In the fall of 2016, one of my MFA professors sat me down in his office and told me something complimentary about my newest story I had recently turned into his class. “You’re writing is super cinematic,” he said. “I could visualize the movie in every scene.” And then he asked me a question I never could have expected: “Have you ever thought about writing a screenplay?”
I laughed, I couldn’t help myself. Yes, I had thought about writing a screenplay. I’d done a little more than that, as a matter of fact.
Between 2001 and 2010 I wrote seven feature-length screenplays and probably thirty to forty short screenplays, many of which I turned into movies. I made short films all throughout high school, culminating into a 92-minute feature film I made over the course of eight months during my senior year.
After that, I studied film production at Loyola Marymount University for four years, making a ton of short movies, including a documentary about actors I made in Germany, and a senior year thesis horror film I shot on 16mm.
When my film school experience ended in 2007, I continued making movies, and also wrote three feature-length screenplays I submitted to contests in 2008 and 2009.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I wrote my first novel, Slate, and turned my full creative attention to fiction writing. In early 2011 I left Los Angeles and returned to Reno, and ever since I have been working on novels and short stories, pitching my work to agents and editors.
I left my film work behind — for good.
Outside of the occasional film production class for teenagers I’ve taught in Reno, as well as a couple of films I made during my graduate school experience, my work in both movie production and screenwriting were behind me. I didn’t even let myself think about writing another screenplay. There was never a temptation. Never a fleeting thought about trying it again. My focus was to remain on fiction, and only fiction.
My feeling about the matter was that I had left L.A., and by driving out of that city, I had officially kissed good-bye to any potential career in the film world. And I was okay with that. As long as I was telling stories, and being creative every single day, I was happy. And the world of fiction has been more than fulfilling.
It’s been a way of life for nearly a decade.
So when this professor asked me this question, I simply told him about my film school experience, and that I had written a few screenplays over the years, but that lately my sole focus was fiction writing. He said he understood, but that I should at least consider giving screenwriting another try. He said he thought I could be great at it. I told him I didn’t live in L.A. anymore, so what would be the point? He said he had sold a few scripts over the years, and that he, of course, lived in Reno, and not Los Angeles. He said it was harder to get screenplays sold when you’re not in L.A., but certainly not impossible, and that if I wrote consistently excellent work and pitched the right managers and entered the right contests, I could absolutely get noticed.
I left the meeting and sat down for lunch and thought about the possibility of writing a screenplay for the first time in six years. The last time I had spent time writing and revising a script had been March 2010, right before I moved on to writing my first novel in April and May of the same year.
I surfed the web. Read probably twenty articles about the same subject: Can you be a screenwriter if you don’t live near Hollywood? Most of them, of course, say it’s difficult. That if you’re serious about screenwriting, you need to live in L.A., no ifs, ands, or buts.
But the articles pointed out plenty of talented screenwriters who live in different parts of the country, even a few who live in other countries, who have sold scripts over the years and had their work turned into movies.
I shoved my elbows against the table and thought about it for a few minutes.
Could I? Should I?
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