Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Robert Ward

An interview with screenwriter Robert Ward regarding the Wildsound Writing Competition.

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

A: I entered my short THE FINAL JOB.

A wiseass surfer punk in the guise of a demon arrives at a remote farm. After he deals with a mother and father, he comes looking for the teenage daughter. What ensues is a life-and-death struggle for survival -- for both of them.

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 had read good things about Wildsound in the past. The reading of winning screenplays was very attractive to me because it's one of the best ways to hear where your script stands with respect to pacing, dialogue, narrative, scenes, the works. I also liked that the contest accepts numerous categories for judging.

After winning, in less than two weeks for that matter, I'm reaping some nice rewards from Wildsound. They are clearly interested in helping winners gain career traction and exposure. The reading of THE FINAL JOB was videotaped and placed on youtube, Facebook, the contest website, and I've even seen it on a couple of other offshoot websites. I'm so pleased to see my script with almost 1,100 views already.

Then just yesterday, Matthew called me to conduct a podcast interview, something that will also be posted on the Internet.

So, you could say, you get a tremendous bang for the buck at Wildsound. I'm excited to get so much exposure of my work.

I also entered my short in other contests. THE FINAL JOB was a semifinalist at Shriekfest Horror Film Festival and an Official Finalist at Brownfish Short Film Festival NYC.

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: Without a doubt, I think the administration of the Wildsound contest is one of the best I've seen so far in many years of entering contests. Not because I won their contest, which is way too easy and cheesy of an accolade to heave upon them, but because of Wildsound's conscientious and dutiful actions after I entered.

As any contest participant knows, if you do contests long enough you'll need to contact a contest with a question concerning your entry, payment, whatever. A lot of contests that I've been involved with actually forget this aspect of their contest... timely responses to a participant's questions. Screenwriters are innately stressful people. Most creative types are. And we want to hear back from a contest ASAP if we have a question. A couple contests I never heard back from if you can believe it. Matthew at Wildsound replied to most of my emails within hours if not a few minutes. He's right up there with the best of them, such as the hardworking Greg Beal at Nicholl.

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

A: The initial writing of the script took about two days. I entered that version at Shriekfest for instance, and I only made it to semifinalist. (And that was the weak original version.) After getting some great notes from Wildsound and Bluecat, I rewrote the script, spending several more days on it, even giving it a new ending. The latest version I think is really kickass and I love the surprise ending.

Yes, I used an outline beforehand. Very rarely, and only in cases of writing a short short, I won't use an outline. Speaking of outlines, I've make great use of Blake Synder's beat sheet.

All said and done, probably four drafts in all.

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

A: An older version of Final Draft works pretty well for me. I have a new Macbook Air and I'm looking forward to FD9 in January.

I use Microsoft Office for all other writing.

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

A: Between all the types of writing I do, I usually spend 5-6 hours a day, most of it screenplay related.

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

A: I wish I could get writer's block! I have just the opposite... a flow of creative ideas that barely ever stops and often keeps me awake until the middle of the night. I once asked a mail carrier back in the days when some of them were flipping out, "Why are you guys so stressed? The job seems so easy?"

She said, "The mail, never, stops, coming."

So, my mind is like a conveyor belt of letters and packages... the ideas just keep coming.

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

A: My background is in journalism. I have held most positions at a newspaper. Everything except publisher or press operator.

Yes, I have 11 short scripts, three features, and a couple thorough treatments.

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

A: No, but I do live in the thriving South Bay Area of San Jose and Silicon Valley. No plans to move to L.A., but hey, if an offer is on the table!

My current location isn't much of a hindrance to my career. In November, I attended the Hollywood Screenplay Contest awards dinner. A 45-minute flight was all that separated me from North Hollywood, plus two buses and a 1.5 mile walk with my roller bag. Call me in the morning and I can be at your desk right after lunch.

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

A: I've had to slow the screenplay writing down a little, probably for the next three to four months.

I was just announced as the 3rd runner up at the Writer's Store Screenplay Replay contest, where my prize package helps me convert my screenplay FLAT PENNIES into a novel. It's such a complex story, so novelizing it may be the right thing to do. I'll have to beat out the story in finer detail with a novel, but as Michael Hauge says in "The Hero's Two Journeys" you should stick fairly close to the screenplay beat sheet percentages if you want to write a novel that you plan to convert to a screenplay. One of the first query letters I got back from a cold-emailed agent years ago regarding FLAT PENNIES had his pencil scribble on the bottom: "Have you ever thought about turning this into a novel?"

The keen eyes of the Writer's Store Screenplay Replay contest judges obviously saw a novel in my FLAT PENNIES screenplay, so it's now time for me to torque on the novelist hat.

So, I'm in a most unique situation... Converting my screenplay into a novel, then converting that novel back into a screenplay in time for Nicholl. You can say that I'm going to be one very busy writer for the next few months. And what we have here isn't so much a failure to communicate but a battle between who's left standing in my upcoming Herculean effort -- my creative drive or my eyeballs.

Posted Friday, December 20, 2013