Scriptcat: You’re too kind!
Mark Dark: How do you choose what to write about?
Scriptcat: The only plan was to write about every aspect of screenwriting.
Mark Dark: Are you picky about what you post?
Scriptcat: I’m very picky.
Mark Dark: Do you have a set schedule for blogging?
Scriptcat: I’ve no set schedule.
Mark Dark: How long do you spend on Twitter?
Scriptcat: I’m on it daily and multiple times daily. It’s been a great way to share and connect.
Mark Dark: How long did it take you to break into the industry?
Scriptcat: Seven years.
Mark Dark: When did you give up the day job?
Scriptcat: I’ve never really had a “day job” and really only once—and for two years, while I was going through UCLA Film School. I waited tables at night.
Mark Dark: So when did you get your big break?
Scriptcat: I never had one big break into the film industry, it’s been a series of little breaks.
Mark Dark: Did you ever get a ‘proper’ job ?
Scriptcat: Once I took a job at a law firm but during this time I was hired to write a movie. That was the sign I needed. It was the universe telling me it was time to take the leap.
Mark Dark: Maybe some aspiring writers need a more ‘secure’ career as well.
Mark Dark: Why?
Scriptcat: Aspiring writers become so busy with their lives and the lives of others, they see their dream of being a working screenwriter slowly slipping away.
Mark Dark: What about writing a little bit every day?
Scriptcat: You can peck away a few pages a day, but there’s nothing like writing full time with the hunger burning in your soul. You’d be surprised how quickly a dream becomes a distant memory unless you stay in the game and live a writer’s life.
Mark Dark: Is image important?
Scriptcat: Hollywood is all about image, and the image you project is the one they will believe.
Mark Dark: You think it’s good to write specs?
Scriptcat: We always need our specs but it’s nice to actually get paid to write.
Mark Dark: Are you disciplined?
Scriptcat: It’s my middle name!
Mark Dark: How do we master it?
Scriptcat: I think my mastery of discipline came from my assignment work with producers and having to write on a deadline. It’s helped me to juggle the various writing I actually do.
Mark Dark: What are you juggling at the moment?
Scriptcat: The screenwriting is ongoing with various projects in various stages of development.
Mark Dark: How do you organize your time?
Mark Dark: What’s your view of the writing process?
Scriptcat: I am a huge believer in doing a detailed outline or better yet, a treatment.
Mark Dark: So you think we should plan?
Scriptcat: No architect of anything would ever just start building without detailed plans. It’s foolish for writers to do the same.
Mark Dark: How soon should a writer pay for feedback ?
Scriptcat: I would suggest a writer get a few drafts completed and when they get to a point where they feel they can’t answer the important questions of, “does this story work?” or “does this suck?” — it’s time to hire a consultant.
Mark Dark: Could we send you a treatment for feedback?
Scriptcat: I’ve actually never consulted on someone’s treatment, usually it’s the finished script.
Mark Dark: Film is often called a visual medium but doesn’t dialogue play a huge role in story telling these days?
Scriptcat: I still believe movies are a visual medium first and foremost. Here’s what David Mamet has to say about this subject:
A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue.
Mark Dark: What about Tarantino? What would his films be like without dialogue?
Scriptcat: I understand and love the whole Tarantino style, but if you or I turned in a script with ten pages of dialogue at the beginning as in Inglorious Bastards, they’d toss it into the dumpster. He can get away with this because of who he is.
Mark Dark: What about Woody Allen?
Scriptcat: Woody Allen is a huge influence on me but I’d never try and turn in a screenplay with his amount of dialogue.
Mark Dark: But don’t some screenplay’s rely heavily on dialogue?
Scriptcat: It takes a master.
Mark Dark: What are your favorite films ?
Scriptcat: I basically love movies—period.
Mark Dark: What are the most common problems with scripts you analyze?
Scriptcat: A serious lack of knowledge about screenplay format. So many scripts are overwritten. The fewer words the better. Also understanding that screenwriting is rewriting. Many believe their first draft is perfect and they’ll fall out of bed the next morning and stumble ass backwards into a three-picture studio deal. Reality check ahead!
Mark Dark: How can we iron out the mistakes before they get to you?
Scriptcat: Learn the craft. Also become a voracious screenplay reader. So many scripts are available online now, there’s no excuse.
Mark Dark: Is correct formatting important?
Scriptcat: If a screenwriter doesn’t care enough to even know basics of proper format the producer or executive will think: “Why should I waste my precious time on this garbage when the writer didn’t even take the time to get it right?”
Mark Dark: Thanks for taking the time to talk to do this interview, Scriptcat. I know you’re busy!
Seven times produced screenwriter Mark Sanderson (@scriptcat) is a veteran of the filmmaking game with over fifteen years of professional experience and has worked with Academy Award® winning producers, veteran directors, and Academy Award® and Golden Globe® acting nominees. Mark’s indie and TV films have been distributed around the world and have opened and premiered at major festivals. His popular screenwriting blog MY BLANK PAGE was Script Magazine’s pick for website of the week and has over 100,000 readers.