screenwriter to watch
Michael Soll was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from UCLA with a degree in International Relations. At 17, he wrote his first screenplay, a teenage coming-of-age story, because what else is a teenager going to write about?
Michael is a 2016 AFF Finalist and his screenplay, CATALYST, is currently in pre-production. In addition to features, he also enjoys writing books. His novel, SCORCHED, was an Amazon Bestseller.
How did you break in?
There’s nothing I enjoy more than writing. I always had ideas floating in my mind, but I was too timid to ever put them on paper. When I was 16, I finally started writing down my ideas in a spiral notebook. I kept challenging myself, writing more complex stories and creating more intricate characters.
A year later, I wanted to attempt my first feature, so my parents bought me Movie Magic Screenwriter, and I began writing my first screenplay over the summer.
My work means more to me than just the words imprinted on paper. My stories represent an assortment of memories I’ve attached to the characters and worlds. I remember my life through my writing.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
On an emotional level, I learned how to get rejected. It’s difficult for people to really understand the degree of rejection writers go through. The only way to succeed is to keep putting yourself out there, but it means having a lot of people constantly saying you aren’t good enough. Every day, you have to convince yourself that you’ll succeed one day in the future. You find yourself perpetually oscillating between thinking: “I’m good enough” and “I’m delusional.”
From a writing standpoint, I’ve learned that the only way to get better is to keep trying something new. Every time I do something different, I make new mistakes and discover new solutions. Then, when I come across a problem in my script, I’m more capable of deciphering how to fix it.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
My greatest challenge was writing my first manuscript, HALF LIFE. I wanted to push myself to my limits and nothing is more daunting than writing a book. The mere length is probably the toughest hurdle to overcome. You aren’t writing a 30-page pilot or a 100-page feature, you’re creating this massive world spanning hundreds of pages and every word is scrutinized. It took me 7 months to write the manuscript, and it’s still the most rewarding writing experience of my life.
What do you feel was your turning point?
I was a Nicholl Quarterfinalist which helped me first get my foot in the door, but it wasn’t until I advanced in the Austin Film Festival when I started getting substantial attention, leading to a shopping agreement and resulting in my script getting circulated throughout the agencies.
What are you working on right now?
I’m writing a contained sci-fi thriller called TERRESTRIAL. It’s about 6 astronauts on the first mission to Mars who come into contact with aliens in space. The astronauts need to decipher whether or not the aliens come in peace or have come to destroy Earth. Any wrong move or miscommunication could mean the end of life as we know it.
What are your favorite movies?
Forrest Gump, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, My Cousin Vinny, Major League, Jurassic Park, About a Boy, Back to the Future Trilogy.
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
My favorite writers are David Koepp, Christopher Nolan, Charlie Kaufman, and Paul Thomas Anderson.
Koepp is a master of pacing and if you want to learn how to make your script feel alive, read PANIC ROOM.
Nolan is an innovator when it comes to story structure. He’s able to make a story interesting by simply manipulating the structure — just look at MEMENTO.
Kaufman writes in a fourth dimension and layers his stories like nobody else. I wish I could write something as intricate as ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.
And PTA understands the ego better than any writer alive. I hope I can one day create characters as vivid and flawed as the ones in MAGNOLIA.
When I first started writing, I read their scripts and absorbed their styles until I eventually formed my own.
What is your most Memorable AFF Moment?
My wife and I were meeting up with friends at the Driskill Bar. When we got there, they were already with a couple people, one of whom was Bobby Farrelly. Half of my favorite comedies are directed by him and his brother, so it was a surreal experience having a drink with one of my favorite directors.