Thank you Chad for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We are grateful for everything you have shared with us. At Oxford Script Awards we are wishing you a huge success with your next projects. Keep up the amazing work!
I have been a storyteller from a very young age, starting with an overactive imagination as a young boy growing up in Spokane, Washington, to my work as a newspaper reporter with Washington daily newspapers and the Associated Press. Being too opinionated, I left journalism and went into marketing/communications for the private sector, and for the last 15 years, the federal government. A couple of years ago fate intervened and I received an unsolicited flyer from the University of Washington for a screenwriting class. One year later I typed “Fade In” for the first time and found my true calling. Since then, I’ve won the Northwest’s Bigfoot Screenwriting competition, the Santa Barbara International Screenplay Competition, the Portland Oregon Comedy Film Festival, the Houston Comedy Film Festival, and the Chicago Screenplay Competition. I have also been named as a three-time second rounder at the Austin Film Festival and have placed in the finals of another twelve screenwriting competitions for various features and pilots.
I look for unique stories about people who you don’t typically hear about then I put them through hell. I love challenging my characters and learning how they overcome challenges. Oftentimes, the characters take ME on their journey, which is tremendously rewarding. I won’t start a script unless I know how it ends. Once I have that, the basic storyline, and who my main characters are, I begin the journey. Many of my characters are exaggerations of people I have met throughout my life. That seems to help me craft more realistic characters that I can breath life into with words.
The screenplay I submitted for this contest, Good News Gary, was born out of the pandemic when things were pretty bleak and the world was reeling from protests, marches, shootings and political nonsense. I needed to write something that focused on the good that was still out there. It was challenging because it’s a comedy but the subject can be very dark. I struggled at first finding a deeper level of the main character (Gary) and got feedback from a reviewer who suggested I focus on Gary, nothing else for a few days, then go back and add to his story. It worked, as I thought about what he was going through and what he thought he needed in life vs. what he really needed in life. Gary’s character jumped off the page at that point.
Heart. Regardless of the genre, every story needs that human connection to the reader/viewer. If you can’t identify the heart of the story then it just isn’t a great story, in my opinion.
The recent strike proved our worth and showed the world how vital the very first step in movie making – the script – is. It’s the most important piece to this collaborative process. Without a good script, you have nothing for the director to direct, no lines for the actors to read.
I study the genre. I learn the rules of that genre, watch films, and read lots of screenplays in that genre to get a better understanding of how it works. I let the mood of the day determine in which genre I write. Sometimes I work on two stories that are different genres. However, I never work on more than two at a time. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to study different genres and understand why they work or don’t work. If you finish a horror movie and weren’t scared or made to feel uncomfortable, why? If you’re not thrilled and exhilarated after an action movie, why? If you didn’t laugh at the comedy….ask yourself what was missing?
I always start with intent. Was it to help or harm? Rarely is it to harm. It might be direct or harsh, but the goal is to get you to try something different. EVERY type of feedback is valuable. Listen to your mom’s feedback, your friend, another screenwriter. They may all say different things, so look deeper into the comments to find the same threads, then you know where to make adjustments.
I’m currently working on my first Horror Script and my first Holiday Script. It’s a fun blend of genres that allows me to move back and forth between two very different types of stories and characters.
As writers, we must all insist on it being human driven. For centuries, storytelling has been a human element – a way of connecting to each other. No AI can or should replace that. Writers must fight the urge to have AI make it easier for them.
Write every day. One sentence. Once paragraph, one page, but write. It’s a muscle that only get stronger if you work it. Also, write your story. Barf it out. Don’t edit it. Just get the first draft out of your system. THEN go back and start edits and make it better. Last, believe in yourself. There will be days when it’s hard to write and you wonder WHY you are doing it at all. Just keep pressing on, the feeling of failure will pass. And finally, enjoy the process. Feel grateful you can sit down and make up an entire world for your characters to play.