Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter John Martins

An interview with screenwriter John Martins regarding the New Hope 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 and right-wing death squads in their native countries. This was 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.

I am honored that New Hope bestowed "The Fourth Psalm" with their Script Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature.

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

A: After reading what New Hope's mission is, and how their festival welcomes story- and character-centered scripts with heart, I certainly felt "The Fourth Psalm" should have been submitted. I am so glad I did.

Most recently, "The Fourth Psalm" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Barcelona International Film Festival in Spain. Also, it has been twice named a finalist with the We Screenplay Diverse Voices Competition in 2018 and 2019. It was a top-three, honorable mention script with Circus Road in 2019, and a drama finalist with the 2018 World Series of Screenwriting, as well as a top-6 drama finalist with Fresh Voices in 2018. Deeply appreciative of 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. During the time of the Festival, their director, Douglas Whipple, was VERY forthcoming with information, keeping all participants in the loop, as well as taking time to correspond personally on a one-to-one basis. His leadership in all of this was, and is, very much appreciated by me. A wonderful human being. My gratitude also to Thomas Michael Mulligan, and, Mark Rosenthal, for all their hard work in assisting in the difficult endeavor of putting forth this wonderful film festival. From beginning to end, the entire festival ran like clockwork. The New Hope Film Festival is a first-rate festival.

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 second time into a screenplay, and from there, re-wrote the script approximately twenty times (always a personal rule), 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. Nothing personal. I started writing screenplays before software was introduced into the marketplace, and I'm a creature of habit.

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 involving my family. The less I have to do, the more I can write, or, at least THINK about writing regarding each story's components: character arc, scene and act structure, and the kind of resolution I think works best. What works, but perhaps even more importantly, 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 I think it's best at where it is. Being patient allows a writer to create a story where it grows organically from within you--your gut tells you where the story should settle, in part because you know your three-dimensional characters intimately, and how they will act and react in any given situation. Time helps nurture that.

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, the radio play I mentioned earlier, and two (disastrous) novels. My failing at writing novels was an eye-opener, and definitely told me what kind of writer I wasn't. The upside to that was I adapted one novel into another screenplay (using my tome as sort of an overwritten treatment), and, which has done well in several 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, screenwriting books, theatrical plays, novels, novellas, short stories, newspaper and magazine articles. Anything a screenwriter does can only help his or her craft. Not only do you have to be insatiable; you have to WANT to be insatiable.

Very best.

Posted Tuesday, July 30, 2019