2006 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Michael Raymond


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Michael Raymond
16th Place Winner
Michael Raymond
of  St. Johns Park, Auckland, New Zealand

Born in 1961 and raised outside of Pittsburgh, PA, Michael found his passion for writing at an early age, writing short stories throughout his adolescence, as well as lyrics for a friend's local rock band. With a conflicting interest in aerospace and aviation, Michael enrolled in Kent State University where he pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Technology. During this time, he also attained his license as an FAA-certified Private Pilot.

After graduating from Kent State University in 1984, Michael Raymond migrated to California where he held various writing jobs in the technology industry while studying screenwriting at UCLA. During that time, he developed several feature-length scripts — and then departed for a more nomadic lifestyle overseas, pursuing his screenwriting career in such far-flung places as Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia. Over the years, Michael has developed a diverse body of screenwriting work based on a variety of film genres. Continuing his previous vagabond tendencies, Michael divides his time between his adopted home of Seattle and his current residence of Auckland, New Zealand where he lives with his Hong Kong-born, Kiwi wife Karen Lee (and sons Casey and Julian). When not developing screenplays and films, Michael works as a Freelance Writer in the IT industry.


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

When I fell in love with moving images after moving to California following graduation from university. Those special moments alone in a dark cinema.

I know I've succeeded........ 

C'mon, I'm a writer — filled with self-doubt and all kinds of neuroses. I doubt that I'll ever feel like I've succeeded. Maybe when I reach a comfort level with referring to myself as a "writer."

My inspiration to write ABILENE.......

Two things: (1) Attempting to dispel the myth that romantic comedies are hard to write. And they must be. Because my attempt at a rom-com ended up being a drama and nothing resembling a romantic comedy. (2) Pondering what it might be like to lose something very dear to oneself and how to overcome it, especially if you feel like you were responsible for it.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Michael Raymond: Something hard-wired inside of me. I've been doing it in one form or another ever since I was 10 years old.

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

Michael Raymond: I read some screenwriting books and then the biggie – I took the plunge and bought a cheap computer.

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

Michael Raymond: It's not my first — probably #14. All up, about 4-6 months.

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

Michael Raymond:
For this one, I developed a new approach. I have a 9-to-5 job and found the post-midnight routine not to my liking so I tried doing an early morning pre-work routine in a local café down the street from my work. However, I didn't like the music in the place of overhearing conversations, so I killed my eardrums by writing with my iPod blaring inside my head.

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

Michael Raymond: For me, they have been. I don't live in LA and cold calls from afar have very poor results. But get a great placement in a reputable screenwriting contest and it's funny how those phone calls end up being incoming calls rather than outgoing. But I wouldn't enter a contest for the money. Only the exposure.

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

Michael Raymond: I had a notion that it might generate some exposure if things went well for me.

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

Michael Raymond: I don't read enough scripts by other people, but at the risk of offering up the old standard, I guess Chinatown had an early influence on me.

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

Michael Raymond: Music and travel.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Michael Raymond: I like a couple of guys who seem to know how to create "moments" and characters and situations that don't feel contrived or dumped down. I'm thinking specifically of David Webb Peoples, Paul Attanasio, Steven Kloves, or John Sayles. Certainly Charlie Kaufman seems to be in a class all by himself.

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

Michael Raymond:
Lasse Halstrom or Peter Weir. I tend to get overly sentimental sometimes and those two directors seem to find ways to create poignant pieces of filmmaking without being overly maudlin about it.

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

Michael Raymond: Mary Louis Parker because I'm secretly in love with her. Naomi Watts because I think she's one of the most underrated actors, if that's possible. Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) because I think she'd be perfect for Abilene. And Sean Penn because he'd ensure that there would never be a false moment in anything I've written.

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

Michael Raymond: If you're doing it for the money, stop now. Otherwise, just keep doing it until you somehow discover it's not fun anymore or you don't feel like it's your life's calling.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Michael Raymond: An ensemble piece that might borrow a bit from the movie "Diner."

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

Michael Raymond: Hopefully, a working screenwriter (whatever that is) who finds a way to keep improving and learning the craft — certainly never feeling as though they've "made it." If I ever think that, I think I'll be in big trouble.

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