2006 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Lisa Arbuckle


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Lisa Arbuckle
Tenth Place Winner
Lisa Arbuckle
Gilbert, AZ

Lisa first began writing at age 8, when she wrote a cereal jingle for radio that won the regional grand prize and landed Lisa a spot singing the jingle on several radio stations in the Midwest. Twenty years later, in 1998, Lisa opened her own advertising agency. Over the next six years , Lisa would go on to write, direct and produce 26 television commercials, 7 infomercials (1 of those winning a national Telly award) and the ten-episode, regional television series, The Great Exchange, which won a Videographers award in 2004 and was a finalist for a national Telly in 2003.


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

A great film has the power to change lives, alter points of view, bring people together and open doors to the imagination that you never knew existed. Because of that, I have always known that I wanted to be a part of the film industry but I didn’t know that I wanted to be a screenwriter until April 10th, 2006.

On that day, my best friend called me from Iowa. She had just read the first draft of Conditional Love and began gushing about her favorite parts. I listened in awe as she excitedly recounted the script scene by scene with amazing clarity. Before she had finished, we were both in tears. She was crying because she felt so strongly for the characters and their journey. I was crying because I knew that one of my greatest passions had finally found a home.

I know I've succeeded........ 

I have been successful in a lot of things in my life but I’m not ready to say that I’ve succeeded as a writer. It is an achievement to finish a literary project of any kind. An even bigger achievement for that work to be recognized…but for me, my measure of success will not be realized until I know that a stranger has read or watched something I’ve written and been affected by it.

My inspiration to write CONDITIONAL LOVE.......

My husband and I had just bought a lottery ticket at a gas station and were on our way home. Just for fun, I said “Honey, what would we do with this money if we won?”

Over the next fifteen minutes, we discussed what we would do with the money and how we would help each of our friends and family members. When we began discussing one particular family member, I made it clear that I would not give that person one penny until he changed certain aspects of his life. My husband said, “You can’t do that! How can you give everybody else money without conditions and make him jump through hoops to get it!?” I crossed my arms stubbornly and spouted, “If he won’t clean up his own life, I’ll do it for him.” My husband glanced at me out the corner of his eye and chuckled disbelievingly, “You wouldn’t do that, he’s your family.” I sarcastically replied, “That’s exactly why I would do it.”

For the rest of the day and well into the night, I couldn’t get that conversation out of my mind. At 2:23AM, I started writing…




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Lisa Arbuckle: I was crazy about books even before I could read. I loved being read to but I loved being the one to read to other people even more. I would look at the illustrations in a book and tell the story to my audience, as I remembered it, as if I was reading from the page. When I was five years old, my parents bought me a book called The Chicken’s Child. The pages were empty except for wonderful illustrations involving a farmer, a chicken and a crocodile. I hugged that book to me and ran to my bedroom as fast as I could. With a red pen and a shaky five year-old hand, I wrote the action and dialogue for each page of the book. Aside from the misspellings and slightly skewed alphabet, it was a fantastic read! It still is. That book was the first time that I told a story in my own words. I loved it and I never forgot how writing it made me feel.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: I wish I could say that I had an elaborate ritual or endured weeks of research but that just wasn’t the case with this script. I sat down, took a deep breath and wrote.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: Yes, this is my first script. It took forty-three days, from the day I started writing, to finish my first draft.

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

Lisa Arbuckle:
I definitely have a set place. My home office is where I’ve done the majority of my writing. It’s comfortable and my own space. There’s never a set time. I enjoy writing and have never had to force myself to sit down and do it. I prefer to write when it’s quiet, which is typically at night when everyone is in bed or while my kids are in school.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: Yes, I do believe screenplay contest are important. Getting noticed in this industry is becoming increasingly difficult and competitive. For a lot of aspiring screenwriters, these contests are the only tools available that will assist in getting their projects in front of the right people.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?

Lisa Arbuckle: I had friends and family around me that read the script and really liked it but I wanted an impartial entity to judge the screenplay. I searched through the list of screenwriting contests and chose Filmmakers because it sounded like one of the most legitimate and reputable contests taking submissions. I also appreciated the fact that Filmmakers offered an opportunity to pitch the winning scripts to a producer. Winning money and prizes is always wonderful but I felt that the possibility of pitching the script provided an opportunity to take my career to the next level.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: I would urge them to read scripts from the late thirties and early 1940’s. It Happened One Night, Citizen Kane, Casablanca. Movies of that era were timeless, character driven pieces with witty dialogue and solid plot lines. Each of those elements has eroded, to some degree, from current movies of our time. Start with the classics to get a feel for what a screenplay should contain and then move on to any screenplay that feels familiar to you from a standpoint of your own personal style.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: I become passionate about anything I am involved with whether it’s writing a screenplay, supporting a cause or making my family an Italian meal. Passion is the through-line in my life story. If it isn’t there, I’m not satisfied and it’s time for a re-write.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Lisa Arbuckle: I’m not the kind of person who follows the work of certain individuals. If the writing is good and has moved me in some way, I appreciate and respect that writer’s work but I have never really had a favorite.

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

Lisa Arbuckle:
There are many directors that I would love to work with but my choice would depend upon the project I’m working on. In regard to Conditional Love, Richard Benjamin is the director I would love to work with because of his past successes and experience directing comedy within drama. Richard is currently attached to direct Conditional Love.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: Clark Gable. He was an amazing actor, a good person and was known to have a great sense of humor, both on and off the set. If I had to pick an actor from this era, I would choose George Clooney because of his passion for directing “movies with a message” and because of his similarities to Clark Gable.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: I have had production experience which has helped me in the early stages of writing. I see the story unfold in my mind as if it’s already a film and list each scene on paper from beginning to end, in order to form my own personal “shot sheet”. Once that is complete, I’m able to go down that list and assign a projected number of pages (in increments of eighths of a page) for each scene. This helps keep my timing and storyline on track through the writing process.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Lisa Arbuckle: Conditional Love is currently in the financing stages of pre-production with some of the key elements attached. My immediate goal is to make sure that Conditional Love makes it to the big screen. I am also in the middle of my second script, with three others in various stages of development.

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

Lisa Arbuckle: In five years, I will be firmly and successfully embedded within the entertainment industry as a writer, producer and director.

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