COMPANY MAN: 2020 Winner of the Josephson Entertainment Fellowship, Sci-Fi Finalist, Semi-Finalist Enderby Award and Rooster Teeth Fellowship
I was a shy kid and never felt like I fit in. I dove into books, comics and sports. I wrote addendums to the “choose your own adventure” books on my bookshelf and loaned out my “Nancy’s Library” to kids in the cul-de-sac. My world growing up was modest. I calculated my escape, and I found it on the page with my characters.
My short adventure stories grew into longer ones, and eventually to screenplays. I did this alone, not confessing my dream of writing to others for years. While writing on my own, I worked as a producer’s assistant at a studio and was ultimately introduced to the visual effects world. For the past twelve years, while working in the film industry, I helped artists create their monsters, all the while looking, searching, and finding my own characters… my own monsters. Every VFX job has been a learning experience that has informed my storytelling knowledge. I often sought refuge in abandoned conference rooms and on (pre-Covid) trips to Yosemite. Writing with a pencil on damp paper while nestled alone in a tent, is a skill I’ve mastered. While I’ve tried my best chasing adventure as an avid camper, Jet Propulsion Lab tourist, or one-time sky-diver, the closest I come to combat is wielding a Nerf sword in my office. It’s safe to say, my characters are more badass than their creator. For me, writing is about challenging myself to create worlds and characters with which I can forge my own path. This path led me to Austin.
Austin is a unique film festival in that it centers around writers. It is my yearly creative recharge and years ago, is the first place where I had a script advance. Getting that initial feedback and encouragement that first year of writing screenplays meant the world to me. I was hooked. AFF offers a unique environment where aspiring writers can get advice from seasoned working writers in a relaxed atmosphere. These “in between” panel moments are vital. To hear about working writers experiences of navigating the studio system or television writers rooms is invaluable. I couldn’t imagine an October passing without making it to AFF. In fact, I have an entire group of friends that I only see in the fall at the festival due to our geographic challenges. Attending the festival and meeting writers in different stages of their careers is an educational experience. Everyone has a different path and timetable – but the encouragement one gets from attending AFF each year is inspirational – even in the virtual space of 2020.
I think for writers trying to break-in, everything moves at a glacial pace until you climb that first step. This past fall after winning at Austin, everything hit lightning speed. Looking back, my path to a full-time writing career has been full of peaks and valleys. In the fall of 2019, I was in a valley. After months of a few “almost” opportunities, I felt defeated. It was during this time that I hatched the idea for my grounded sci-fi dark comedy script, COMPANY MAN. Several people told me this genre-mash idea was too offbeat — not to spend the time on it. However, I couldn’t get the characters and story out of my head. So, I took the leap.
Soon I found myself up at 5AM writing before work, after work, on lunch breaks and weekends. If you have characters consistently invading your brain, you’ll find the time. The result of my efforts was a quirky grounded sci-fi script about family. I started writing this script without knowing the themes of government interference, vaccinations, and post-apocalyptic atmosphere would all ring true today (insert a baffled shrug). At its core, COMPANY MAN is about leaning in, getting messy and embracing life, all with a positive ending. My lead character feels stuck, behind – a late bloomer. I wrote about myself and I guess it resonated. Austin Film Festival has always been a place of inspiration for me, my yearly trek to the “keep it weird” town, there’s no better place for this odd ball script to land in the winner’s circle. To say I was stunned and overjoyed is putting it mildly.
The encouragement and positivity I received during my dream week at AFF was amazing. A week after the festival, I learned that I made the 2020 BLOOD LIST: Fresh Blood Edition. Two weeks later I met with my now manager at The Cartel. Since signing, I’ve been developing an action-pitch with a studio-based production company and have been going on meetings with companies who produced the films that influenced me as a kid. I’m highly motivated to keep pushing myself. With the encouragement of my manager and the team at The Cartel, I look forward to working across different storytelling mediums.
My advice to the aspiring writers is to keep writing. Everything can turn around with a new script. Listen to your gut, trust your process and put in the work. Execution is key. Every writer’s point-of-view is different. Don’t be afraid to tackle the story that might not be the obvious one to tell.
See you at the Driskill…