Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter John Martins

An interview with screenwriter John Martins regarding the Act One Writing Competition.

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

A: Inspired by true events, "Aktion T-4" is the story of two men, a Lutheran bishop, and a Catholic deacon, who come together to try and stop Hitler's forced-euthanasia program, known as "Aktion T-4." "Aktion T-4" predates the Holocaust and the Wansee Conference. Zyklon-B gas was even used to eliminate those Germans, Jews and non-Jews alike, who had either mental or physical challenges, so it was somewhat of a precursor as to the horror that was going to be committed a few years later. To this day, no one knows how many Germans were killed under this program, but conservative estimates range at about 60,000 men, women, and children.

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 entered the 2013 Act One Screenwriting Competition because I had heard that Act One, for many years, as an organization, under the leadership of Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, had succeeded in creating an artist colony of writers, directors, and producers in Los Angeles who are Christian. And with a strong emphasis on excellence. I thought given my story and its characters, that it could do well. I was flabbergasted when I was announced as the Grand Prize winner in December 2013. The award money was very generous. As of my writing this, almost six years later, Act One is still going strong.

The script has done well in several other contests, and was recently the Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Big Apple Film Festival in New York City, under the auspices of festival directors Jonathan Lipp, and, Erica Rubin.

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, absolutely. Chris Dalton of Act One was phenomenal in keeping everyone posted, and even after the contest was over. And he got right on top of the cash award.

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 process is methodical, and takes time to do it right. I always write an outline. I spent over one year in research alone on the topic, and another five years before getting out a first draft that I was relatively pleased with. I have rewritten it several times since that point, which has reduced its page count. I was also fortunate to get the script into the hands of a wonderful script doctor in association with Act One, who is now deceased--the late Jack Gilbert, whose advice was precise and made perfect sense. I would say I've rewritten "Aktion T-4" over twenty times.

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

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

A: I always try to do something related to my writing, even if I'm not putting words on paper, so I'm constantly trying to build toward some story. When I do write, it typically is 2-3 hours a day, but it could be longer, depending on which day of the week it is. It can be all encompassing; the question one has to ask oneself is, "Am I spending the time wisely?" And, for me, "Is the story worth being told?" As I've gotten older, I recall a lyric in that great 1989 Bonnie Raitt song, "Nick of Time": "Life gets mighty precious, when there's less of it to waste." Try not to waste it. Seize the day.

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

A: No, I have written nothing but spec scripts, so I haven't found writer's block to be a problem. One luxury I've had with my writing is time, which other and more successful writers don't always have because of deadlines.

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

A: I've been a school teacher for many years; I'm a history junkie to boot.

I've written a total of approximately twenty-five screen and television scripts. Once upon a time, I knew exactly how many different stories I've written; but with the passage of time, that gets foggier. And I've been doing this for decades.

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

A: No, but I'd be willing to move if events fell into place.

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

A: Yes, I'm always working on a new script--typically either a faith-based story, or, historical.

Very best to my fellow screenwriters.

John Martins III

Posted Thursday, May 9, 2019