Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Travis Opgenorth

An interview with screenwriter Travis Opgenorth regarding the Cellardoor Writing Competition.

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

A: The title is "Day of Reckoning", and it follows a small town sheriff who, in an effort to repair his damaged reputation and keep his job, posses up with a corrupt U.S. Marshall after he's taken the wife of a violent criminal hostage in order to lure the criminal in.

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

A: Honestly, I entered it into the Cellar Door competition because its early deadline happen to fall within the window of when I was looking to submit. I also like to mix my submissions between larger competitions like Blue Cat with smaller, "regional" competitions like Cellar Door.

I entered "Day of Reckoning" into several competitions, and it finished as a Quarter Finalist in the competition. It also finished as a Finalist in Blue Cat and the Las Vegas Film Festival Screenplay Competitions. It won Best Feature Script in the Cellar Door competition.

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: Yeah, totally satisfied. Deadlines were met. Rewards were received in a timely fashion, and while communications were few and brief, they were polite, friendly, and gracious.

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

A: All-in, "Day of Reckoning" took me about three months from initial development through first draft. I generally do two types of outlines. First, I outline my story in (approximately) ten page sequences. Once I have my sequences outlined, I begin crafting a scene-by-scene outline. I'll do a number of rewrites to both of the those outlines, so that by the time I'm ready to go to script on it, it usually only takes me a week or two to finish my first draft. As far as "Day of Reckoning" is concerned my rewrites after that were fairly limited, however, I've since optioned the script, so there have been rewrites at the producers request since then.

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. I've only ever used Final Draft, and I'll probably only use Final Draft going forward. ...I feel like I should be getting paid to say that. ;)

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

A: I have to work around my day job, but on average I write 10 - 12 hours a week. Sometimes more, never less. Typically I get in two hours a day several days a week, and four to six hours over the weekend.

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

A: Sure, but not like I used to. I've learned that the best cure for writers block is to not get it. By that I mean when I feel myself getting bogged down, I'll either start writing... I'll start writing ideas, action or dialogue for whatever beat I'm stuck on... brain dump and delete, dump and delete. Or, I'll walk away and force myself not to think about until later, or the next day so I can come back to it fresh. Then, if I'm still bogged down, I'll write... dump and delete until something sticks. When that fails, I take a shower. I've come up with some of my best ideas in the shower.

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

A: I graduated from college with a major in Television and Film and a minor in creative writing. I started writing short stories in high school, and fell in love with screenwriting in college. I won a writing fellowship with the Writer's Boot Camp in 2011. Between 2000 and 2011 I wrote three features and four TV spec scripts. My features were no good, but my spec scripts finished first and second the Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum screenwriting competition, placed as Quarter Finalists in Scriptapalooza TV, and the Fade-In Awards competitions. Since 2011, I've completed four features, three TV pilots, a six episode web series, and several short scripts, all of which have garnered me Quarter Finalists finishes or better in over 20 competitions.

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

A: Yes, I do... moved out here from Wisconsin in 2003.

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

A: Well, I recently finished a new action-thriller that has received some great feedback from several reading services and industry peers, and I'm starting to submit that to a few competitions. I'm also doing revisions to "Day of Reckoning" for the producer who has the option, and I just started going to script on a another action-thriller feature that I've been developing with a manager.

Posted Thursday, March 28, 2013