Interview with award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Calhoun

After sharing his fun guest post, Finishing Your Script by Defeating Act Two, Geoffrey Calhoun kindly took the time to answer my questions about his writing practice and his business We Fix Your Script. His answers are full of great information. Make sure to follow the links to learn more about his favorite books, authors and websites. I’m going to thank him up here because I like the interview ending with his advice for new writers. Thank you, Mr. Calhoun, for sharing your time and experience.

Geoffrey Calhoun

 

Geoffrey D. Calhoun  has optioned several screenplays and has worked as a writer on two features coming out in 2017 “The Little Girl” and “Studio 5.” His multi-award winning thriller “Pink Bunny” is scheduled for a 2018 release. Geoffrey has won multiple screenwriting awards and has worked as a producer, an assistant director, and director on indie film productions.

 

First, thank you for your guest post, I noticed people have been re-tweeting it and liking it on Good Reads.

That’s fantastic! I’m really glad people enjoy it. I love this craft and writing about it. It’s important for us as writers to pass down what little tidbits of knowledge we’ve learned for the up and comers. Just like our mentors did for us.

When did you first know you were a writer?

Jeez, that’s a tough one. I guess it was quite by accident really. I had a coworker who moonlighted as an editor for a local kids show. One day he just walked up and challenged me to see who could come up with a better treatment for a script. I secretly have a bit of a competitive streak in me. So I accepted. That night I went home and learned how to become a screenwriter. Eventually we compared stories and I won. That was the end of it, until my wife read the treatment and suggested I do the script. I confessed that I really enjoyed the process. I’ve never stopped since. As a side note, that script was actually optioned at one point but never made it to production.

Do you write every day? Tell us (me and my readers) a little about your writing practice.

I do. In one form or another. When I am actively working on an assignment then it’s a minimum of four hours a day for writing. When I’m not on assignment, then I am constantly developing stories. I can’t give you an approximate time spent on this because it’s all of the time. Perfecting and developing a story is always on my mind whether I’m grocery shopping or actively mind mapping. I keep note pads all over my home and in my car so I can jot down ideas.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

Music. When I am writing I have to have music playing. Right now my son is practicing his baritone, so I can write while he plays, but otherwise I pull up a customized playlist. I have specific tracks I listen to when I want to write a specific emotion to a scene. If I don’t have music on, it’s more of a struggle.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Honestly, with my peers. When I want to clarify an idea, I pick one of a handful of people that I trust. I will chat with them and bounce ideas until something sticks. They are a sounding board. They’ll tell me what’s crap and what’s genius. The myth that a writer sits alone at computer and creates brilliance one key stroke at a time is a lie. No one does that. Sure we do the work, create the character, and story, but every great writer has a few friends that they turn to and clarify their ideas with. It’s usually done over a casual drink or lunch. But it’s done. Anyone that says otherwise isn’t telling the truth.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

Syd Field. This man is one of founders of modern screenwriting. I had read a lot of how to books before I got to his book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. His was the first book that really opened my eyes to story and the importance of structure. It changed my writing. To this day I read it every year and still learn something new.

Who are your favorite authors?

With novelists I’d say a gentleman by the name of R. A. Salvatore. He’s written a thirteen book series within a fantasy realm that is fantastic called “The Legend of Drizzt.” I’ve read all of them. As a screenwriter I’d say David S. Goyer, Christopher McQuarrie, and Jonathan Nolan. These guys are masters at their craft and are what I aspire to be.

What are your favorite books?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The smart humor in that book has seeped into my writing style.

For screenwriting it would be Screenplay by Syd Field. “How to Write a Screenplay” by Viki King and “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier. I still reference all of these books to this day.

What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

John August’s. His is great. It keeps you up to date on the latest changes in screenwriting. Screencraft, I visit their blog. They talk about a lot of the struggles that screenwriters face. Stage 32 is another website that is nice to go on and get support from other writers.

Let’s talk about We Fix Your Script (really nice looking website btw):

Thank you 😊

WeFixYourScript.com

What inspired you to start this business?

Having been in this business for awhile now I felt it was time to stand up and give a supportive voice for the indie screenwriter. I think back to all of the times I had paid for and received coverage from “professionals” and more times than not it was filled with vile comments. Never positive or supportive. It was brutal. I would get feedback telling me that I would never make it. Some would be offended that they had to read my work.

To me, this is unacceptable. This bullying attitude of arrogance that can be found in our industry has to stop. To tell someone that they’ll never make it and to slander their work is wrong. That writer came to you seeking help. They put their soul into that script and you tell them it’s a terrible piece of garbage and they are wasting their time. How dare you? Sure this writer may just be starting out. Yes they need help. So why not help them? Mentor them.

I’ve seen great writers, people with serious potential, walk away from our craft because they couldn’t take the criticism anymore. I can’t stand by and let that happen. I founded this website to offer a safe place for a writer to bring their work, where they know they will be supported and treated with respect. We won’t just dog your work to make ourselves feel superior. We will help you become better at our craft and provide creative ways to make your script great. Think of us as mentors.

We Fix Your Script has an impressive group of consultants. How did you all get together / find each other?

I’m lucky to have found a great crew that shares the same vision for this service as I do. I’ve met all of them while I toured the country with my multi-award winning script “Pink Bunny.” Over time this idea had been brewing in the back of my head of starting this service for the indie writer. I’ve vetted all of our writers to make sure they have the best of standards and every single one of them is just an amazing and beautiful person. I couldn’t be luckier.

Tell us about how We Fix Your Script works. At what stage in the writing process would we contact you? We’ve ordered a product, what happens next?

We have options for any stage of the writing process. If you just have an idea and you need to develop it more then you can get a one on one session with a consultant and work it out over skype. We call that our development package. If you’ve written a short script/feature/web-series and need feedback, we do that as well, but we take it a step further. Not only do you get comprehensive notes but we also give you a one on one skype session with your award winning and produced consultant that specializes in your genre. Say you want us to do a rewrite or need grammar and formatting fixed, we do that as well, on a case by case basis. We cover all of your screenwriting needs.

You’ve won many awards for script writing (there’s a list in your bio on WeFixYourScript.com):

Yes, I’ve been very blessed.

How did you choose which contests to enter?

Film Freeway is great. They give you reviews on each contest. You can also use the ISA International Screenwriting Association as well. They even offer discounts on contests. Between the two I was able to figure out where I wanted to enter.

Any advice for putting together a winning submission?

Screenplays for contests can be very different than ones you want to sell. If you are looking to put together a winning script, I would suggest something character driven with an interesting concept that really grabs the reader. I would also recommend that you play around with your structure a bit. Do what ever you can, to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. For instance, “Pink Bunny” is a Rashomon styled thriller that really bends reality at a few points but the characters are so interesting that it keeps you around for the long haul. But if I wrote a summer blockbuster, it would be dead in the water in a contest. Also, I have to say this: make your script perfect in every way, whether it be grammar, format, or structure. A perfect script with a cool concept and deep characters will land you in the top 10 percent of most contests.

Are you working on any enticing new stories you can tell us about?

I just finished an assignment for a popular TV channel but unfortunately mums the word on that one. I was also hired to rewrite two scripts that are moving into production this year. Which is exciting. I’m currently in negotiations to have one of my scripts optioned.

And just for fun:

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I love family time. We can be hanging out at home or grabbing a bite to eat. Doesn’t matter as long as I’ve got them around.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I’m a dog person. Right now, my greyhound that we saved from a racing track is asleep next to me. That’s what she does, nap. The fastest couch potato on earth and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Final question:

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

Don’t give up. Screenwriting is about the long game. It’s about sticking with it and perfecting our craft. Remember, it takes, on average, ten years to become an overnight success.

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Power through Act 2: Tricks and Tips for finishing your story.

Today we have a special treat, a guest post from award winning script writer and founder of WeFixYourScript.com, Geoffrey Calhoun. His advice applies to all writers milling about in the middle of their stories.

WeFixYourScript.com

Finishing Your Script by Defeating Act Two

We’ve all been there. Stuck. Not sure where to go. Our lead characters milling about as they are lost in act two. Suffering in their own purgatory, begging us to usher them to act three. Do we cheat and jump a few sharks or dig some plot holes to get them there? NO! We will not allow that. We know better (cue rousing war speech soundtrack). We shall not stoop to that level. We shall not let our script be damned by desperation and deadlines. We shall not save the cat…because WE ARE SPARTA! (sorry, got a little excited) WE ARE SCREENWRITERS!!!

Then what do we do? Give up? Hell no! We get creative, and use a few tricks. Let’s get started. Everyone gets stuck. It’s normal. If you are a writer and don’t get stuck during your work then I’m going to pray for you. Because one, you’re not human (possibly a robot overlord) and two, your work is probably overly outlined which can result in a work that lacks a special spark.

Getting stuck is the worst, most annoying, terrible, frustrating, anxiety inducing, best, amazing, and euphoric thing that can happen to a writer. Many writers do extensive outlines to avoid getting stuck. This does work, but can end up giving you a story that is stale and lacks a certain creativity to it. We are not those people. We write from the heart. We pour ourselves onto the page. I’m a firm believer in writing a mini-outline, which is no more than 15 lines and minimally filled out. Then I begin my script and practically throw the outline away (I ignore it). I have a general idea of where I want to go and I let myself get there by allowing my inner creative spark to flourish. Inevitably it creates something amazing and beautiful. But eventually you can get stuck. Which happens around act two. That’s where everyone gets stuck btw. Writing through act two and not giving up is what separates a Youngling from a Jedi (I went there).

Mind Map

So, we’re stuck in act two. No biggie. Time for some free-form thought. I mind map. It’s fun. You put an idea (plot) into a bubble then branch out from those ideas which in turn have branches from those ideas and soon you’ve filled a page in twenty minutes with some pretty killer stuff. See the great thing about this is that my mini-outline gives me a general idea of where I need to go. Having that thought in my head while I mind map gives me direction. This approach forces you to creatively go to different places than you expected it. Which brings out that inner spark and makes your script more original and less predictable. So basically better.

 

Now that we’ve learned a nice trick on how to get out of a creative slump, let’s discuss a mysterious and ancient technique that we are already using. Many writers don’t realize what this technique is really used for. Are you ready…wait for it…SUBPLOTS. Yep. The big mystery is solved. You’re already using these. I’m not just talking about your B-plot which has tragically been downgraded to love stories (it’s actually the heartbeat of your script) but actual subplots. These are the added meat that get you through act two. Which is why they come in late act one and are resolved in early act three. Use your subplots with your supporting character. It does double duty this way. The supporting character gets developed more and we beef up our act two. You can even use a subplot that focuses on your antagonist as well. Oh man! Now we’ve got our main plot/the B-plot/a subplot with our supporting character/ and another subplot with our antagonist. 4 plots! Holy crap! We are going to be chewing through the pages of act two!

Now do your mini-outline, bust out some mind maps, throw in some killer subplots, and get out there.

Act two is the death star (oh no he’s going full star wars mode) you are Luke as he barrels down that narrow trench, your nav computer is your outline that you have to let go of, your mind map is the force…fire away. BOOM!

Great shot kid, now don’t get cocky

-Geoffrey D. Calhoun

Geoffrey is listed as a top 100 indie-writer Geoffrey Calhounin the world. He is a multi award winning and produced writer that is the founder or wefixyourscript.com.

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