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Articles > Amy Neswald Speaks Out (9/20/05)




Amy Neswald, winner of The 2005 Screenwriter's Challenge, won over $2,000 in cash and prizes. 




Amy Neswald





NYC MIDNIGHT:  First, 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.  Why did you enter the 2005 Screenwriter's Challenge and what did you hope to get out of it?  Did you expect to win?

AMY: 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 respect.


NYC MIDNIGHT:  Have you had success in other competitions/festivals?

AMY:  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 competition.


NYC MIDNIGHT:  Where are you at now in your writing career and what are your goals as a writer?


AMY:  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.


NYC MIDNIGHT:  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?

AMY:  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.


NYC MIDNIGHT:  Do you write on a regular basis?  What is your general approach for writing a script, from idea to final draft?

AMY:  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 check.


NYC MIDNIGHT: Besides the prizes, what did you take away from your experience in The 2005 Screenwriter's Challenge?


AMY:  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.

NYC MIDNIGHT:  Do you have any ongoing projects you would like to talk about?

AMY:   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?

AMY:   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?


AMY:  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!




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