madeline hombert

Thank you Madeline 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!

Hello Madeline, can you tell us about your background and how you got started in screenwriting?

I’ve been writing since high school (short stories for magazines) but it took reaching my 40’s to get involved with screenwriting. My first two scripts were produced ($750,000 US each) in 1989 and distributed direct to video worldwide. Seems a bit backward but after the two were produced, I took Robert McKee’s Storytelling seminar at Ryerson University. My personal/family life met with some challenges and I stepped back for years. After recharging my brain with a few book editing jobs, a published biography, and a couple of popular coffee table books, I returned to creating screenplays.

What's your writing process like? How do you go about creating characters and developing a story?

I wake up in the middle of the night with a full image of my characters and the entire story, even a lot of dialogue. Usually I slip out of bed, sneak into my office and make notes on a legal pad. If I found one particular moment to be especially vivid, I open a file and type that segment directly into Final Draft. The story is always complete in my head before I actually write it. I get most work done between midnight and 3 AM.

Can you talk about a recent project you've worked on and the challenges you faced while writing it?

I just finished the first draft of my novel “Love, Lola” and, although I am fairly happy with it overall, I have asked a recent immigrant from the Philippines – a person who has become part of our family – to help me rewrite a couple of very emotional scenes. I wrote a fictional story but some scenarios are loosely based on the experiences of her and her daughters.

What do you think is the most important element of a great screenplay?

Believable characters are the backbone of any great story. Even if they are fantasy. We need to want to believe in them.

How do you feel about the current state of the film industry and the role of screenwriters in it?

To be honest, the advances in AI applications to the writing/creative process is a bit frightening. I have seen a few examples of stories created by AI from just a few simple prompts and they were impressive. Now, the question is: are the characters they develop sympathetic? Deep in my soul, I believe we will always need the human touch to bring stories to life. As for the industry as a whole, and as a struggling writer, I would only hope that the writers of the stories people love would get the more of the same adoration from the public as the actors do. After all, they only speak our words.

How do you approach writing for different genres and audiences?

Feedback and research are wonderful tools for getting “in the zone”. I am a straight white woman but have created a screenplay based on a love story/revenge plot between two gay women – one Asian, one Black. Again, the entire screenplay popped into my head in the middle of the night. I have friends and relatives from those demographics and peppered them with questions before getting too far into the actual writing. It is very important to be inclusive in your writing and to try to create an authentic scenario. I dislike some of the current attitudes of “only purple people can write about purple people”. Love is love. And gay or bi people have been writing heterosexual romance stories for the screen for decades. The best approach to any story is always authenticity.

How do you handle feedback and criticism?

Read it. Think about it. Try to look at the criticism from outside my head. If suggested changes would negatively affect my character’s journey, I just delete, delete, delete. There have been times, however, that an honest bit of feedback has enhanced a character and it was appreciated. When I was younger, criticism would shatter me and I would shelve a project. Not any more. With age comes confidence. Did I mention that I am 78?

Can you talk about any upcoming projects or collaborations you're excited about?

I work well with my writing partner, MICHAEL MARKUS. With “BOARDGAMES”, he came up with the whole story, turned it over to me and I rewrote dialogue, added scenes, expanded characters. With “THE CHRISTMAS CON”, I wrote the story but turned it over to him for the action/escape sequences. We each have our own perspectives and they compliment each other. Right now, I am most excited about “WE ONLY HURT THE ONES YOU LOVE” (the aforementioned tragic love story) and a small book of short essays called “OLD AS CHER” (Life observations from an older woman).

How do you see the role of screenwriting evolving in the future?

Currently, and I believe this is a direct result of the fear and negativity from Covid fallout and the Trump-fueled radicalization of the human race, movies are being churned out featuring murder, mayhem and general anarchy. I think this will change. Avatar 2 brought people back to the theaters and it is my belief and hope that movie-goers and TV-watchers are ready to see romance, realistic characters and actual STORIES with plot-lines that make sense.

What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters?