American Gem 2004 Short Screenplay Competition - MAYFIELD JESTER

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Angela Schwendiman

Third Place Winner

Angela Schwendiman
of Washington
Screenplay
MAYFIELD JESTER
Drama
Biography:

Born and raised in Southern California, as kids we'd do our chores and spend Saturday afternoons at the movies, a common ritual. Then came the epiphany - my brother, sister and I were watching The Champ. The Champ dies and Little Ricky Schroeder breaks into tears and cries, "Make him wake up!" Well, a woman a few rows ahead of us began sobbing uncontrollably, her spouse unable to console her. Her wails echoed throughout the entire theater and lasted well beyond the credits. Us kids, of course, giggled at the open display of such raw emotions, but inside I marveled, wondering how a film could evoke such feelings and I knew that I wanted to be able to do that. 

I graduated with a degree in Film Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. My husband and I with our then small family, moved to Washington. I worked as a production assistant for NBC, but I knew I wanted to do something in film. I received a second bachelor's in electronic media and film and a master's in college instruction from Eastern Washington University. Currently, I teach film courses and also work as a radio producer. 

Interview

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

when I was eighteen and enrolled as a film studies major at UCSB. My first script was horrible. 

I know I've succeeded.......  

when I've actually sold a script and have offers to write more.

My inspiration to write MAYFIELD JESTER.......

"Mayfield Jester" came as a desire to graduate. I took time off from my studies to have a baby. The university wanted me to be enrolled in a class in order for me to defend my thesis. I suggested to my advisor that I write a script as an independent studies course. He said okay. "Mayfield Jester" was actually a short adaptation I tried to write unsuccessfully as an undergraduate. I changed the narrator and developed a stronger voice and characters. Seems I had better success the second time around.

 

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FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Angela Schwendiman: A strong desire to tell stories that make people feel something.

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

Angela Schwendiman: I took writing courses, read scripts, prepared character outlines and motivations. When I have the key turning points of my structure mapped out with a firm understanding of what my characters want versus what they need, then I can begin to write.

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

Angela Schwendiman: It's not my first script, but it's probably my best script. I see improvement each time It took about ten weeks to write.  

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

Angela Schwendiman: I wish. I struggle with finding, or maybe demanding, quiet time to think and get comfortable with my characters. I prefer working in my bedroom, when my husband and kids are gone. I like to write my ideas in longhand. When I'm serious about actually writing, and that's only after I have a solid structure mapped out with clear motivations, I work at my computer on Final Draft. I constantly refer back to my notes or cards with my already preconceived scenes in mind. 

For me, it's a long, slow process, but I know where I'm going from the beginning and I try to stay on track. I know my climax before I write and I work towards that. I usually write until I finish a scene. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn't. I just keep at it.

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

Angela Schwendiman: I hope so! Well, I think they help to give us exposure to the business and experience about the craft. 

FilmMakers Magazine:
What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Angela Schwendiman: I noticed it on a website for contests. It seemed like a good idea at the time. 

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

Angela Schwendiman: Chinatown is one of my favorites. It follows a nice three act structure and has memorable, well motivated characters. Robert Towne sets up the entire film, everything that will lead to the ending is in the first act. Then, he uses a process of removing layers, peeling the onion, to solve the mystery. The closer Jake thinks he gets to solving the puzzle, the further he actually gets from his goal - protecting the girl. It's wonderful. 

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

Angela Schwendiman: They're the most important thing to me.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Angela Schwendiman: Probably Scott Frank because he went to UCSB and he's a great writer and I've seen his work evolve.  

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

Angela Schwendiman: Mike Nichols. He's still alive and concerned about characters. 

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

Angela Schwendiman: Meryl Streep is one. I'm in awe.

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

Angela Schwendiman: Learn structure and keep writing.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Angela Schwendiman: Hopefully another script.

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

Angela Schwendiman:
Done having kids. Raising and enjoying my family and writing and selling screenplays.

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