I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
When I saw the Japanese film Woman in the
Dunes. I had cut school on Long Island and taken the train into the city (NY).
I faked a British accent and a story about being a foreign exchange student. A
"nice" lady took me to the film. (It was very erotic and I think she may have
had ulterior motives.) The dialogue (subtitles) was so deep that I realized
film writing could be as powerful as novels and poetry. The line I remember
is... "Are we digging sand to live, or living to dig sand?"
I know I've succeeded........
When I can write like Harmony Korine, as
demonstrated in her powerfully economic Kids.
My inspiration to write SLAMMED!.......
When an on-camera acting student of mine asked
me to write a script about her torturous years at the hands of the Arizona
Department of Juvenile Corrections, I was hooked. As she had little memory of
the details of her incarceration, and was still experiencing psychological
traumas after being released three years before, I decide to take on the
project. At first, to help her reconstruct her three years of hell, and then,
hopefully to help her put the experience to rest. But when she revealed the
nature of her lasting scars, I realized there was an opportunity to weave a
surrealistic tale that could deeply affect audiences, and raise important
social questions about how we treat our unmanageable teens. I felt I could
write the story, despite the main character being female and a teen, as I am a
long time feminist, living with two teen daughters, my wife and a female cat.
I also spend much of my time coaching and directing teens interested in film
and TV acting. Also, my early theater directing, before the feminist movement
became somewhat restrictive, was entirely focused on women's plays and female
characters. I was also inspired by my surrealistic concept behind Slammed,
where I had the opportunity to create situations and conglomerate characters
in a world I had come to know through research and interviews.
What inspired you to write?
Peter Alan Stelzer: When I was in fifth grade, my dad, who was
an Air Force pilot, was stationed in Tucson. My "commie-pinko" teacher
there read an anti-war poem called The Balad of the Ball Turret
Gunner. I remember it ended with the line... "They washed me out of
the turret with a hose." That was it. It blew my socks off and
instantly made me the dove I am today. Although I didn't try writing
seriously (except for academic papers) until my 30s, that poem showed
me the power of words.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Peter Alan Stelzer: Think. After necessary research and
subsequent note taking, I like to spend some time working out the idea
in my head before committing words to paper. I imagine situational
improvisations to create scenes and dialogue.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Peter Alan Stelzer: Slammed is my fourth script. Including two
months of research and exhaustive interviews, the whole project took
about six months from the beginning to its current incarnation.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
Peter Alan Stelzer:
My current situation allows me time to write whenever I need to.
Usually, my problem is turning the laptop off.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Peter Alan Stelzer: Yes. As it is very hard for a writer to get
"real" coverage on even a great script, contests can give a more
public legitimacy to a screenplay, hopefully getting it read and
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers.com / The Radmin Company Screenwriting Competition?
Peter Alan Stelzer: I entered the Filmmakers International
Screenplay Contest because of the word "international." I felt an
internationally oriented contest might be more open to my story, that
is somewhat critical of American culture. It is the first (and only)
contest I have entered.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Peter Alan Stelzer: I recommend Kids, by Harmony Korine. It
really speaks to young pepple. The film looks so improvisational that
it almost seems like there couldn't be a script. But the 95 eloquent
pages that are Kids dramatizes every breath and glance. It is an
economic and poetic wonder. It shows writers (and all filmmakers) how
to create a real world, with real issues, using the best elements of
the economic form of the screenplay.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Peter Alan Stelzer: I coach and direct teens in film and TV
scenes, and teach them (and adults) on-camera film and TV acting
techniques. It is the most inspiring thing I do. It keeps me young in
mind and spirit, and insures an open mind.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
Peter Alan Stelzer: Paddy Chayefsky has a body of work that I
love. His presentation of cutting edge issues, his depth of
characterizations, and his impeccable sense of "reality" I feel is
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Peter Alan Stelzer:
Larry Clark. His work on Kids, and
Bully, is the kind of gritty, "realistic" treatment of teen problems
that Slammed requires.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Peter Alan Stelzer: Clea DuVall. She was the actress I had in
mind when I wrote Slammed. A young actress with Ms DuVall's strength,
deep emotionalism and unpredictability would thrill me in the role of
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Peter Alan Stelzer:
Keep your story close to your heart.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Peter Alan Stelzer: I hope to be producing and directing a
geriatric Christmas comedy stage play that I wrote a few years ago.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Peter Alan Stelzer:
If it was totally up to me, I'd be
back in LA working as a coach, writer, actor, etc. But, the reality is
that the kids will be off to college in a few years, and my choices
will be family oriented at that time (as they were when I moved them
here to Scottsdale). If they drift back west for college (which is
what I suspect), my wife and I are sure to follow.