Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Brian McDonald

An interview with screenwriter Brian McDonald regarding the Austin/Film Writing Competition.

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

A: It’s called ‘Graverobbers’ and it’s about a man who remembers a tragedy in a past life and becomes so obsessed with it that he ignores his current life and nearly destroys it.

It’s about learning how to live in the here-and-now.

It won in sci-fi but it’s really a supernatural drama.

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

A: Six years ago I had a script semi-final at Austin. When I saw the beautiful trophy they give to the winners I said that I was going to come back and get that trophy.

I have entered it in other contests and it hasn’t done as well. It got a ‘consider’ in one competition, but that’s it.

I wish that contests would post their objective standards on the web, so you could see how they define quality. It’s strange to win one competition and not even to make the first round of another.

I mean sometimes you will get a little note saying that your dialogue is not good or something like that. That’s fine, but define ‘good’ dialogue. Is it dialogue without subtext? Or is it not snappy enough for this particular reader? Does it not get exposition across skillfully? Do all the characters sound the same?

They should have to tell you what it means when they say ‘bad dialogue’. Because the dialogue for Goodfellas is one thing, but the dialogue in Pleasantville is another. You can’t use a broad brush to define something like dialogue by saying, “This dialogue is bad”. If you do that the writer doesn’t know what to work on. It leaves him/her in the dark.

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


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

A: No, no feedback. Except after I won a few of the judges told me what they liked about the script. They really dug it.

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

A: Time will tell. A few people have contacted me, but it's nothing I can talk about yet.

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

A: I have written a lot of stuff. A few TV specs. In fact one spec almost got me on staff at a sitcom, but that didn’t work out. I came close to selling a feature once, but that didn’t happen. That’s show biz.

I used to write comic books. I did the first Hellboy spin-off comic. It’s called Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead. I did Predator. I did Lost in Space. I did Tarzan. A few things.

I made a short film called White Face that won Slamdance and ran on HBO for a while. That was cool.

I’m sort of known as a story-guy and I teach it a few places. Right now I’m teaching a story structure class at Pixar.

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

A: Not now. I used to. I may move back, but I know working screenwriters who don't live there. I think it's better not to live there. I think it warps your perspective of the world. There are better places to live -- a war zone for instance.

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

A: I'm always working on something. But I want to direct, it's the only reason I ever started writing as a kid. You can't direct nothing so I wrote scripts. To me it's all storytelling. Writing and directing are just different aspects of the same job for me.

I have a few ideas, I just need to pick one and go. I'm sure I'll be back at the keyboard soon.

Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006