Write of Passage Screenwriting Competition Winner Interview 2018

by Erik Baker from Astoria, NY
with help from Development Executive Owen Kingston

As a couple separates, they find connecting advice from their 3rd grade selves.

Read it here!

Erik Baker

Erik wrote the best 12-page screenplay in one week (168 hours) with an advisor called a Development Executive (DE). Both are interviewed below.

Prizes include $750 cash ($500 to the writer, $250 to the DE), introductions to Hollywood Pros, including Brian Bird ("The Case For Christ" and “When Calls The Heart”).

Any WP script may be produced for the 168 Film Festival's Write of Passage Spotlight.  Writers and mentors (DE's) receive screen credit if their film is made.

Some Quotes From This Interview:

“I Googled some equivalent of ‘God should I write films?’ and found the site somewhere in the midst, liked the DE format and decided to give it a week of my life.”  -- Erik Baker

“The contest process was the ultimate setup in God’s tailored redemption for my life. While I was writing a story about redemption, I was being redeemed!” -- Erik Baker

“A good deal of this piece was crafted on the subway, to & from work.” -- Erik Baker

“I do have a long history of being a stupid adult, so there’s plenty of material to draw upon.”  -- Erik Baker

“If God gave you a gift to write, then like all gifts from God that is irrevocable.” -- Owen Kingston

“An immersive theatre show I wrote/directed earlier in the year is getting turned into a computer game. It’s an exciting time to be a writer.”  -- Owen Kingston

The interviewer is John David Ware (JDW).

EB” is Erik BakerOK” is Owen Kingston.
We asked some probing questions and got probing answers.


JDW: Tell us about yourself. What do you do for work?

EB: I am a SAG-AFTRA/AEA actor with an Electrical Engineering degree. One of those led to me to web programming jobs in the entertainment industry. One feeds the family, and the other I plug away at. :)
On the side, I referee ice hockey in Central Park. In the past, I’ve taught in the Bronx and Queens public school system. With three awesome kids (Brendan 17, Kara 4 & Ty 2), there’s travel hockey and ballet and school activities & potty training & playgrounds nearly every night and weekend, so writing gets squeezed between jobs and family responsibilities. A good deal of this piece was crafted on the subway, to & from work.

JDW: How did you learn about WP &168?

EB: I originally entered the 2013 contest and enjoyed the experience. That was the first writing competition I had ever entered. It was a time of searching, so turning to search tools, I Googled some equivalent of “God should I write films?” and found the site somewhere in the midst, liked the DE format and decided to give it a week of my life.

JDW: Besides the verse, what was your inspiration for this year’s best screenplay, “How Not To Be A Stupid Adult?”

EB: Well, I do have a long history of being a stupid adult, so there’s plenty of material to draw upon. At some point I wondered what the kid with big dreams and optimism would say to the flawed adult he’d become. I had two ideas that I really loved. I outlined both, but just felt pulled in by the character Kyra. She kind of led the way.

JDW: How did this year’s theme hit you?  Describe the journey?

EB: Like a ton of life bricks. The “Rebirth” theme hit hardest the morning after I turned in the piece. On the surface, How Not To Be A Stupid Adult, is a contest between a couple’s currently failing marriage and their formative childhood friendship. Winner: The Kids!
Their journal entries and the re-lived events were--unknowingly--planted by God in their childhood to give them a lifeline now.  The flawed characters ultimately get a Christian message; yet God, Christ, and the church are never mentioned.
This led to personal questions for me. How often do I fail to credit God in my life for these kinds of setups? Wait a minute, how many times, just this past week, did He throw in setups that made the final product (my edification) possible?
Turns out, the contest process was the ultimate setup in God’s tailored redemption for my life. While I was writing a story about redemption, I was being redeemed!

JDW: How do you see the verse in your story?

EB: Pain. Growing up is painful. Teenage years are painful. By adulthood we’ve developed sophisticated encapsulations to mitigate pain. Yet every day I see my two- & four-year-olds cry it out and get back to playing 30 seconds later. There is a simplicity that exists that we need constant reminding to get back to. These flashbacks give the characters a chance to save their marriage.

JDW: How are you planning to shape the story going forward? Any plans to make the film?

EB: A little clean up is in order. My wife and I would like to make the film. We have a production company.

JDW: Tell us about your family and where you live. How has your environment and family shaped your writing? What obstacles have you had to overcome in life? How have they helped your writing?

EB: I’ve been in New York City for 20 years. My wife is my best friend & better, more talented half. She’s my writing enabler, as she takes on the lion’s share of kid duties whenever I get to write. She’s also the best editor on earth. Period. The Sunday of the contest we interrogated every line together. She’s also behind me as I’m in month two of a “Writing Binge-worthy TV” Bootcamp. I start a year-and-a-half long screenwriting certification program in February. We’re moving to California shortly to be closer to her family and to pursue writing, acting, film-making and theatre full-time.
I’ve had a few hardships, but without them I wouldn’t be writing now and the work wouldn’t be as good. (God setups: Check!) I was forced to give up acting for about 10 years for family reasons, and turned to writing as a creative outlet. Turns out it takes a whole lot less people, and I can cast myself in the role. :)  Being around my kids as much as possible, beats any classes in acting or writing.
My wife & I continue to work, pray and hope there’s more opportunities coming our way.

JDW: Tell us about your pursuit of the arts?

EB: I’ve been a union actor for more years than I'll define here. A little singing & dancing spliced in over the years. I turned away from electrical engineering (the darkside), but it's my 'first language'. I think it still informs the architecture of my stories & lends a problem-solving hand in character development.

JDW: How did your Mentor/Development Executive, help shape your story?

EB: Owen was awesome, encouraging at the right moments throughout the week. He especially helped in choosing the concept when I was going back-and-forth in indecision. He was self-less. He gave great fundamental advice, but said he wasn’t going to tinker with the work itself for the sake of putting his imprint on the piece.

JDW: Tell us about your writing process.

EB: Splatter ideas on a page. Hone, hone, hone the concept & logline. See if it’s something worth
writing. Test it out on my wife. Pray on it here & there. I use Scrivener to think, architect & first draft. Then pull it into Final Draft for polish. If it’s something I personally feel charged about, keep working on it. Pray a little more that someone other than my wife & I finds it valuable.

JDW: What are your plans for the future?

EB: Write. Full time. Act if it comes my way. I’m developing a binge-worthy fantasy-horror series that my wife and I will start marketing in January. With a few God setups, it’ll take off or lead to the one that does.

Interview with Winning Development Executive - 

Owen Kingston from London, England

JDW:  Where are you from and what do you do?

OK: I’m from London, UK, and I’m a writer and director. I’ve done plenty of filmmaking in the past, including for the 168, but currently I’m the Artistic Director of an immersive theatre company.  For example, I recently directed “For King and Country,” a WW2 era drama involving the defense of England from a Nazi invasion. The play is immersive and interactive and truly responsive to decisions made by the audience.  You get to walk in the shoes of Churchill and Roosevelt and make big decisions about the course of the war. Then you see those decisions play out before you for better or worse.

JDW: You are frequent participant in WOP and 168.  What have you learned?  Do you still find it useful?

OK: Absolutely yes. Every single time I participate I learn a bunch of stuff.

JDW: Tell us about your writing philosophy and process.

OK: I believe that it’s pointless going forward with a mediocre idea. If you’re going to invest a ton of time and energy into writing something, then only do that with an idea that’s really special. Then you need to get the structure right - a mediocre idea is massively improved with good structuring, but a good idea can be completely sunk with a lousy structure. Finally you need to not be lazy. I believe all writers are inherently lazy - including myself. Writing is hard, so we all like to cut corners when we can. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received (doing WOP as a contestant, as it happens) was to put aside your first draft and write the second completely from scratch. That way you ensure you get at least two approaches to every aspect of your screenplay. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really only a lot of effort, and it’s amazing how much it improves your screenplay.

JDW: What do you see as some differences between telling stories in your region vs. other places?

OK: British people are pretty intolerant of sentimental stuff. I have no idea why that is, but it’s a real thing. We can also have quite a dark sense of humor. It’s odd because in many ways Britain is quite close to the US marketplace but there are also a few unexpected and sizeable differences. A bit like the differences in language, really.

JDW: How is the tolerance for things of Christ in the media where you are?

OK: There is a hypersensitivity in some areas to content from any religion, but there are also those who are particularly hostile to Christianity having media exposure. Often it is people who are working in the arts and media sectors who are particularly sensitive to this.

A couple of years back, I remember reading an article in which an Artistic Director of a major British theatre was quoted as saying that the most politically and socially controversial thing a theatre could stage in Britain today would be a Passion play. People in this country, even Christians, do not tolerate overtly Christian artistic content well at all. Many would see it as poisonous or an attempt at brainwashing.

JDW: What have you learned? What would you tell young writers about your experiences?

OK: Great ideas are precious, but not as precious as you might think. If God gave you a gift to write, then like all gifts from God that is irrevocable. If you sit down to write one day, and knock out a great piece of writing, don’t do that thing where you say, “Oh, it was all God.”  It wasn’t. It was you, operating in the gift He has given you.

Be thankful to him for that gift, but also recognize that you can operate in that gift anytime you need to. If you deleted that great piece of writing you just produced, you could produce another one just like it or better tomorrow. I’ve seen some writers (myself included) get overly reverential about things they have written that they felt were specially inspired, like they couldn’t produce something like that again because God magically wrote through their fingers.

Honestly I think that’s borderline idolatry - only the Bible gets that special ‘divinely inspired’ status in my view. You just wrote some good writing out of the gift God gave you, and you know what? You can do that again any time you like... with a bit of effort.

JDW: What are your plans for the future?

OK: At the moment immersive theatre is my main area of work, and more broadly than that non-linear storytelling. An immersive theatre show I wrote/directed earlier in the year is getting turned into a computer game, which as far as we are aware is a world first, and it’s because the non-linear nature of the story works so well in a digital setting. I think the way we tell stories is changing very quickly, and I’m enjoying being at the bleeding edge of that change. It’s an exciting time to be a writer.

No comments: