Speaks Out (09.20.05)
Amy Neswald, winner of The
2005 Screenwriter's Challenge, won over $2,000
in cash and prizes. For details on The
congratulations on winning the 2005 Screenwriter's Challenge.
This year's competition attracted 336 writers from around the
world and winning both rounds of the challenge was no easy task.
you enter the 2005 Screenwriter's Challenge and what did you
hope to get out of it? Did you expect to win?
I ran into a friend of mine on the street who
told me about the screenwriter's challenge. I though it sounded
like fun and later that night, I found your site and decided to
enter. It was on a whim, and, no, I did not expect to win. I
thought it would be a fun challenge. I've been working a lot on
writing spec scripts and getting my writing speed up, so I
figured the challenge would help me see how far I'd come in that
Have you had success in other
I've had a little success with
previous projects. My screenplay, "Toast," won best screenplay
in a contest a few years ago, and placed as a finalist or
semi-finalist in about six other contests. Most recently, a spec
script I wrote for Nip/ Tuck was a semi-finalist in a
Where are you at now in your writing career and
what are your goals as a writer?
I'm still at the beginning of my
career as a writer. I don't yet have representation, and aside
from little jobs here and there, I have yet to be paid. On the
other hand, I feel my writing portfolio is very strong, and
getting stronger with every story I write. My goals as a writer
are very fluid. I know I want to make my living as a writer and
would love to write for television and film. Eventually, I'd
also like to direct. I love writing for visual mediums and I
love creating characters. Any job that would permit me to do
that full time and get paid for it would be a dream job.
In the competition, you received the comedy genre in the first
round and the fantasy genre in the finals. What genre(s) do
most prefer when writing your own material?
This is a funny question because its
something I've been thinking a lot about. I tend to drift
towards comedy. However, I've been feeling a pull to write
something completely out of my comfort zone, a thriller perhaps.
The only problem is that I have a really hard time killing my
characters, or having violent things happen to them. I start to
think about the aftermath, the counseling they'll need to get
over whatever traumatic event I put them through, whether
they'll break up with their spouses, if they'll start a steady
diet of ice cream and macaroni and cheese... I worry about them.
Do you write on a regular basis? What is your general approach
for writing a script, from idea to final draft?
I do write on a regular basis when I'm
working on a project. I think each script has its own way of
developing. At the start of each project, I always feel like
I've never written before and that I don't know what I'm doing.
At all. Generally, I start with a seed of an idea and sit with
that. From there, I develop my characters and the plot. Once I
have an idea of my protagonist and antagonist, where they work,
what's important to them, what they're trying to hide, I write
an outline. The outline takes me a long time and I revise it
often. Bits of dialogue and visual descriptions might come to me
and I write them down, but I try to get the story I want to tell
very clear before I write my first draft. And then, for my
second draft, I completely tear apart everything I've written
and put it back together in a (hopefully) stronger way. Its sort
of like sculpting. I whittle, rearrange, and get to know my
subjects. Then, one magical day, they take over the project and
I am merely the vessel through which they tell their stories. A
vessel with a computer. And screenwriting software. And spell
Besides the prizes, what did you take away from your experience
in The 2005 Screenwriter's Challenge?
I learned a lot about myself as a
writer. Having to write stories in such a short period of time
really made my tendencies towards certain characters and
subjects very clear. For instance, both of my screenplays for
the challenge had to do with people grasping at an opportunity
for love at the last possible moment. Both finish with endless
possibilities. It was surprising for me to see how strong a
theme this is in my writing.
Do you have any ongoing projects you would like to talk about?
I am currently rewriting the pilot
episode of a dramedy telelvision series I developed a few years
ago called "Tara's
Diary." Its a story about a woman, Tara, in her mid-thirties
who decides to become a high-end escort and her civilian
friend's, (recently divorced colorist, Sadie, and Matt, a
twenty-five year old Swing Dance teacher) quests for love and
sex. I'm also in the process of putting a reading together for
another short project called "Freaky Fruity and the Blue Fairy."
Closest to my heart is my last screenplay, "Mary Sunshine,"
about a guy named Clay, 34, an 'instructions' writer who says he
wants to switch to 'directions.' When Clay discovers that his
eccentric uncles asked him to visit his dying grandmother
because she's been asking for his dead father, he unwittingly
traverses the forest of family and finds himself.
NYC MIDNIGHT: What
advice would you give to all the aspiring writers out there?
Gosh. As I'm an aspiring writer
myself, I'm not sure that I have much advice to give! I find a
huge value in education and taking classes. I also try to be an
interesting and interested person. I really listen to what
people have to say and how they say it. My bread and butter job
is in the theater, and a few weeks ago, the director of the
piece I'm working on said something that resonated. He said,
"directing is a dilettante's paradise." I feel the same way
about writing. Where else can going to the zoo, learning to play
black jack, or taking a drawing class with a bunch of senior
citizens pay off? Lastly, I have a great group of girls with
whom I've formed a writer's group. I find it so helpful to have
outside eyes criticizing my work and encouraging me to write.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Will
you be back to defend your title in 2006?
I have no idea where
I'll be or what I'll be doing in a year, but I'd certainly like
to take the challenge again!