FilmMakers.com / The Radmin Company 2003 Screenwriting Competition

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Whit Rummel

Fourth Place
 
Winner

Whit Rummel
of Chapel Hill,
NC
Screenplay
THE SECRET BOY
Psychological Suspense
Biography: After graduating from film school in Boston, Whit began his career directing films and videos for corporate/industrial clients. Several years and hundreds of programs later, he sold his production company and moved to small-town life in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife and son. He continues to do work for a limited number of corporate customers in Boston and LA but tries to spend most of his time writing.

Interview

I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter ....

I watched a scratchy old 16MM print of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in my junior high auditorium. I was totally mesmerized, transfixed and transformed. It was two hours that changed my life. Right then I knew -- I wanted to make movies when I grew up. 

I know I've succeeded....

What other answer is there? When I start selling my scripts and they get made into movies.

My inspiration to write THE SECRET BOY.....

came to me in a flash when I picked my young son up from school on 9/11/01. The first thing he asked me when he got in the car was, "When are things going to get back to the way they were before?" I guess you could say that in some weird way this script is my attempt to answer his question, even though the story has nothing to do with those horrible events. 

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FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Whit Rummel: After years of directing corporate/industrial programming, I began to feel I wanted something more out of my life and career. That's when I told myself to get off my butt and start writing!

FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?

Whit Rummel: I read a heap of scripts, along with Syd Field's "Screenplay." Then I started shaping my ideas by putting them down on 3x5 cards and wrote up a forty page outline from those. Next I went out and bought a copy of FINAL DRAFT and started hammering away. (I can't believe I just made it all sound so easy; in reality it was several months of sheer agony.) 

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?

Whit Rummel: THE SECRET BOY is actually my third screenplay. I let my thoughts stew around for a long time before putting anything down on paper. Once I started, the first draft took about four months, but I'm still revising -- probably will continue to do so till they take it from my cold dead hands.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Whit Rummel:
I definitely have a set routine, couldn't live without it. I try to write every day keeping pretty much the same schedule. I like to be at my desk writing for at least four or five hours. Sometimes, not much usable stuff gets generated but I find that in the long run, providing the opportunity is the important thing. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Whit Rummel: Definitely. I think they're the best way that a beginning writer has of getting exposure in the movie world, especially if s/he is not living in LA.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers.com / The Radmin Company Screenwriting Competition?

Whit Rummel: The possibility of taking part in the Santa Fe writer's conference was a big plus. Also, I've been an avid fan of FilmMakers magazine for years. On their website I happened to read some of the interviews of previous winners; they sounded a lot like me so I thought I'd give it a shot.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Whit Rummel: I have a lot more than one script I'd recommend but the first script I happened to read when I started writing was BLOOD SIMPLE. That thing flowed so smoothly and effortlessly, it gave me the confidence to think maybe I could do something like that too. But CHINATOWN and SUNSET BOULEVARD and NETWORK are must-reads also -- along with a heck of a lot of others.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Whit Rummel:
I love to run. I try to do it every morning before I sit down to write. My most creative moments come when I'm pounding the pavement. The challenge is getting all those thoughts down on paper afterwards. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Whit Rummel: Unfair question! The answer depends on what I'm in the mood for. My favorite contemporary writer at the moment has to be Charlie Kaufman - the guy's so inventive and unpredictable. But in the long run, I'd have to pick someone like Billy Wilder whose body of work is so consistently excellent and spans years and years. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Whit Rummel: I love Lasse Hallstrom's work. I think he's someone who could interpret my own particular style of writing very successfully. The performances he gets from his actors, especially kids, are magnificent. If you have any doubts just 
watch MY LIFE AS A DOG and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Whit Rummel: Meryl Streep's work is remarkable. Every role I've ever seen her in, she blows me away. What I wouldn't give to have her even read something I've written! 

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Whit Rummel:
Keep writing -- every day if possible; the more you write the better you get. And don't stop when you finish your first screenplay; the second one will be easier (and better).

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Whit Rummel: I'm taking some time to rewrite my first screenplay now that I think I have at least some vague notion of what I'm doing. I also have three new ideas I'm chewing on, trying to decide which one I want to do most.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Whit Rummel: I hope to be doing exactly what I'm doing now -- having fun writing screenplays. Only thing I'd like to see added to the mix is that my screenplays are being sold and made into movies!

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