Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Robert Ward

An interview with screenwriter Robert Ward regarding the Wildsound 1st Scene Writing Competition.

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

A: "Flat Pennies"


A profound teenager encourages a paraplegic model railroader to overcome his fears and experience the outside world while battling for the love of an abused neighbor raising a young son all under the watchful thumb of a crotchety landlady.

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 wanted to find out if my screenplay starts out strong enough, a crucial component to any screenplay. Wildsound was perfect for that goal. I've done fairly well with "Flat Pennies" over the years with at least a dozen contests. It's a hit-or-miss complex story. A great example is the Nicholl Competition. One year the screenplay will be a top-10-percenter, the next, nothing, the next, a top-15 percenter, the next, nothing, the next, a top-20 percenter, the next, nothing. As with all contests, the reader's experience is subjective. One of my favorites was placing 3rd runner-up in a highly competitive contest called the Screenplay Replay Contest sponsored by the Writers Store in 2013.

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: Yes, very satisfied. When you need any information from Matt, he gets back to you pronto. That's important in a contest. All the deadlines were met and as promised, I was sent a link, the minute it was ready, to the online video of actors reading my winning screenplay.

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've been working on "Flat Pennies" off and on for about eight years. It's a complicated storyline with lots to keep track of, so an outline was mandatory. (In fact, I wouldn't write any screenplay without an outline.) One of the main characters actually resides solely within the mind of the protag, plus there are a zillion plants and payoffs. I've written a couple dozen versions, and after feedback, will rewrite and improve the story. After eight years, I'm finally getting comfortable writing dialogue. A comment one year from Austin Film Festival led to a plot change, the DVD series "The Hero's Two Journeys" by Michael Hauge and Chris Vogler was incredible for bringing the story to the next level, and recently, great notes from Wildsound led to an entire rewrite. So, you could say "Flat Pennies" is an ongoing worldwide collaborative project.

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 used Final Draft for years. Then I tried Fade In Pro a couple years ago and I've stayed with that. You can't beat Fade In Pro for the price.

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

A: I write almost every day. It's a good habit to have. I worked at newspapers for years, under deadlines, so writing every day comes naturally to me. Duration depends. Some days two hours, some days 6-8 hours. Recently I was rewriting the screenplay for "Flat Pennies" and writing the novel for it at the same time. Talk about a challenge... moving back and forth between present, past and even pluperfect tenses. Messes with your mind, but you adapt quickly.

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

A: I never get writer's block. My brain is always buzzing with ideas, but the downside is crappy sleep.

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

A: As mentioned, my background is in journalism. Before that I was a student at UCSC and before that I was a truck driver. I have written a dozen shorts, such as the horror genre "The Final Job" that has performed really well on the contest circuit. I work on "Flat Pennies" as a labor of love and I'm writing the novel for it right now (I'm at 71,000 words). A treatment I wrote a couple years ago, "Wrestling With Dinosaurs" won the Grand Prize for Treatment at the Hollywood Screenplay Contest in 2013. (Their awards dinner, that I flew down to and attended, was an absolutely fun evening!)

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

A: I live in Silicon Valley. Pretty much a great place to live with everything to do. If I need to get to LA, I can jump on a plane at SJC, just minutes from where I live.

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

A: As soon as I'm finished with the novel for "Flat Pennies" I'll write the screenplay for "Wrestling With Dinosaurs."

Posted Monday, May 4, 2015