Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Jonathan LaPoma

An interview with screenwriter Jonathan LaPoma regarding the Chicago Screenplay Contest Writing Competition.

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

A: My script THE WAY BACK HOME won 3rd place in the drama category of the 2014 Chicago Screenplay Competition.

THE WAY BACK HOME is a 101 page coming-of-age drama about a young, animal-loving boy who must cope with his father's insistence that he'll someday work at the slaughterhouse that's employed the men of their family for several generations.

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 it got great scores on its Movie Bytes Report Card.

I have entered this script in other competitions, and it's won the following honors:

-TableRead my Screenplay, 2014 (Sundance), Semi-Finalist -WriteMovies, 2014, Quarter Finalist -Indie Gathering Film Festival, 2014, Honorable Mention

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

A: So far, I've been satisfied with the administration of this contest. They announced the results via email when they said they would (7/31), and included detailed instructions on how to obtain an award certificate and trophy, if desired (the trophy is for purchase).

On August 4th, they sent another email informing me that I won a free lifetime subscription to Scripped Pro, and that I'm "...scheduled to receive additional prizes." I'm looking forward to getting those.

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: I wrote the first draft of THE WAY BACK HOME in about five days, but I'd been developing the story in my mind for about a month before I started writing it.

I did write an outline beforehand, but it was nothing more than a brief listing of major plot points and general scenes. Typically, I don't like to get very detailed with my outlines; I prefer to let the story come to me when I write my first draft, and this is what I did with THE WAY BACK HOME.

After reading the first draft, I had a much better understanding of the story, and I wrote a more focused second draft. I ended up doing about four total drafts, and the whole project took me about a month and a half to finish.

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: Final Draft.

Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day?

A: I see writing as more of a process than the mere act of putting words to paper. I may not write every day in the traditional sense, but I do "write" daily in that I'm always thinking about new story ideas, always running old stories through my head, always jotting down jokes or interesting bits of dialogue that I might use in a future story, always reading the work of others and gaining new tools to use with my own writing...

I do try to physically write words onto paper as much as possible, but I don't have a formal routine for doing so. Usually when I do write, I can finish projects quickly because I've spent so much time ruminating on the story, that it all comes together once I start typing.

Q: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with that?

A: I find it amusing that this question has been the most difficult for me to answer. I do experience writer's block at times, but if I get stuck on any particular story, I'll usually just move onto something else, whether it be writing a poem or a song, or outlining a new screenplay. I believe this method for overcoming a "block" is consistent with my idea of writing being a process--that getting blocked is simply a part of being creative and isn't something to fear.

Whenever I feel my creativity waning, I try to relax and listen to my thoughts, and understand what they're telling me. It's often in these times that I come up with my best ideas. John Lennon got the inspiration for "Nowhere Man" by reflecting on his own writer's block. I believe that embracing blocks can become a powerful force to help drive creativity.

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

A: I've been a teacher for nine years.

I've written four other award-winning feature-length screenplays: A NOBLE TRUTH, DELLWOOD, SOFI'S JOURNEY, and LA TIERRA QUE YO AMO (LAND THAT I LOVE)*. I've created a profile for each on the "Winning Scripts" section of the Movie Bytes website.

*co-written with Natalia Porras Sivolobova.

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

A: No, but I do live in San Diego, so I'm close. I don't have any plans to move there, but I do feel that is the direction I'll be headed within the next few years.

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

A: I've already started on the outline for a new screenplay, and have about three or four more ideas I'd like to develop when I finish that one.

On top of screenwriting, I'm a novelist, songwriter, and poet. One of my novels is set to be published in the spring, so I've been working on getting that ready, and I'm also looking to put together a band sometime soon.

Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014