Interview with Dare to Scare Competition Winner and 77th Writer Signed
Congrats on winning! What's it been like since winning the Dare to Scare contest and getting signed with Schemers?
Thanks so much! To be honest, I’m still kind of coming down from a whirlwind of excitement. Dan and Gavin have been really wonderful so far, giving notes and advice to help make me a stronger writer. Even though I just signed with them last week, I’ve had multiple requests to read the script from different agents and producers who are looking for their next project. However, my head hasn’t been in the clouds. The day I found out I won, I was in the middle of working on a treatment for my next script, doing post-production on a proof-of-concept short film, editing another feature script, and working my day job. I was always told about the Hollywood hustle and now I’m living it! In short: it's been awesome.
Tell us a little about your winning script, The Complex. What was the genesis from idea to winning script?
The Complex was something I struggled with for some time. I had never written a horror or thriller feature before, but I had previously written and directed a horror short which placed in the Top 10 of 2010’s Universal Halloween Horror Night’s Film Festival. I hadn't gone near that genre since and in 2018, I decided I was ready for a challenge. The story stems from the inability to know who our neighbors are. We live in a world where everyone has a private and a public life. Things you see people post or share on social media or day-to-day interactions are not always the perfect reflection of who they are. I wanted to explore what could be happening right next door to you and you would never know. But I needed a bigger theme, something beyond just the monster living next door idea and I found it in dismantling toxic-masculinity and its affects on women. I wanted to explore the worst part of a male driven society, involving control, manipulation, abuse, and all the like, but with female protagonists that only want one thing: to be their own individual. All in all, there was no one thing that pushed the narrative forward, but instead an amalgam of everything that’s been going on, everything that is currently happening, and the dangers of turning a blind-eye to it all.
How long have you been writing? What made you want to write in the first place?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can honestly remember. When I was younger, I devoured books. I couldn’t stop, because I loved playing the “movie" in my head. Whatever the text said, I would imagine it so vividly that I could almost feel the story and that’s where my love of writing came from. I started in fourth grade, with a novella written in size thirty-two font, just so I could get enough pages out of it. In sixth grade, I became a published poet, but it wasn't until graduating high school that I realized what I really wanted out of my writing career: I wanted to give people that mental movie experience I had and the easiest way to do so was to just write a script. When I was seventeen, I locked myself in my room for three days and wrote arguably one of the worst screenplays ever written, but it was a start and I knew I could do it from then on out.
Is horror your preferred genre? What draws you to it?
Horror, as a genre, is really challenging for me. I feel as though horror and comedy are two genres that are often incredibly polarizing, and incredibly difficult to write, because they hinge on what is scary or funny to the individual rather than just broad strokes. It has to feel authentic, that’s the most important part of horror to me. Not necessarily realistic, but the world that is built has to be committed to. That’s where the best horror shines, when it can take an idea that may seem unrealistic, but relate it to audiences the world over. And that comes down to what draws me into horror and the stories that draw me in. The stakes need to be rooted in the human condition, which is something I like to explore in all of my works. I don’t necessarily have a preferred genre, it always depends on what best services the story. I don't think something like The Complex would be great for a musical adaptation, but it might be fun.
What are your favorite horror movies (series or books too)?
Most recently, my favorite horror movie was It Comes at Night. I think there's something so chilling about the long build to the conclusion that is harrowing in so many ways. The Thing and Jaws are classics that, despite being creature oriented, have a huge amount of depth and nuance to the characters; as well as some masterwork by the respective directors and creatives. For books, I’m a huge fan of the Hater trilogy by David Moody. I would love to adapt those novels, as they deal with the horror of a world ending, not due to nuclear apocalypse, but person vs person. It's brutal, bloody, and tragically human. I haven't found a series yet, but I’m starting Chernobyl and if you look at it through a certain lens, one could call it pretty horrific.
Who are the writers (horror or otherwise) that inspire you?
Two writers come to mind almost immediately: John Cleese and Aaron Sorkin. Cleese taught me that life is absurd and it’s okay to embrace that absurdity. Sorkin introduced me to realism, rhythm, and a reason to the words. If I had to call upon horror writers, I tend to look more in the literary world rather than that on screen. Edgar Allen Poe’s command of gothic poetry imparted a sense of beauty to horror, making me feel as though it wasn't about making someone feel unsettled or scared, but rather a broad spectrum of emotions to discover and unpack with each work. Finally, Mary Shelly… she’s just incredible. Her exploration of revenge through the eyes of an abandoned creation fighting for meaning against his creator is just fascinating and chilling.
Tell us three things you're currently digging.
I cannot stress this enough: Blockbuster. Not the rental house loved in the 90s, but instead a podcast about the rise of Spielberg and Lucas. It’s fictionalized, to a degree, with some interesting facts sprinkled throughout. It's a love letter to movies and Star Wars is what got me into wanting a career in the entertainment industry, so I can't hype it enough. It's an awesome show that deserves your attention. Only because I’m craving it now, but I’m a huge fan of the ramen craze that seems to have taken over Los Angeles and a lot of other cities. Not only is it usually much better than the stuff I can make at home, it has taught me how to elevate my ten cent package of ramen to make it taste like it’s worth fifty cents. Not too bad, if you ask me.
I’ve also really enjoyed seeing the city from a different perspective. Los Angeles is hardly a walker friendly metropolis and I’m usually stuck driving everywhere. However, I’ve been taking Birds/Limes, the electric scooters, out around the town and it’s just a fun way of seeing the world. I take my camera, gather a group of friends, and we just scoot around, stopping where we please. It reminds me of biking with the neighborhood kids. You aren’t sure where you’ll end up, but it’s an adventure regardless.
Where can we find you?
I'm in Los Angeles, always ready to grab a coffee or drinks, but if you want you can find me on Twitter and Instagram: @roebotwriter
And you can also find my independent production company on Facebook/Instagram: @souldrifterstudios or go to the website: www.souldrifterstudios.com