When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been telling stories as long as I can remember. I learned to read very early, around 3 years old, and grew up with a book in my hand. I taught myself how to type when I was in elementary school on an old typewriter my family had and would type up my own stories from that point on. My friends invited me to be involved with a “home movie” when I was 8 and from that point on, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. My friends and I made a number of short films when I was a kid and I would help develop the stories. By the time I was 11, I wrote my first actual screenplay, which was my own version of “M*A*S*H” based on the book. I also scripted plays and wrote short stories early on, but knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a filmmaker. I wrote my first feature-length screenplay when I was 15.
What do you want visitors and locals to know about writing that they may not already know?
Screenwriting is a very different form of writing than prose fiction. It’s highly structured with a very specific format, and while many people think a screenplay is easier to write than a novel due to the page count and sparse word count, it is very difficult to do well. However, skills you acquire when you learn how to effectively write a screenplay can carry over to novel writing.
How has the industry evolved over the years?
The biggest change in the last decade or so has been the shift of studio films away from low and medium budget films to huge blockbusters. This affects screenwriting because there is less a chance for first time screenwriters to break into the industry. While it was always a difficult thing to do, at one time it was possible for a spec script (one written on speculation that is original material though up by the writer) to be bought by a major studio. Now studios don’t want to take a chance on an unknown quantity, so all of their films are sequels, remakes, adaptations, or spearheaded by major directors or actors. In order for a writer to sell an original script, it must be suitable for the independent market.
What’s the craziest thing to happen on a movie set?
I was a background performer on Jurassic World. They had 800 people running around the park set in the August heat in New Orleans for a week. One day, everyone was supposed to react to a pteranodon flying overhead. While cameras were rolling, the first assistant director told everyone to look up at the giant green screen they had erected at the end of the set. At that moment, some random bird was flying in front of the green screen and everyone on set burst out laughing.
What’s next for you?
I’m focusing on adapting some of the screenplays I’ve written and stockpiled into novels. The first one is a horror adventure called Maelstrom, which involves a parasite that turns people into creatures (actually bizarre animals discovered in the Amazonian rain forest). The characters are a wealthy family and their employees who are trapped on their private island resort during a tropical storm while the parasite spreads among their group. I’m also compiling articles about movies I wrote for my website filmverse.com into a nonfiction book conveniently called FilmVerse. I expect to have both those books published by the end of the year.
Describe writing in 5 words or less.
What social media do you use?
I can be found on Facebook (facebook.com/stephenwiseauthor/), Twitter (twitter.com/stephenjwise), and Instagram (instagram.com/stephenjwise/). I also have my own website with a blog, stephenjwise.com. And to self-promote my work, my anthology of short stories, Portals of the Mind, and the screenplay for the unproduced film Batman: DarKnight that I co-wrote with Lee Shapiro are both available on Amazon at amazon.com/Stephen-Wise/e/B00R25T4YY. Autographed copies of both of these will be available to purchase at ALT*Con on March 19-20.