Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Jack Bennett

An interview with screenwriter Jack Bennett regarding the Horror Screenplay Writing Competition.

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

A: Blood of Retaliation: God and the Devil fight for the soul of a man whose horrific childhood memories surface as he struggles to clear himself of a murder.

"Hell doesn't forgive or forget... it gets even."

I'd like to think the Logline tells you everything but they rarely do, that's why I tried to write a great synopsis. And I'm not convinced it's great but I will tell you I've probably rewritten that synopsis over 100 times.

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

A: I know it sounds simple but it's a Horror Script and the contest is: "Horror Screenplay Contest."

I've entered other contests with Horror Categories but because my script is a little off the beaten path in terms of storytelling, I don't think those readers, "GOT IT."

Because all this contest focused on was Horror, I thought they would get it and I was right, they did.

When I did my research I saw they've been around a few years, had some good reviews.

I also entered in the WSF - Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum Contest in 2010 and finished in the top three which was a great motivator. With that confidence and many more rewrites I sought out another contest.

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: Absolutely. That's why I am writing this review. You read so many horror stories (no pun intended) about contests that have little or no communication. I too have entered my share of those so as a screenwriter we are always suspect. But Mike and his group are second to none.

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: Great question, I was going back to some old drafts (which I always keep) I see the oldest complete draft was 2005 but the idea came to me about a year before that.

I am not an outline kind of writer, which is a problem. This script would have benefited from an outline because as I said, it’s told non-linear and so there were times when scenes got lost.

How many drafts? At least a 1000 if you count the ones in my head! Honestly, there are a lot of drafts that never get completed, meaning I write the draft, then go back through and rewrite up to say, page 60, then go back and do a complete rewrite so there were lots of drafts of drafts.

Completed rewrites, probably 15-20.

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: Final Draft... period. I wrote my first sitcom pilot on Word and after that nightmare immediately bought one of the first versions of FD I've never looked back.

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

A: No. I have a real job! But when I do write, it is a solid 3-5 hours at a crack. That may not seem like a lot or enough but it works.

Here's what really helps. Networking. There are great websites like yours that can give aspiring writers a lot of tips, skills and most of all, hope. I also belong the Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum. Ken Miyamoto is the president It's a group that meets once a month in Madison WI, but has members all over the country. I don't get to as many meetings as I would like but the people in the group are really helpful.

It's like 50 bucks a year and they have a great critique service modeled after a studio readers form. Ken and several others in the group have been instrumental in my growth as a writer. And that's what we all need... someone to tell us what's up.

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

A: Oh yes. And when I do, there is only one way out... I don't write. Seriously I walk away for a day or a week and then come back at it. I have an Action Thriller with a female lead. It has a mixture of Science fiction and real science that has me completely confused.

It is a combination of not knowing enough about the actual science as well as having a few to many ideas working at the same time. So I put the script down about two months ago and won't look at it for another month at least. I really have to separate myself from it.

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

A: I have been an actor for over 25 years and done over 300 different gigs from VO work to Industrial training films to a few movies parts and reality shows. But in my real life I spent a long time in the car business. I was one of those people who said, I could write a movie and star in it. It worked for Stallone.

Anyhow the first draft of my car movie was terrible which was sad because I actually have relatives and contacts in the business that were there to help. Not that I didn't want their help, I just didn't know how the whole business worked and if I would have been smarter, I would be way ahead. For example I got to talk to Theresa Wayne (yes John's Granddaughter) on the phone and it didn't go well. Simply because I didn't know what the heck I was talking about and people at that level don't have much time or patience for an idiot. It was a real eye opener. So to make a long story longer, which I usually do, I just kept at it. That movie script morphed into "MOTOR CITY SALES," A sitcom pilot. Then I actually shot a 35 minute demo and a year later an 8 minute demo which was much better.

My second script was based on a true story of my uncle who nearly died in a workplace accident 2-months before he was supposed to get married but he made a miraculous recovery. I wrote that script and TNT was close but they went with a different script.

I have a total of 6 completed screenplays, and two completed sitcom pilots.

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

A: No, I live in the Midwest but my son lives in San Diego so I get there as often as I can and been to LA dozens of times. I love it there. Everything about it. My dad used to say, "People aren't tripping over themselves to get there for no reason."

When there, I'm always trying to meet people, audition, hit a workshop or seminar.

I have an Attorney in Santa Monica who makes submissions for me. I can make the move and not have to work so I am actively trying to find a manager or agent who would really dig in and work with me, not for me. Help me grow as an artist. If I find that, I would make the move.

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

A: I am really concentrating on two things. Getting this script into the right hands and getting my sitcom into the right hands. Breaking into TV is the toughest thing imaginable for a lot of reasons. I've sent queries to some great actors, actresses and Showrunners many of whom have requested the script, character descriptions storylines and more... so I am cautiously optimistic.

In the meantime I'll stick to the 8-rules of screenwriting. 1. Rewrite 2. Rewrite 3. Rewrite 4. Rewrite 5. Rewrite 6. Rewrite 7. Rewrite 8. Rewrite.

Posted Tuesday, February 7, 2012