Writer’s Corner is a place to get to know outstanding writers, talk about the craft of writing, career advice, share horror stories and find out more about compelling films, television shows, plays, etc. There’s so much great content out there being made by female creators, we should all be keeping an eye on these women.
Today we are featuring Marilyn Anderson.
Marilyn what’s your personal pitch, how do you introduce yourself?
I’m a writer for film, television, books and plays. I’ve also started producing recently, in order to have more control over my material. I mostly write comedy, but I can also kill six people an hour – unfortunately not the people of my choice!
What’s your favorite character that you have created? Why?
OMG, that’s like asking a mother, “Who’s your favorite child?” All of my projects are my children, so I suppose the characters in them are my grandchildren! They’re all my favorites. Also, the project I’m working on at any time is the one that has my favorites, because at that moment, I’m most invested in them. I have a mystery novel coming out next year with a diabolical heroine that I think would make a complex and fascinating character in a movie. I love her because as the story progresses, we get all kinds of surprises about who she really is and what drives her.
Can you talk about the differences between writing a book and a screenplay? Which format do you prefer and why?
A screenplay is written towards being a more visual medium than a book. You tell your story by having the characters very active with dialog and physicality in their situations. Also, in a screenplay, you must accomplish telling the story much quicker. But, of course, a screenplay is not the end result. It’s a blueprint that’s only one of the steps in the development of a film – which is much more of a collaborative medium. You ultimately must rely on a producer, director, actors, editors, and others to make your screenplay reach its final form. A book is written to be the final product. It’s more dependent on prose, and in writing a novel, you can go into lots of detail and create lengthy passages that include characters’ inner feelings and emotions and many elaborate descriptions, subplots and tangents. Novels rely more on the reader’s imagination. I personally prefer writing screenplays because I love creating characters who interact through dialog and action. In a screenplay you have to write in a very focused way, to tell a story that will grab an audience and take them on a quick ride. A novel can be read over time, so it can go in many directions before coming to its climax or conclusion. I feel like I’m better with creating visual pictures than writing about them through prose. My first three books are non-fiction with a lot of humor in them. They are based on things in my life that I relate in a unique and comical way. I’ve also written two novels to come out in 2019, but I wrote them with partners, who are more adept at prose. It’s not as common for novels to be co-written as it is for scripts. However, for me, it’s much more fun writing with a partner than alone, in any medium. Especially with comedy scripts, you can play off each other to create the dialog and jokes, you can see if the other person laughs, and you can also take meetings together and bitch about rejections together!
Rejection and criticism are a huge part of our business, how do you deal with it?
When I get a rejection letter, I just send it back to the producer or studio and say “Sorry, we’re not accepting this kind of material!” Okay, I’m kidding about that. However, I generally have more confidence in my work than in the people reading it! Hollywood has a system of “coverage” and frequently the people doing the write-ups are interns or young people who don’t have near the experience that seasoned screenwriters have – yet they are the first ones to read your project and make their notes – good or bad. Many times, they are trained that it’s safer to say “no” than “yes” or “recommend”. As writers, we have to deal with how the system works. When I have confidence in a project, I just never give up. And in this town, you can’t. Many Academy Award winning movies have been around for 20 to 25 years, before someone pushed it through. You also have to realize, not everyone likes the same things. I hate chocolate ice cream, but it’s certainly the favorite flavor for many. Someone might not like a project of mine (hard to believe) but I realize they just have no taste!
What keeps you going?
What keeps me going is my passion. When I come up with new ideas, I am compelled to work on them. I believe in the story, and I care about the characters! Every story is like a puzzle to me; it’s challenging but extremely gratifying when you solve it and make it work. It starts with a blank page, and then your imagination takes over. That’s part of the mystery and magic of the creative process. I always say, “If using your brain burned calories, I’d be the skinniest woman alive!”
When or why did you decide to get into producing?
My screenplay, How to Beat a Bully, was optioned by Hollywood producers eight times over the years and never made. Finally, I decided, no more options! That’s when things started to happen. I reached out to an investor who loved the project. Then I teamed up with a production company, who brought in another investor, and within six months, we were cast and in production. Now the film is out on Amazon and iTunes and the DVD was picked up by Walmart – a real coup for a little Independent film. I learned a lot about production and am very proud of the film; I just stopped waiting for Hollywood! However, I still have other screenplays that I’d love to have produced by the studios.
What are you watching right now? TV or film. What do you love about it?
I’m a movie slut. I see anything and everything. So, I’m more into film than TV. And I only watch movies in a theater with an audience. The reason is that when I’m at home, I’m always at my computer, working! So, although I can have the TV on in the background, I’m not paying a lot of attention to it. I like going out to the movies, because when I’m there, I put my entire focus on the screen. I’m not distracted by doing work or other at-home diversions. I know there are many great TV shows out now, but I haven’t seen as many as I’d like. The ones I have seen are mostly at private screenings. Then, if I get hooked, I might go home and binge on it. But at home, I’m just a hopeless workaholic –always writing, eating, or sleeping. I even dream about my projects. I’ll wake up in the morning and write down things from my dreams that can go into my next script!
What’s your favorite project you’ve written that has yet to be produced? Why?
Again, for me, that’s like asking, “Which of your children would you like to see grow up?!” I have numerous projects that I want to see produced… and soon! My comedy play As Good as Gold just had a staged reading at the WGAW – that was sensational. I put it on its feet with a marvelous cast, and we had a full house that gave us a standing ovation. We got tons of laughs, not to mention, five applause breaks during the show! It was a tremendously exciting night, but what would be more gratifying would be to have the play produced at a good theatre … then have it go to Broadway, then have it produced as a movie and TV series. (I’m not asking too much, am I?) It’s a story about three women writers in Hollywood which is so timely and relevant. I also co-wrote a romantic comedy screenplay about a wedding that I know would be a real audience favorite: Cold Feet. It’s sort of a cross between My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Runaway Bride – but with a new twist we haven’t seen before. Another recent screenplay of mine is a buddy comedy, set in New York. They are all fabulously funny and commercial. I also have several new books in the works – but with those, if they don’t get picked up by a big publisher, I will publish them independently. One of the problems if you go with a traditional publisher, is that it takes so long for the book to come out, usually a minimum of 18 months to two years. I don’t want to wait that long to get them out. As an indie publisher, I can bring them into the marketplace as soon as they are finished, edited and ready to go.
What are you working on now?
I’m always working on numerous projects. I have a few comedies and a couple of thrillers. I’m working on getting As Good as Gold made into a play or a film. I’m also pitching several series concepts, including turning my first book into a series, Never Kiss a Frog. These days, you not only have to be a writer, you have to be an entrepreneur and do it all. As an author, you must do publicity, even if you have a traditional publisher. With my first book, my New York publisher said they were going to do publicity. They did nothing. I started doing my own PR, and within three months I was on over 350 radio and TV shows. With a screenplay, you have to get your project out to agents, managers, producers or studios… or, if you want to produce it yourself, to money people. Show business is a “business” – so you have to be creative, not just on the page, but in your outreach. As a woman it’s always been more difficult. I hope things are changing in the current environment of #timesup and #metoo, but I’m not sure they really are. I believe we must continuously reinvent ourselves, take new approaches, and most importantly – never give up! If you believe in yourself and in your work, you must keep getting it out there… any way you can.
Where can we see your movies/tv shows/books etc.?
- My book, How to Live Like a MILLIONAIRE When You’re A Million Short is available on Amazon and other outlets as a paperback or ebook.
- My film, How to Beat a Bully, is available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and other platforms. It’s also available on DVD.
- My book, Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl’s Guide to Creatures from the Dating Swamp – is on Amazon and at other bookstores, gift shops and online. www.neverkissafrog.com
- My book, MUTTweiler: An AutoDOGography – is available on Amazon as an ebook.
- My play, As Good as Gold – contact me to see when and where the next staged reading is taking place!
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