You’re an Emmy and Golden Globe winning screenwriter. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to writing a screenplay?
Coming up with an idea for a script (or series) that really works, that’s original,compelling and capable of impressing people in the industry and making them want to put money behind it.
What ran through your mind when you realized you would be working with Tom Hanks on From the Earth to the Moon? What advice would you give writers for handling a big break like that?
You’ve talked about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. (A favorite of mine!) What elements/items/technique do you think is the most important when writing a screenplay?
I particularly love his ten “genres”: they’re my favorite tool for evaluating and developing movie ideas at the crucial concept/logline stage. I think really working within one of those genres (which requires understanding them more than most casual readers of the book do) can help ensure that one’s ideas are viable. It’s very easy to write something that doesn’t have the power to compel millions of people to want to emotionally engage with it — and not easy to come up with something that does.
You do consultations and coaching – what is the most rewarding thing about working with writers and the most frustrating?
The most rewarding thing is when I come up with ideas or insights that a writer really appreciates and can run with, and when I see them improve in their craft and know that they have improved, in part due to my assistance.
I suppose the most frustrating thing is when they don’t seem to make any progress or don’t seem to be able to successfully process feedback from myself or others, and move forward with it.
When you began this crazy writing journey, is this where you thought the path would lead? What else do you hope to accomplish?
All of the specifics of what I’ve experienced have been unexpected (both for good and bad). I certainly hoped I’d be able to write professionally, and I have achieved that. But there is much I haven’t done that I’ve long wanted to do, especially to initiate original projects and see them through to success with audiences. That might mean writing and directing on an independent basis, which is what I’m focused on at the moment. (I’m currently in post on a short film I wrote and directed.)
I’m a screenwriter best known for my work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which I wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team.
I’ve also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone.
I teach screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University and The Writers Store, and offer one-on-one consulting to writers.
I got my start as an assistant to Tom Hanks, who gave me the opportunity to help him write and produce FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, after reading some sitcom spec scripts I had written.
I’m currently represented by Creative Artists Agency.