screenwriter to watch
Sam Suksiri is a freelance comedy writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. After not quite finishing the UCB sketch writing program in Hollywood, he went on to contribute to comedy writing to places like McSweeney’s, Points in Case, and Slackjaw. His main job lately has been writing audio dramas.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I took sketch classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Hollywood and really enjoyed doing table reads. That made me think doing audio drama had a unique, unexplored merit so I started writing scripts that emphasized using the listener’s own imagination to be funny.
Writer “The Rest Stop at the End of the Universe”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
1. Nurture your friendships. As important as writing is, it’s not the most important thing in the world. I love working collaboratively with my friends, but always remember that “getting something” from your friends isn’t the point of friendship. Love and serve your friends.
2. Compliment people’s work. Even if it’s for a small thing, reach out and compliment someone’s work. Don’t do it to butter the other person up or in hopes of getting something from them. Do it for something that person made you enjoy. If you’re doing it right, you should feel a tad awkward reaching out to genuinely compliment someone’s work. But like Christian Bale said in the 1992 musical movie Newsies, “Let ‘em laugh in my face, I don’t care!”
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
I was on the fourth draft of a script and it was pretty much falling in line at last until the ending where the main character confronts her younger sister’s reckless behavior. It would have been easy to write the scene simply as an older sister reprimanding her younger sibling, but I was so dissatisfied with how the script had turned out so far with all the changes and notes, I thought, “What would need to happen and what would this character say to her sister that would make me as an audience member want to see the first twenty-five pages happen?” I spent a long time imagining myself in both character’s shoes to see what I could come up with and got nowhere. But then I tried to imagine my own sister in the situation and imagine what she would say. I think everyone’s experienced a family argument where it seems almost too personal to ever imagine an outsider listening in. So doing that made me think of the scene as one of those moments between the characters and I started writing with the goal of making me feel almost uncomfortable listening to these two sisters argue. That changed the direction of the scene and made it the best part of the episode.
What was a major turning point in your career?
Completely by chance I came across the BBC Radio 4 audio drama Cabin Pressure, by John Finnemore. I got hooked on that and then, because internet, found John Finnemore’s other show, John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme. Souvenir Programme was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to be doing, so I tried to do my own version and that’s set me on the course I’m on currently.
What are you working on right now?
Getting John Finnemore to follow me on twitter. Right now I’m nearly done editing a demo of The Rest Stop at the End of the Universe. I suppose by the time you’re reading this I should be finished. In that case, I’m writing and editing the audio sketch comedy show Traffic Therapy and a writing a few other spec scripts to submit to the 2019 Austin Film Festival!
What are some of your favorite movies?
The Shop Around the Corner, because I love Jimmy Stewart and Christmas. Vertigo, because I love Jimmy Stewart, but also because I grew up near San Francisco and as a kid I thought it was so cool to go to a place that was in a movie. Also Hitchcock is good. Jurassic Park, because I love dinosaurs, theme parks, and khaki shorts. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, because if this movie taught me anything it’s that sometimes you don’t need a reason.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
I like Billy Wilder because of how he collaborated writing with I.A.L. Diamond and Charles Bracket. There are so many moments in his films that feel so perfect and unexpected that I have to imagine it was the result of two minds working together to write better than either could on their own.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
2018 was only the second year AFF had the audio drama script category, but I met more audio drama fans and creators in that one weekend than I’ve met in my life. We all hung out throughout the festival and one night we were at this rooftop bar and built a very impressive bridge out of several sets of wooden Jenga blocks that spanned the length of the table. Yeah, we party hard.