2007 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Wernher Ovalle

Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards

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Wernher Ovalle
CATEGORY 3 - (Comedy)
Platinum Prize Winner
Wernher Ovalle
Costa Mesa, CA

I have been writing screenplays over the past ten years. I graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1992 with a degree in Biology, and have since been involved in the medical field-- though I have always had a passion for writing. When I first started, I read just about every screenwriting book I could find, attended lectures, participated in a weekly screenwriting group over three years, networked, but most importantly, I took to writing on a daily basis. Over the various screenplays and the multitude of versions, and constant feedback from consultants, I really feel I now have a solid understanding of how to write and develop screenplays.
Though I really have not yet fully taken advantage of the screenplay-contest circuit, I have had some success including:
2007 Filmmakers International 3rd Place (comedy)
2007 AAA quarter- finalist
2007 Writemovies.com Finalist
2007 Page International quarter-finalist
2007 Writing on the storm quarter-finalist
2006 Nevada Film Top 10 Finalist
2006 Page International quarter-finalist
2006 Anything But Hollywood semifinalist

I was also a semi-finalist at the 2005 Expo Open Screenwriting contest.


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

because the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. If I could sit at my lap top and pass the days away writing great stories, I would be a very happy man.

I know I've succeeded........ 

because I can read Lovelocked and really take pleasure in it. The first 5 versions, I would cringe. The next 3 were better, but I still knew it wasn’t there. Now I can just read the damn thing and truly enjoy it. Also, people seem to like it. The screenplay has recently attracted the attention of a director and producer who feel the work is worth developing.

My inspiration to write LOVELOCKED.......

was the character of Arden Nixx. Someone so profoundly annoying and condescending, sporting the kind of insufferable ego reserved for dictators, and yet, somehow by the last act, we want so badly to see him get the girl, and get the point. That was the challenge of the script and what really excited me about seeing it through.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Wernher Ovalle: I love to explore humanity. What makes a good person do a bad thing, what makes one so vulnerable, or so callous; how does one deal with pain and suffering; and how is it that love always seems to either fix or destroy things. For me, those deep dramatic issues are the backdrop for my stories, and in the foreground is humor. In this way, deep psychological themes are dealt with tremendous subtlety, not contrived, keeping things off-the-nose whenever I can, and at the same time, funny as hell.

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

Wernher Ovalle: I kicked around the character of Arden Nixx in my head for about three months before I put pen to paper. His every mannerism, back story, strength, weakness, etc. One day I finally sat down and tapped away at my lap top until I spelled Arden out—15 pages of descriptive exposition. Some of it stuck and a lot didn’t, but the story seemed to write itself after that.

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

Wernher Ovalle: No. It’s my third script, and Lovelocked took about two years of writing and re-writing.

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

Wernher Ovalle:
I write every day. On good days, I get to write a lot. Truth is, though, I’m running ideas through my head all the time: dialogue pieces, edits, new story lines, etc. By the time I sit down to write, a lot is already figured out.

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

Wernher Ovalle: Breaking into Hollywood seems like mission impossible without having an inside connection. I feel (and hope) that screenplay contests give quality writers the opportunity to have their work read by decision makers. The obvious caveat, however, is that the material needs to be exceptional. Standing out amongst hundreds of other screenplays is not exactly easy either.

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

Wernher Ovalle: Filmmakers International is one of the larger and well known contests. Also, the web site has been a valuable resource for me, so it was an easy call to enter it. And now that my script has been selected, I can safely say they know a good screenplay when they see one.

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

Wernher Ovalle: The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favorite screenplays. It’s written without much fan fare but its genius lies in the dialogue and rich characterizations. There are real poignant moments in the story, but they’re interconnected by some of the funniest scenes ever written. I would encourage people to read it specifically to study the protagonist character arc, which is done so masterfully with Gene Hackman’s character.

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

Wernher Ovalle: My family. I have three boys and they inspire me to write and keep my child-like disposition. Some of the funniest set ups I’ve come up with have been inspired by my little guys. Besides that, they ground me, and remind me on a daily basis about what’s really important.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Wernher Ovalle: Wes Anderson. His movies have such a distinctive style that I find both hilarious and at their core, dramatic. His characters are drawn with such bright vivid brushstrokes, they’re all very memorable. I’m not exactly sure if he inspired my style of writing, or if we just happen to think alike. Either way, I think his work is brilliant.

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

Wernher Ovalle: Paul Haggis is among the most talented of directors, and it would be amazing to see him in action. Although he’s a dramatist, I really appreciate his keen understanding of human nature as was particularly evident in “Crash.” Winning two best pictures in a row is an amazing accomplishment, and there’s no slowing him down. I consider him the Tiger Woods of filmmaking.

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

Wernher Ovalle: I like actors that can play comedy and drama simultaneously—and do both justice. Greg Kinnear comes to mind, as does Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson and Luke Wilson.

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

Wernher Ovalle: Characters rarely say what they really think. I’m big on subtext and think this is really where the challenge of a good screenplay lies. How do you tell a story without really telling it? I think this is what separates good screenplays from great ones, and mastering subtext is critical to developing crisp, believable dialogue.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Wernher Ovalle:
I’d like to see Lovelocked produced. In the meantime, I’m working on my next screenplay, “Lucky” which is also an off-beat black comedy with a great love story..

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

Wernher Ovalle:
Writing/Directing my third movie.

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