I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter.......
after taking an introductory course
with Professor Marc Lapadula at Johns Hopkins. His energy and passion
for good film-- particularly with regard to writing--made me fall in
love with it as well. More importantly, though, he made screenwriting
into something accessible for me and gave me the courage to at least
try it out. During workshops, he made our class do a reading of each
script . Whenever there were problems with dialogue, screen direction,
chronology, I could hear them loud and clear. But when things worked,
I suddenly and clearly envisioned how a particular scene might look
and sound. I felt the script becoming something larger than an
arrangement of words on a page and I think the impact of that moment
is what pulled me into all of this.
I know I've succeeded.......
Well, to be honest, I'm not sure I've
'succeeded' at this point. I haven't been writing scripts for long
enough and I have a lot to learn-- a lot of hard work to do before I
can declare anything about success. However, I will say that, in
general, I know that I'm doing something right as a writer when I show
my work to someone and they want more. If they say, "Okay, but where's
the next part? I've got to know what happens with so-and-so..." then I
know I'm moving in a good direction.
My inspiration to write
My script is about a recovering meth addict and a lot of people ask me if it
comes from personal experience or something of the sort. The truth is, though,
I wrote the story out of a desire to explore what it's like to "start over"
again in life-- more specifically, how previous experience continually shapes
that of the present and how sometimes, it is virtually impossible to move on
from certain people, places, memories, etc...The matters of drug use and drug
addiction really only served as
modes through which I examined that particular issue. From the get-go, I
started writing the script simply as an exercise in creating a real person
with a real life, and then focusing on just a piece, a bracket in time.
What inspired you to write?
Hannah Sanderson: I've been writing here and there since as far
back as I can remember writing...As a little girl, I loved coming up
with stories and in middle school I started writing plays. For me,
writing has always just been something I do because I can't help but
do it. Something involuntary and essential in my life.
FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to
write your first script?
Before I started writing the actual scenes, I took some time to map
out a basic plotline of how I envisioned the story. After that, I
wrote character analyses for each main character, as well as
monologues to figure out their voices. At that point, it was just a
matter of getting myself into the mindset of the story.
Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write SECOND
This is my first script. From the first draft to the most recent
draft, it's taken me around seven or eight months to get the piece
where it is today.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
I'm not as structured or disciplined as I'd like to be. Usually, I'll
write first thing in the morning or very late at night, whenever I
find the time. I always write with my IBook, which is my favorite
possession, and if I can get in the zone, I can write pretty much
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests
are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
I think contests like this one are a great way for writers to get
their work evaluated while they are still in the process of honing
their craft and clarifying their voice. It's exciting to enter a
contest, but it doesn't feel like so much of a gamble that ordinary
writers can't apply.
FilmMakers Magazine: What
influenced you to enter the
American Gem Short Script Competition?
I found the contest
online and figured, "what the hell? I'll give it a try." I honestly
never expected to make it anywhere near this far along in the contest.
I'm very thrilled.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
The first one that comes to mind is Fargo, by the Coen Brothers. When
I read it last year, I was so impressed with the way each scene rolled
into the next. Every word of dialogue and screen direction made the
story "buzz" with comedy and creepiness. It's such an original, quirky
piece and most importantly, it takes risks that most people wouldn't
think of taking with their writing..
Beside screenwriting what are you
passionate about and why?
I love Latin culture-- speaking Spanish, listening to Latin music,
dancing salsa, etc. I'm also very passionate about the interfaith
is, working towards mutual respect and understanding between different
religious faith traditions. It's something I got involved with in
college and I'm now pursuing a Master's in Religion at Columbia
University so that I can hopefully do that kind of work on a more
global level. Lastly, I LOVE going out to eat. My fantasy is to be a
full-time food critic. Scratch that, dessert critic.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
I'm certainly not an expert, but again, I really like the Coen
Brothers and Wes Anderson. They both write scripts that defy
categorization and summarization, which is, I think, a testament to
how fresh and raw their work is.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name
the director you would love to work with and why?
There a few directors who have made movies that I love because they
fit my vision of great cinema so nicely. I'd feel privileged to work
with David Gordon Green, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Craig Brewer,
and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, among others. I think all of them have done
brilliant work, each in their own way.
Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Hannah Sanderson: I'd love to work with Jim Carrey because I
think it would be an incredible learning experience. Also, Ludacris,
who's also a rapper. He's my favorite new actor.
Any tips and things learned along
the way to pass on to others?
just a good idea, it is the idea. Even if you think you know what
you're writing about in the first, second, even third
drafts, you are wrong. Be patient, put in some effort, and the truth
of the project will emerge eventually.
What's next for you?
Hannah Sanderson: I just moved to NYC to work in the film
industry in various capacities, while at the same time completing my
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from
I have no idea,
but I hope more than anything that wherever I am, I will be making
film. Good film. Great film, perhaps?