Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter John Martins

An interview with screenwriter John Martins regarding the Barcelona Festival Writing Competition.

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

A: "The Fourth Psalm" takes place during the 1980s, when Central Americans were attempting to immigrate to the United States due to civil wars in their native countries during the Reagan Administration. Many churches and synagogues were involved in creating an underground railroad into the United States to try and save lives of innocent people, many of whom were farmers. My story focuses on two Catholic priests, who struggle with each other in deciding to do the right thing in light of federal law. A basic tug-of-war between church and state.

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

A: Due to its political-religious nature, I have read that European sensibilities are drawn to those topics, hence the reason why I thought Barcelona in Spain would find it of some interest.

I've found other success with this script. It has been twice named a finalist with the We Screenplay, Diverse Voices Competition, both in 2018 and 2019; it was a top-three, honorable mention script with Circus Road in 2019, a drama finalist with the 2018 World Series of Screenwriting, and a top-6 drama finalist with Fresh Voices in 2018. I am very grateful for all of it.

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. Yes. Yes.

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 story behind this story is a lengthy one. I originally wrote "The Fourth Psalm" as a full-length theatrical play back in the mid-80s. I then adapted it into a radio drama in 2002-2003, for which it won the University of New Mexico's National Radio Play Competition (drama category) in association with KUNM Radio in Albuquerque. I then decided to adapt it a third time into a screenplay, and from there, re-wrote the script approximately twenty times before entering it in competitions, outlining it to flesh out its three acts.

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 did not use any software programs for this script.

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

A: I try to write every day when possible. The length of time depends on what else has to be done during my busy days. The less I have to do, the more I can write, or, at least THINK about writing and each story's components: character arc, scene and act structure, and the kind of resolution I think works best. What works, but maybe even more important, recognizing what doesn't work.

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

A: I typically don't get writer's block. I'll "wait out" a story until it I think it's best at where it is.

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

A: I've written numerous screenplays over several decades. I've also written two T.V. episodes, several one-act and full-length theatrical plays, and two (disastrous) novels. My failing at writing novels was an eye-opener, and definitely told me what I kind of writer I wasn't. The upside to that was I adapted one novel into another screenplay, which has done well in competitions, so it wasn't a total loss. I'm planning on adapting my other unpublished novel into a screenplay in the future.

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

A: No I don't, but if events were to fall into place, I'd be happy to.

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

A: Currently, I'm working on a historical screenplay, as well as rewriting another screenplay that I originally tackled decades ago. As a screenwriter, there's always something to do: writing, studying film, and reading anything I can get my hands on: screenplays, theatrical plays, novels, novellas, short stories, newspaper and magazine articles. Anything a screenwriter does can only help his or her craft.

Thank you, MovieBytes, for your terrific website.


Posted Thursday, July 25, 2019