Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter John Martins

An interview with screenwriter John Martins regarding the International Christian FF Writing Competition.

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

A: "The Apostle" follows the journey of Saint Thomas ("Doubting Thomas") to India, circa A.D. 50, and his reaching out to Untouchables. I was deeply honored that the story was awarded 1st Place at the 2019 International Christian Film (and Music) Festival on May 4th in Orlando.

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

A: Given its faith-centered core, I thought it could do well at the International Christian Film Festival, although no writer really knows, given each readers' and judges' personal likes and dislikes in story content and sub-genre--that comes with the territory wherever one enters a competition. I've written everything except for horror, but my wheelhouse is faith-based stories.

Thankfully, I've been blessed in other competitions. I was fortunate that "The Apostle" won the 2018 Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival in Toronto, under the auspices of festival directors Jason Barbeck and Rafael Kalamat; I also won the 2018 Switzerland International Film Festival. "The Apostle" was a top-10 finalist at the 2016-17 Kairos Prize in association with Dr. Ted Baehr's Movieguide organization, as well as a 3rd-place finisher at the 2019 World Series of Screenwriting contest (history category) in L.A.

"The Apostle" has been a finalist in several other competitions: the 2018 Near Nazareth Festival in Israel; the 2019 Northern Virginia International Film Festival (NOVA) in Arlington; the 2019 Las Vegas Screenplay Contest (historical category); the 2019 Twister Alley Film Festival in Woodward, Oklahoma, as well as a top-10 semifinalist at the 2018 Nashville Film Festival (faith category) in Tennessee. I've been very fortunate in all of this.

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: Under the leadership and vision of Marty Jean-Louis, ICFF is quickly becoming a leader in the faith-based marketplace--the fact that it has been around for a relatively short time, approximately seven years, is saying a lot about it and Marty Jean-Louis.

The four-day event I recently experienced was amazing, with non-stop seminars which addressed many different facets of filmmaking, not just screenwriting. I had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with producers and directors at this event whose work I've been familiar with for twenty years, including the Christiano Brothers, Paul Lalonde, Joth Riggs, Rik Swartzwelder, Kevin and Sam Sorbo, and Troy Duhon; as well as meeting a newer generation of filmmakers, like Ty Manns, Nathan Nazario, Braam Ackermann, and Joel Gonzales.

The awards ceremony was a lot of fun. All the winning writers were photographed and interviewed after the announcement.

Marty Jean-Louis and his staff met all their deadlines. And I received ALL services and awards that were promised. My deep appreciation again to Marty Jean-Louis, and, to Sue Crampton, who was tireless in making sure my arriving at and departing the film festival went as smoothly as possible.

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

A: My script underwent numerous rewrites as well as being looked at by a few script analysts along the way. The idea was germinated decades ago, after hearing a sermon about Saint Thomas. I'm a big believer in writing out outlines and knowing your ending, although I know other writers don't go along with that. Whatever works for you and your writing journey.

From the beginning, and at this moment, I'd say I'm hovering around twenty drafts. And there could be more, depending on possible future events. All "finished" work should be open-ended. Your work is never finished, even if it is, so to speak.

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 typically don't use software, although I have nothing against it.

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

A: I TRY to write every day, or at least THINK about ideas, stories, plots, dialogue, and characters every day. When I do sit down to write, it typically is two-to-three hours a day.

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

A: I can't remember the last time I had writer's block, because my process is pretty methodical. In fairness to those writers who do experience it, it might be more because of the pressure created by their deadlines. I've always written spec scripts on my schedule, which is an entirely different world.

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

A: Over the years, I've penned twenty screenplays, approximately ten theatrical plays, two novels (unpublished), and a radio play, which was performed and produced by the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

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

A: No, but I certainly would be open to it, given the right circumstances.

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

A: I am starting rough drafts on four separate screenplays at the moment, and a brief outline on a fifth--three faith-based, and two dramas--one of which is historical.

My added gratitude to Frederick Mensch and MovieBytes, for this terrific platform. Thank you very much, Mr. Mensch.

Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2019