screenwriter to watch
I’m a 24 year-old screenwriter based in Los Angeles. I grew up in the Bay Area and studied film production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. After school, I worked in New York as an NBC Page, before moving back to LA to work in the CAA mailroom. After winning the AMC One-Hour Pilot award at the Austin Film Festival, I left CAA to write full-time.
How did you break in?
I got my start in screenwriting when I realized I didn’t have the resources to tell the stories I wanted to with a camera. I was constantly trying to come up with ideas that utilized the things around me, and I eventually hit a wall with these shoestring budget projects. I decided to tell the best stories I could think of, not just ones I could realistically shoot. Screenwriting gave me the freedom to do that, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
I’ve learned that you can’t just wait around to be inspired, you have to bang your head against a wall everyday until you force inspiration to show up. I’ve also had to learn how to be merciless, but confident. The ability to take notes and kill your darlings is essential, but you can’t lose your voice while doing it. You have to know how to listen to others, while still listening to yourself.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene I’ve ever written was from my pilot for The Devil and the Deep. In the story, a group of teenagers stumble across an abandoned fortune while exploring a ghost town and take it home. That scene, where they stand around this bag of cash in a garage trying to figure out what to do, was difficult because it was set in a confined space and relied entirely on dialogue. I tried to avoid treating the characters like glorified plot-pushers by focusing on the history between them, and how the money would strain their friendship. In the end, I think the scene worked because of that focus on character complexity during such a crucial plot point.
Winning the AMC One-Hour Pilot award at the Austin Film Festival was the biggest turning point in my career so far. The Devil and the Deep was the first script I had written, and I submitted it to AFF largely because of the free notes that came with entering. I was just hoping to make it past the first round and gauge my level of writing, but the script was like the little engine that could, and I was fortunate enough to win. The experience led to meetings with executives from AMC and talent reps, and gave me the confidence to pursue writing full-time.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m working on a pilot called Land of the Midnight Sun. It’s a dark comedy crime series set in Fairbanks, Alaska during the summertime, when there’s 22 hours of sun a day. The concept of that world intrigued me, as there’s no cover of darkness; the sun shines on every foul deed. It also takes a certain kind of person to live in Alaska, so it’s made for interesting characters.
What are your favorite movies?
The movie that first got me interested in the power of a great script was Brick, which is one of my favorites. Beyond that, I love any and all things Cohen brothers, especially No Country for Old Men. My family is Scottish, so Braveheart has to be included as well.
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould consistently intimidate me with how good their work is, they’re two of my favorites. I love what Noah Hawley has done with Fargo, and Graham Yost is a big inspiration as well. Also, David Milch. I’ve watched Deadwood at least four times.
What is your most memorable AFF moment?
The chance to sit down with two AMC executives stands out from a festival filled with great memories. The day before I was pushing a mail cart, and suddenly there I was, talking about my work with folks from an esteemed network. Also, they bought me a pumpkin muffin, so it was a great time.