screenwriter to watch
I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, and spent a couple of years as an antitrust attorney in Washington, D.C., before deciding to write.
How did you break in?
I got my start thanks to a very patient wife. A fellow attorney, she wanted to make a career change which took us to Kansas for a few years. Since I couldn’t practice law there, I had the opportunity to write full-time. In Kansas City I lucked into finding a great friend and screenwriting mentor, Mitch Brian, who taught me pretty much everything I know about the craft.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Write every day, even if it’s only for an hour. Try not to spend too long on a single project. When you get to the end of one, start the next right away. You need two good ones to get anywhere.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
My pilot script Ascension, which is set on a Louisiana sugar plantation in the years leading up to the Civil War. The challenge was in synthesizing tons and tons of research, telling a story on a grand scale from many points of view, and avoiding the pitfalls and clichés common to stories that deal with slavery. I tried to treat this project like any other, make the characters as complex and human as possible, and put them in charge of the story.
Without a doubt the turning point came when Ascension won the AMC One-Hour Pilot Award at the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition. Within weeks I had a manager and a producer attached to the project. I got my first TV job a few months later.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently hard at work on Fear the Walking Dead, and have a few things on the back burner.
What are your favorite movies?
Some less-obvious picks near the top of my list would include The New World, Malcolm X, and Fargo. My favorite recent film is Silence.
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
The Coen Brothers, Charlie Kaufman, Kenneth Lonergan, P.T. Anderson.
What is your most memorable AFF moment?
Having to give an acceptance speech in front of Jim Sheridan, Ed Zwick, and Matthew Weiner.