Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Ted Campbell

An interview with screenwriter Ted Campbell regarding the Scriptshark Insider Writing Competition.

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

A: My script is called Blue Motel. It's a noir, thriller about a guy who works at a roadside motel in the middle of nowhere. He's having a hot and heavy relationship with the girl who works the twenty-four hour convenience store across from the motel. Then one night a guy with a bullet in his leg crashes back into his life, literally. Turns out our motel clerk was part of a bank robbing gang and the gang blames him for the last heist that went horribly wrong. From there it's all gunfire and double-cross! It's a family picture. haha.

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 use Script Shark's services for notes on my work. I like their notes. They know what they're doing over there. Their notes have been very helpful. Actually, I think it was part of a deal, purchase a certain coverage service and get into the contest for free. haha. Who knew? I entered quiet a few contests over the years. I always felt encouraged that I'd place at least in the first round. Scriptapalooza, BlueCat, Screenwriting Expo. I placed in all of them. I told myself "that means the writing is good, but the script needs work." But I bet that's what every screenwriter believes? I'd hope so. You gotta believe on yourself. Or why bother?

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: Have yet to receive any of the awards. But it's the Holidays and most of the Board is gone until the beginning of the new year. Was hoping to at least get the cash before Christmas! haha.

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 work as a 1st Assistant Director. That's the day job. In between gigs, I write. I think the first draft of Blue Motel was in 2006? So that's three years. But it wasn't a full three years of working. I'd put it down for months at a time while I worked on a film. And I'd pick up other scripts I'm working on instead. I always have at least two scripts in the draft stage. If I get stuck on one, I can put it aside and concentrate on the other.

I've tried outlining. It's too clinical for me. What I do is, get a single subject spiral notebook and write, everything and anything that comes to mind about the script, characters, story. Anything. Stream of consciousness type thing. Most I have a conversation with myself. And I write it down. "How does Riley know Betty?" When did they first meet?" etc. Then once I feel I have a handle on the story and the characters, I write a one to two page treatment, map out the plot. Then I take that document and begin to create a scriptment a la Mr. Cameron. I skip over parts I don't know yet. Script out scenes I do know. Write filler dialogue that's awful. haha. And then I keep honing that until I get a first draft. Once the first draft is done, I start all over again. Back to the single subject spiral notebook.

I'd say at least seven to eight drafts to the draft that won Script Shark.

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

A: I use Final Draft. Love it. Though I have used Movie Magic Screenwriter in my AD work.

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

A: As I said before, I work as a 1st Assistant Director. Just wrapped on a lesbian rock musical romantic comedy with my friends Alex and Angela from D.E.B.S. If I had nickel for every one of those! haha.

So yeah, I get to write intermittently, between feature AD gigs. Writing and directing has always been my goal. ADing has been the greatest learning experience. The numerous scripts I've had to breakdown over the years has been invaluable. Basically, it's outlining someone else's script after the fact and seeing what is repetitive, what's filler, etc.

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

A: Writer's block? Hell yeah! Hate it. I try to have several ideas at various stages at all times. If I'm stuck on one, I can out it aside and focus on another one. Or get out the notebook and think of new ideas. Or play my guitar.

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

A: I started out making Super8 horror movies in high school. Showing my age here. Yes, at one time there were no camcorders! No minDV! No HVX! There was only film. haha.

Next, I went to Emerson College, studied film. Moved to LA and I finally started working as an Assistant Director. I've worked on over twenty feature films including the 2006 Sundance Audience Winner Quinceanera. That was a great moment. Very proud of that film.

I've got many scripts completed. Several in various stages of writing. Way back when, I wrote an X-Files spec abut werewolves in the Midwest.

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

A: Yes. Been here for twelve years now. Love it. It's a great city. You have to look below the surface and the LA cliques and you find quiet an amazing city.

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

A: Trying to get Blue Motel made. Got a few leads there. Working on a new script. It's A Beautiful Mind meets The Fugitive. Also, hoping to use the buzz from the Script Shark win to attract some management possibilities.

Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009