guess I’m getting to the point where I better look into that, but thus far it hasn’t even really crossed my mind. I have a friend whose web series landed her an agent and that seems to be going very well for her.
The only job I’ve ever had that got me in front of someone that could help my writing career, was a writing job. The one this article is about actually! Wonder Russell, who stars in Connect To, works for Runic Games, maker of the upcoming Torchlight 2. She handed me a free pass to E3 and before I knew it, I was having a beer with Daniel Erickson, lead writer for BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve been a huge BioWare fan since back in the day. Their writing staff is the best in the game industry in my humble opinion. I had a shot to join his team. Sadly, the submission required some basic knowledge of creating a story using a video game editor that was so out of date, I had no idea how to use it.
Their rejection letter was very polite. It even had suggestions for a better submission should I chose to try again. I mean this with no sarcasm: I was really impressed and it pretty much earned them my loyalty as a fan for all time. I’m so happy it didn’t work out. If it had, I wouldn’t be involved in the New Media world, working with the people I am working with now. Rejection can be a wonderful thing.
Q8. I’m sure many writers will be reassured to know that. Now this question is a bit awkward, but another common denominator between upcoming/independent writers and filmmakers seems to be that they have to hold down a job to sustain them until they are able to live off their art. Some of them, to get their work out there, even make their scripts available for free. I know this doesn’t apply to you, but at this point in your career, can you live off screenwriting alone?
Currently writing can only supplement my income. I do get paid, which I am grateful for, but it’s not something I can do full time. But writing isn’t my only love. I have an honest love of coffee. Ties pretty well into the writer thing right?
Q9. Yes it does 🙂 So you have another job?
I work as a professional Barista at a specialty coffee shop. I’ve honestly wondered if I would stop working in coffee, even if I didn’t have to anymore. It’s fulfilling to me. I love coffee the way wine snobs love… well, wine.
Q10. Thank you so much for your patience and honesty. Last question. What type of scripts do you like to write? Do you prefer a specific genre to another?
I’m not sure I have a preference on script writing. I began with sketch comedy thanks to a deep and disturbing amount of love I have for the boys of Monty Python. For the most part, that’s what I’ve always written. Lately though, I’ve been getting hired to write more dramatic pieces. Yeah, I can’t say I have a preference. I just want to see what happens next and that alone seems to get my scripts completed, whatever genre they are.
That’s where my motivation comes from, as a writer: curiosity. I want to know why my character said that. I want to know what they are about to do. I want to know where they are going, how the hell they are going to deal with what’s in front of them and why they can’t just walk away. No matter what complexities I weave over my creative impulses, or what poetry I try to attach to my explanation as to why I write, the simple fact of the matter is that I just love to play. Play my damn heart out. And that’s it. That’s all it is.
And there you have it folks. A living breathing example of how being passionate about what you love will eventually get you where you’re supposed to be, whether you know where that is or not. You can contact Eric via his IMDB page or through twitter.
I’d like to thank Eric again for this interview and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. As to everyone else, write like your break is just around the corner!
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