Marc was raised in Anchorage where, I theorize, the
influence of the Alaskan environment formed the
framework of my desire and ability to write. Most
distinct was the potency of light, and natureís
northern trick ... the shift from no light in the
winter, when we literally hibernated for months
indoors, to vast seas of the stuff in the summer
when our days became nothing short of a Tom Sawyer
existence. It was in this setting of light and
landscape that I formed the process of story as an
intuitive measure of survival≠and celebration.
During my junior year of high-school we moved to
Palm Springs, California, where I graduated, then to
Guadalajara, Mexico and finally to New Mexico, where
I have lived ever since.
New Mexico is a high-desert plateau, a place where
the thinner, dryer atmosphere and unobstructed
vistas have, over the years, fixed in me a
clairvoyance of light, sky and landscape. There is
also a deep draft of history here, and like Alaska,
much of it is filled with tales from itís core of
Native Americans. Itís here that I began writing. I
was a respiratory therapist working the slow
swing-shift at a small hospital and at times I would
listen to late night radio dramas. One evening the
station made a call for radio plays, so I wrote
three. All of them were accepted and two were
produced and broadcast before the show went off the
air. It was an unfortunate circumstance but it was
also a measured epiphany; I had some ability and
desire to write.
Itís easy to become so involved in life that oneís
mission becomes -- not forgotten but ≠ waived away
for a spell. Sidetracked by events, I took a job in
the family business, helped build a significant
company specializing in corporate travel and raised
three fine children. But, at some point I began to
feel that I had lost something and I needed to
backtrack and recover my original route. So, I
departed from corporate life at the end of 2001 and
since have worked full-time studying the craft and
art of writing. Along the way Iíve cemented my
belief that talent is both a prize and a curse, as
evidenced by the fact that there are many more
untalented writers that are successful than there
are successful writers with talent. Thatís because
talented people donít necessarily like to work. With
this in mind I developed a business plan directing
my work, time and education. Still, when I first
started writing I went nuts writing almost
everything ... but screenplays. Then a friend asked
me to join his screenplay group. I was reluctant at
first, wanting to work on a novel, but I discovered
that, like those early radio dramas, I enjoyed this
type of work. Immediately, I started writing a
feature, but soon realized how much I didnít know. I
backed away, began over by writing short scripts and
have had the good fortune to be somewhat successful.
Now I spend most of my time learning, writing and
more learning about the process of writing the
I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
Iíd like to say there was some magical
attraction, or that I ďsee movies in my head,Ē but the truth is far less
intriguing; it was a business decision. Early on there were two incidents that
prompted this: 1) my first screenplay, a short, finished as a finalist in the
first contest I entered, and 2) shortly after I made the decision to work as a
writer, and during the flush of that first script success, I took a stroll
through Barnes and Noble. Thereís a lot of books on those shelves and
competition is as fiercely fought as the Indie 500. I decided right then that
if I was going to be in that kind of brawl I wanted it to be in the arena that
I enjoyed the most; film.
I know I've succeeded........
When I can sit in a dark theater and watch
people laugh and cry and escape into a place that theyíll want to return to; a
place Iíve been a part of creating, Iíll consider myself successful.
My inspiration to write EMILIANO
DE LA GARZA AND THE GENIE.......
As you drive Interstate 8, West into San Diego,
thereís a place where the road swings south and nears the U.S./Mexican border.
Here you begin to see trails; foot-paths really, cut through the desert;
everywhere. I was driving that stretch, and at first I couldnít figure out
what these were, then I saw people≠northbound immigrants≠dashing quickly over
these thin byways, and suddenly I knew . . . this is what wishes are all
about. To walk through that wasteland, over those sweltering, dangerous trails
takes an implacable desire thatís from the heart. This is what Emiliano is all
about . . . itís about those people and their desire/wishes and how so many of
us have lost the ability to wish from the heart. That, and my Grandma Concha
De La Garza; an immigrant herself.
What inspired you to write?
Marc Calderwood: I was raised in Alaska and during the long
winters we spent a lot of time reading and being read to by our
parents. It was our form of story-telling. My folks liked the old,
great classics and I learned, early on, that I was more at home in the
world of story than the real world. Still, I didnít take up writing
until I was twenty-five and that experience≠writing my first story, a
radio drama≠was, and is, the hinge of my inspiration. I love writing,
the mere act itself is itís own inspiration.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Marc Calderwood: My first script was an assignment for my
beginning script class. Other than the class itself I bought David
Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible, and Syd Fieldís Screenplay. I read
those then sat down and started writing. I didnít agonize about it
much. Now that Iím more prepared, I agonize more.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Marc Calderwood: This is my third feature but the only one Iíve
felt secure enough to enter in a competition. Iíve written numerous
successful shorts, but features are a somewhat different story
vehicle. I started writing Emiliano in January of this year as a part
of the UCLA online program. My instructor, Scott Meyers, helped by
continually prompting and encouraging me, but I set my own daily goals
and had the first draft finished before the end of the course. From
there itís gone to numerous local and on-line reading groups where
Iíve continued to rewrite and refine the story. Iím currently on my
ninth revision so it may be complete but itís not yet finished.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
Sure do. My routine starts most mornings at eight. I write for five or
six hours at any place that serves coffee and switch places often so
that I don't get involved with visiting. Iím amazed that I can have my
face stuck to my screen, fingers flashing away, a look of insane
possession in my eyes and someone will sit down and ask me how much
RAM I have. Iím not sure what thatís about but I continue to write in
coffeehouses because I'm too undisciplined to write at home. I reserve
later in the day for research, the business end of writing and
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Marc Calderwood: There is some derision of contests and
competitions, in the industry, as wasteful effort but I donít believe
anything can be further from the truth. For those of us out here in
the cosmic dust of Hollywood contests provide some of the following
for the aspiring writer.
Reality check - Writing screenplays isnít for everyone. If, after the
30th or so entry, one hasnít made at least Honorable Mention or
Finalist one might possibly consider poetry or novels.
Hope - Writers donítí mind the alone hours, itís all done in the
spirit of hope. Positive contest results can keep the vital element of
Practice - Good results from contests can intimate that ones writing
Interest in your work - This is not the easiest way to get someone
interested in your work because you still have to better than everyone
else, but it is surely another way.
Resume builder - Itís difficult to build a resume in this business but
it is necessary and contests are a way to do that.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers.com / The Radmin Company Screenwriting Competition?
Marc Calderwood: My experience from last yearís entry in
American Gem, an
off-shoot competition for shorts managed by FilmMakers, was handled
very well. Secondly, based on personal feedback, Moviebytes lists
FilmMakers as one of the best run and most influential. The other
thing is the depth of prizes. Many contests only offer first, second
and third, FilmMakers lists numerous as well as having the Top 20 and
Top 10. This makes a difference when you approach someone with your
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Marc Calderwood: Itís actually 3, the first is ĎBadlands.í I
read it before I saw the film and I still canít shake the natural,
clear, clean vision that the work evokes. The other would be the three
versions of ĎThree Kings.í That will give the aspiring writer a clue
as to how many times a good story might change in order to be a better
story. The last would be Ď13 Monkeys.í I still donít have a clue what
that script is about or how Terry Gilliam ended up with that film from
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Marc Calderwood: I love traveling with my wife, whether it's a
trip through rural New Mexico or an adventure through Italy. She's my
best friend, such an easy companion to be with and I would be a fairly
one-dimensional person if it weren't for her dragging me away from my
computer once in awhile. I'm hooked on in-line skating for the juice I
get from exercise. I'm very passionate about history because when you
dig deep enough truth is revealed. Last, I am passionate about all
aspects of writing. I still write short stories, poetry, non-fiction
articles and children's work. I had a piece printed in Highlights For
Children and I am as proud of that accomplishment as anything.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
Marc Calderwood: I have several favoriteís.
Charlie (often mistaken for Andy) Kauffman - for the body of his work.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green - for the enjoyment Iíve gotten from
Singing In The Rain
Joel/Ethan Coen - for Oh Brother
Me - for the continuous hours of cheap entertainment Iíve given myself
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
I would love to work with Terry
Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeanute, Peter Jackson and Robert Rodriguez. All
of these guys make absolute magic happen on the screen better than
almost anyone. I'm not a slice-of-life writer and find myself drawn to
films that have that little twinkle of odd magic in their eye.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Marc Calderwood: Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise and Cate Blanchette
are three actors that I find very appealing and the reason is the same
for all three. Each and every time I see these people I am reminded
just how good they are and how compelling it is to watch them.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Marc Calderwood: Yes.
Don't write in a vacuum, join script groups, go on-line (Zoetrope,
Trigger Street) attend seminars, but find ways to get your work read
by as many people as you can. Eat the feedback like it's your last
meal, then go back and rewrite.
Always write a sense of yourself into your work, and never take that
out no matter what the feedback says. Learn to change the elements of
structure or format or style without surrendering the "you" in your
work. I see, too often, very new writers trying so hard to be someone
or something they're not on the advice of others who may know less. We
are writing because we want to say something and this is the soul of
the work. Soulless work should be reserved for advertising copy.
Andy Warhol said that "Making money is art and working is art and good
business is the best art." Develop an understanding of good business.
I've found this one thing most lacking on the infant writer side of
the industry (that's us). I have a written; 1 year, 3 year and 5 year
business plan, and I would suggest strongly that anyone serious about
the business of writing consider developing their own written business
plan. It's difficult to gauge how things are going if you don't' have
a way to measure progress, and having a serious business plan
intimates that one appreciates the business side of the art of film.
Last, and most important, remember this . . .
"Never, never, never give up."
- Winston Churchill
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Marc Calderwood: More writing.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
On the A list.