Annual American Gem
2016 CONTEST |
Sarah's Sensitive Cowboy
American Gem Short Script Contest
2ND PLACE WINNER
Austin, TX United States
Over the course
of almost twenty years, Sean Corrigan has written ten
feature screenplays, a dozen teleplays, and several plays.
Corrigan has received over eighty awards for his writing,
and has been a finalist or better twenty times in the most
prestigious screenwriting contests in the world. He has won
three screenwriting contests for three different scripts and
has optioned five screenplays. Corrigan has had plays
produced in New York City and Alexandria, Virginia.
In 2009, Sean was one of three writers in the country to
receive a writing fellowship from the Austin Film Festival.
He has been featured in Script Magazine’s “The Writers
You’ll Wish You Knew When” section, and was spotlighted in
Indie Slate Magazine and the Austin American-Statesman. He
is a member of the Writers Guild of America.
A big-city girl falls in love with a sensitive cowboy who
she grows to despise.
Interview Part 1.
I knew I wanted to be screenwriter when
I completed my first screenplay. I had always journaled or
written poetry, and I did very well on my college papers,
but I never wrote in a structured way that required such a
long-term commitment. I started my first screenplay in
November 1996 and was instantly hooked. I love developing
temporary relationships with characters. I find it to be
emotionally cathartic, and as I’ve gotten older, and family
members have passed away, I’ve developed an intense fear of
being forgotten. I do not have a wife or children, and I
guess writing is my proof of life.
I know I've succeeded when all of my bills are paid
inspiration to write Sarah's Sensitive Cowboy
as a farcical
examination of the differences in how men and women
Interview Part 1.
inspired you to write?
I was at a stage
in my life right after I graduated college when I felt
completely lost. I had quit one job, got fired from another,
and had no sense of direction. In the back of my mind I had
always wanted to act and write, but it seemed so far-fetched
(and I had no training). I finally had nothing left to lose,
so in November 1996 I bought my first computer and began
writing my first script. And the words just poured out of
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script
and how long did it take you to complete?
didn't. Things were different in 1996 -- most people were
not yet on the Internet. Resources were not available then
like they are now. And third generation screenwriting
software like Final Draft was in its infancy and was
cost-prohibitive, so I wrote in MS Word which was a mistake.
Honestly, I just started writing. I made hundreds of notes
for ideas and dialogue on scraps of paper from temp jobs
that I worked. Then I would lay them out all over my floor
and organize them by scenes. It was a great adventure, but I
spent hundreds of hours unnecessarily. I am a very efficient
writer today, twenty years later.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set
routine, place and time management for writing?
No, not yet. Life
is too busy, so I write as often as possible, but there is
no way to dedicate a certain number of hours per day or
week. A few months ago, I was very close to selling a
feature script with Tommy Lee Jones interested in starring
and directing. He and his team loved my script and gave my
producing partner a bid for services, but after a few months
it fell through around Christmas 2015. Once I eventually
sell a screenplay, I will write every day. I have outlines
for twenty scripts, but finding the time is a challenge.
Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are
important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
Absolutely. Contests are really the only way to get agents
and producers to read your work, unless you know someone in
Magazine: What influenced you to enter the American Gem
Short Script Contest?
I was a finalist for American Gem in 2003 for another short
script. I like how American Gem specializes in short
stories, which is difficult to find. I have been successful
with their contest in the past, so I think my writing style
and sense of humor pair well with their judges.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you
urge aspiring writers to read and why?
William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade or Which
Lie Did I Tell?. They won't help you to format a screenplay,
but they're such a wonderful insight to the business. A
really good website for screenwriting that has myriad topics
on style, story, and formatting is www.johnaugust.com (the
same writer of Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate
about and why?
I am an animal rights activist and I rescue feral cats.
Animals don't have a voice and the way some humans treat
them is deplorable.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite
Screenwriter and Why?
Aaron Sorkin. His dialogue is poetry. You can just listen to
the dialogue and not watch the movie and still get a
visceral reaction from it. And he has a certain playfulness
to his dramas that most writers can't capture.
Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with
Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Duplicity) and Jason Reitman
(Up in the Air, Juno) come to mind. I enjoy their visual
style and they don't clutter the screen with gimmicky shots.
They are both great writers so they understand that the
story is the most important aspect to filmmaking -- they
allow for nice moments that linger a little. I see a lot of
directors that are basically shooting a 100-minute music
video which, for me, is jarring.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and
Ben Foster, who is tremendously talented, seems to carry a
certain pain or empathy that resonates in his characters. He
always seems in the moment. I'm also huge fan of Ryan
Gosling -- extremely talented, and could star in any movie
he chooses, but he takes lead roles in small independent
films (Drive, Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines).
He really is an actor's actor.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things
learned along the way to pass on to others?
Read great scripts (read Alan Ball's American Beauty which
is online -- the perfect example of how to write a tight,
compelling screenplay). Learn to write economically and keep
as much white space on the page as possible. I used to spend
a lot of time demonstrating to the reader how smart I
thought I was with my loquacious sentences and articulate
words. It slows down the screenplay. Force people to turn
the pages by writing as little as necessary. And move to Los
Angeles if you want to be a professional screenwriter. I
never did and it was a mistake. I have re-discovered many
times over that filmmaking is as much about who you know as
what you know. Unfortunately, connections will often trump
talent. But, you still have to be a great writer to make it.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Until Christmas, I thought Tommy Lee Jones was going to
direct and star in one of my features, and my career would
have been off to the races. In the last 18 months, I have
won two screenwriting contests and placed 2nd in three other
contests -- for five different scripts. After twenty years
of writing, I believe that I understand how to write
screenplays as well as anyone. My sensibilities are a little
eccentric, but I understand the process and I am certain
that I can do it professionally. I just need the break,
which I thought I had. I am regrouping and plan to sell my
home and move to L.A. in the next year or so.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where do you see yourself in
five years from now?
No matter where I go, there I am.
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