I knew I
wanted to be a screenwriter.......
I have always loved
to tell stories. As a child, my imagination was and still is my
playground. I began writing short stories and poetry as a teenager. As
a young actor, I had the opportunity to read a lot of scripts. Around
the age of 15-16, I discovered that screenwriting provided me another
outlet of creativity and expression.
I know I've
when my stories move people in positive
directions, affecting the lives of others in meaningful ways.
Several years ago I
had a dream that really influenced the story behind Orange. I dreamed
I was standing on the corner of a busy street, but for some reason I
could not cross the street, I could not move my legs. From the middle
of the street, a Hispanic man selling oranges, looked me in the eyes
and shouted., “Why won’t you buy my oranges? I have a family to feed!”
I wanted to buy his oranges, but no matter how hard I tried, I could
not cross the street. I could not buy his oranges. Oddly that dream
left quite an impression on me, initially spawning a feature
screenplay idea, with later adaptation into a short.
What inspired you to write?
Paul Stephenson: As a Pisces my mind swims with absurdity. I take notice in people, I
observe. Who am I kidding? I stare. I record the littlest details.
Real life is found in the details and writing provides me with a way
to creatively share my discoveries through storytelling.
The ability to affect an individual through a positive message –
inspires me to write. My life is driven by the absolute need to move
people through thought-provoking media. I write because the characters
in my head need to be heard.
FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to
write your first script?
read and studied a lot of scripts as an actor. Also, I read quite a
few books on screenwriting. I found many online resources and websites
to be invaluable, including this website, www.filmmakers.com.
Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write
No, it is not my first script - at the age of 18, I
was inspired to write a screenplay about the tragic passing of a good
high school friend. It was my way of dealing with the loss and I felt
my story would help my friend’s family cope with his death.
I spent several months thinking about Orange, playing with the idea in
my head - creating interesting characters. When it came time to
actually write it took about three weeks. I was in Shanghai, China at
the time and I felt a sense of urgency to get the story out on paper.
I started writing and could not stop.
Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
Not really. I am juggling a lot of things right now. I
write whenever I feel moved to write. It’s an outlet for me. I like to
be alone and chained to my computer. Also, music inspires me when I am
staring at a blank page. I am working on getting more disciplined,
writing more regularly, creating some sort of schedule and maintaining
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests
are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
believe that any reputable avenue (i.e. contests, etc.) that provides
an aspiring writer with a source of validation is valuable and…
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
American Gem Short Script Competition?
Michael Paul Stephenson:
encouraged after hearing and reading a lot positive feedback in
regards to the American Gem Short Screenplay contest. I saw the
contest as an opportunity for others to read my work.
What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is an incredible script. It’s also very
educating. The story has varied levels of complexities not found in
Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
I love my wife – she provides me with a much-needed sense of balance,
support, and inspiration. We have a three-year old German Shepherd
named Bella and I love to teach her new tricks. A few months ago, I
taught her how to wave! No joke. I love acting, filmmaking, spending
time in the outdoors and road trips through small towns. I love life’s
journey, every twist and turn.
Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?
Right now, it’s
Michael Arndt because he penned Little Miss Sunshine. Have you seen
that movie? You have to see it! It has so much heart and soul.
Name the director you would love to work with and why?
That’s a tough one. I would love to work with Frank Darabont, because
not only is he a talented director - but he’s a gifted writer.
Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite films.
Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Paul Stephenson: Christopher Walken because he is such a great character!
Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
When I was about 15 years old, on a flight to Los Angeles, I read a
quote written in a copy of Skymall Magazine. It read, “If it is to be.
It is up to me.” The simplicity and truth behind that quote has stuck
with me all of these years. I found that quote to be very empowering.
Stay passionate about the things you love. Get out there and make it
happen! Remember to always look to create new relationships. It’s also
very important to challenge yourself and put yourself in uncomfortable
situations. Learn to enjoy the journey, even the tough, discouraging
What's next for you?
Paul Stephenson: I have a lot of exciting projects ahead of me, including writing and
directing a documentary that is garnering some attention, called Best
Worst Movie. I am also working on a feature screenplay with my good
friend and writer, Ian Barkley. I am convinced it will be a
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from
Paul Stephenson: Enjoying life with my family, as I continue to write stories that need
to be told and direct films that others want to see. I would love to
write a script with my wife, as I am sure it would be a cool
experience. We really make a great team. I hope to move people through
positive media. I want to tell stories that make people, laugh & cry –
human interest stories that inspire people towards new beginnings.