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Screenwriter Interviews

Writers: If you've finished first, second, or third in any screenwriting competition listed on MovieBytes, we'd like to interview you! First, make sure the contest results for the year you won are posted on MovieBytes, including your name, so we can verify your submission. Then submit our online interview form for that contest. We'll notify you via email when your interview has been posted.

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Jonathan LaPoma

An interview with screenwriter Jonathan LaPoma regarding the Chicago Screenplay Contest Writing Competition.

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

A: My script THE WAY BACK HOME won 3rd place in the drama category of the 2014 Chicago Screenplay Competition.

THE WAY BACK HOME is a 101 page coming-of-age drama about a young, animal-loving boy who must cope with his father's insistence that he'll someday work at the slaughterhouse that's employed the men of their family for several generations.

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 entered this contest because it got great scores on its Movie Bytes Report Card.

I have entered this script in other competitions, and it's won the following honors:

-TableRead my Screenplay, 2014 (Sundance), Semi-Finalist -WriteMovies, 2014, Quarter Finalist -Indie Gathering Film Festival, 2014, Honorable Mention

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: So far, I've been satisfied with the administration of this contest. They announced the results via email when they said they would (7/31), and included detailed instructions on how to obtain an award certificate and trophy, if desired (the trophy is for purchase).

On August 4th, they sent another email informing me that I won a free lifetime subscription to Scripped Pro, and that I'm "...scheduled to receive additional prizes." I'm looking forward to getting those.

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

A: I wrote the first draft of THE WAY BACK HOME in about five days, but I'd been developing the story in my mind for about a month before I started writing it.

I did write an outline beforehand, but it was nothing more than a brief listing of major plot points and general scenes. Typically, I don't like to get very detailed with my outlines; I prefer to let the story come to me when I write my first draft, and this is what I did with THE WAY BACK HOME.

After reading the first draft, I had a much better understanding of the story, and I wrote a more focused second draft. I ended up doing about four total drafts, and the whole project took me about a month and a half to finish.

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.

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

A: I see writing as more of a process than the mere act of putting words to paper. I may not write every day in the traditional sense, but I do "write" daily in that I'm always thinking about new story ideas, always running old stories through my head, always jotting down jokes or interesting bits of dialogue that I might use in a future story, always reading the work of others and gaining new tools to use with my own writing...

I do try to physically write words onto paper as much as possible, but I don't have a formal routine for doing so. Usually when I do write, I can finish projects quickly because I've spent so much time ruminating on the story, that it all comes together once I start typing.

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

A: I find it amusing that this question has been the most difficult for me to answer. I do experience writer's block at times, but if I get stuck on any particular story, I'll usually just move onto something else, whether it be writing a poem or a song, or outlining a new screenplay. I believe this method for overcoming a "block" is consistent with my idea of writing being a process--that getting blocked is simply a part of being creative and isn't something to fear.

Whenever I feel my creativity waning, I try to relax and listen to my thoughts, and understand what they're telling me. It's often in these times that I come up with my best ideas. John Lennon got the inspiration for "Nowhere Man" by reflecting on his own writer's block. I believe that embracing blocks can become a powerful force to help drive creativity.

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

A: I've been a teacher for nine years.

I've written four other award-winning feature-length screenplays: A NOBLE TRUTH, DELLWOOD, SOFI'S JOURNEY, and LA TIERRA QUE YO AMO (LAND THAT I LOVE)*. I've created a profile for each on the "Winning Scripts" section of the Movie Bytes website.

*co-written with Natalia Porras Sivolobova.

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

A: No, but I do live in San Diego, so I'm close. I don't have any plans to move there, but I do feel that is the direction I'll be headed within the next few years.

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

A: I've already started on the outline for a new screenplay, and have about three or four more ideas I'd like to develop when I finish that one.

On top of screenwriting, I'm a novelist, songwriter, and poet. One of my novels is set to be published in the spring, so I've been working on getting that ready, and I'm also looking to put together a band sometime soon.

Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014

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