Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Adam Balsam

An interview with screenwriter Adam Balsam regarding the Open Door/Script Magazine Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: "Blood-Sucking Leeches and Flesh-Eating Maggots." It's about a beautiful Vegas stripper named Candy Carmel who gets stranded in an isolated Nevada town and is terrorized by a doctor practicing experimental medicine. Many people assume the script's title is metaphoric, that it's about society or Hollywood or the Bush Administration, but no. It is, in fact, a horror film about blood-sucking leeches and flesh-eating maggots. Global warming has altered the creatures' metabolism, and they are behaving in ways you wouldn't want them to. There is definitely some humor in the film, but it also has an ick factor which I hope is similar to Cronenberg films such as "The Fly."

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: I entered this contest because the deadline was approaching. I was also interested in the connection with Benderspink, which is one of the better literary management/producing companies in L.A. This script has done well in a few other contests. It was a top ten Finalist in the Cinequest competition, and a Finalist in the WriteMovies contest. I'm particularly proud of the fact that the version that won was a first draft. I have since rewritten and hopefully improved the script, and have entered it in a few other contests.

Q: Were you satisfied with the adminstration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: Very well-run contest. Within a month I received my check in the mail, and it didn't bounce. I also got my picture in Scr(i)pt magazine, and they tell me the other prizes are on their way, and I believe them.

Q: Were you given any feedback on your script? If so, did you find the feedback helpful?

A: This particular contest didn't offer feedback. I am, however, a member of a screenwriters' group, whose feedback and input have been invaluable. If you're a writer, I highly recommend joining a group, or forming one on your own. I should have done it years ago. Not only is the feedback from fellow writers essential, but the group also gives you a support network and makes you feel that you're not a crazy person sitting alone in a room writing stories. Or at least that there are other crazy people like you out there.

Q: Has your success in this contest helped you market your script? Were you contacted by any agents, managers or producers?

A: I had an excellent meeting with Benderspink, where I pitched several ideas. They are interested in looking at one or two scripts that I am currently writing. I also put the script up on Inktip.com and on WinningScripts, where it has gotten many hits and several requests to be read. More importantly, the win has given me the confidence to more actively promote the script on my own. People are much more willing to read something if it has already been given a stamp of approval by winning a contest. And I'm much more comfortable at cocktail parties.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: After getting an MFA from NYU Film School, I moved out to L.A. and found work as a Writers' Assistant in sitcoms. I later wrote a produced episode of "Murphy Brown" and worked as a writer on an animated VH1 show called "Animal Trax" that never aired. I've written about 8 sitcom specs, as well as a sitcom pilot called "Present Tense" which I will now shamelessly pitch here. It's about a frustrated writer in L.A. who takes a job teaching English to a class of adult immigrants. I call it a modern-day "Welcome Back, Kotter." It's very loosely based on my own experience as an ESL teacher. This script has done well in several contests. I've also written about 9 feature specs and have continued to take writing courses at UCLA and attend seminars. The persistence has definitely paid off, as I feel I'm a much better writer today than when I started.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: I've lived in L.A. for a decade and recommend it highly for any serious screenwriter. Just the act of packing up and moving here goes a long way toward making yourself feel truly committed to the craft. Some people say this city will rob your soul, but I find being surrounded by gazillions of competing screenwriters to be kind of exciting and inspirational. I constantly feel that the next break is waiting for me literally around the corner. So I spend a lot of time on streetcorners…

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: I'm currently working on a haiku poem that I hope to finish in the next month or so. I'm also working on a feature spec called "The Village Idiot." It's a broad, Zucker Brothers-esque comedy about a Medieval village idiot named Dumkopf who hopes to move up in life and become a fool.

Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2006