American Gem 2006 Short Screenplay Competition - ORANGE
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Michael Paul Stephenson

Runner Up

Michael Paul Stephenson
of Los Angeles, CA

As a child actor Michael Paul Stephenson spent a great deal of his childhood traveling back and forth between his hometown of Kaysville, Utah and Burbank, California. He began acting in various theatre productions at the age of six, and has since appeared in over 40 productions, including film, television and commercials. Through his experience as a young child actor, Michael knew that the art of storytelling would continue to play a significant role in his life. At 18, Michael took a break from his acting career to serve as a full-time Spanish-speaking missionary. To date Michael value’s his mission experience as one of his most fulfilling, personal accomplishments.

After finishing his mission, Michael returned to Salt Lake City where he began many business opportunities including the co-writing and co-directing of a documentary, titled, European Sun. Michael and his business partner traveled through 13 different countries to produce European Sun which was later featured as in-flight entertainment on many major airlines. In January of 2006 he and his wife decided to pursue Michael’s dream and relocated to Los Angeles where Michael could rededicate his time to reaching others through his acting, writing and directing. “I’ve always been fascinated by the power and effect the media has on the human condition.“


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 succeeded.......  

when my stories move people in positive directions, affecting the lives of others in meaningful ways.

My inspiration to write ORANGE.......

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.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Michael 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? 

Michael Paul Stephenson: II 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,

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: 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.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: 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 balance.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: Absolutely. I believe that any reputable avenue (i.e. contests, etc.) that provides an aspiring writer with a source of validation is valuable and… inspiring.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: I was 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.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is an incredible script. It’s also very educating. The story has varied levels of complexities not found in other scripts.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: 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.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Michael Paul Stephenson: 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.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: 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.

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: Christopher Walken because he is such a great character!

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

Michael Paul Stephenson: 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 times.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Michael 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 blockbuster.

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

Michael 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.

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