As many of you may recall, I interviewed Mark Simborg a while back for my blog and the follow-up book, Creative Writing Career. To keep you up to date and share what these awesome writers are up to now, I thought I would start a “Featured Writer” section of my blog, where I’ll check in with a writer every week or two, and let you all know what they are up to. So here goes – welcome Mark!
Justin Sloan: Mark, you’ve been doing a lot of awesome work since we first shared your story. To start, you optioned ANOTHER screenplay. Can you tell us more about this?
Mark Simborg: Thanks, Justin. Yes—I’m very excited to have optioned my feature-length romance/dark comedy Ray and Molly after the Apocalypse to the UK’s Over the Fence Films. The producer is actually the sister of Clare Kilner, who is attached to direct, and in fact I first made contact with Clare on Stage 32, so it all came about via some guerrilla online networking and then through Clare’s legwork. I’m really excited because they already have a powerful international sales agent on board, and both in terms of the chances of it getting funded/made and how much I would get paid if it does get funded, it’s my biggest option yet.
JS: What about the rumors that you will be teaching a screenwriting course? How did this come about, what will you be teaching that differs from other courses, and how do our readers sign up?
MS: Yes. I will be teaching an intro to screenwriting course at www.dailypage.co. It will be a strictly basics course aimed at beginners. Students will end up with an outline for a script, and for every lesson there will be quick exercises with brief feedback from me. I’ll cover concept/ idea, plot, structure, character and dialogue. What makes it different… a great question. There is of course a TON of free info on how to write a screenplay out there. However, as you might be aware, probably half of it falls into the category of misinformation and another 25 percent of it is just plain contrived BS intended to get you to buy something. My course will focus on the roughly 25 percent that is actually true to real-life screenwriting and what makes a good script; the essentials of what you need to know to get started. That said, the true value of the course—and what I believe makes any course unique/special/valuable—is what I will be bringing to the table in terms of my own voice, perspective, anecdotes and experience. A lot of the screenwriting educational material out there already is by people who broke into screenwriting decades ago in a COMPLETELY different time or haven’t broken into it at all (as in, haven’t even optioned a script or attained representation). I’ve been screenwriting for eight years. I started with zero contacts in the industry and have always lived outside LA, but I’ve managed to option four scripts, get a manager, get established producers and/or directors attached to scripts, and now get paid writing assignments. So I think I offer a good perspective on the realities of screenwriting and breaking into screenwriting TODAY, doing it from outside LA, and starting with no contacts in the industry, which I’m guessing is the position the majority of new screenwriters are in.
JS: What other updates can you share with us? I hear you may be branching into games? What motivated this, and where do you see that going?
MS: Yes! I’m very excited to officially be a game writer for PocketGems’ Episode. I will be developing a pilot with them, and if the pilot is well taken, I will be writing many episodes for it and potentially developing more pilots with them down the line. Why game writing? Honestly I’d never given game writing serious consideration until you, Justin Sloan, haha, turned me on to it. I didn’t really know what was possible with games in terms of the rich characters/storylines, etc., and I didn’t see it as a real opportunity. But the gaming industry is of course exploding right now and will continue to explode indefinitely into the future. Considering that I’ve played video games almost my whole life, I don’t see why I shouldn’t try to be a part of that. My hope, or thought, is that the Episode game writing could give me the experience I need to potentially get a full-time game writing job, which I’d certainly be open to and interested in.
Apart from that, my manager and I just started circulating a new, network-friendly sitcom pilot called Father-Daughter Time.
Logline: An obsessive-compulsive 20-something girl and her Grateful Dead-loving 40-something dad try to navigate the awkwardness of being single while living with your father/daughter.
Also, I’m into the rewriting stage of a paid assignment I’m doing for a local producer/director. It’s actually an adaptation of a horror-comedy short I wrote called Haunted Toy House that he loved and then asked me to develop into a feature. The rewriting has been tough, since I’ve kind of decided to flip the whole concept on its head and approach it from a totally new angle. But if we can pull this new angle off, it will be stellar. Finally, I’m about three-fourths of the way through an indie dramedy called The Package, logline under wraps, and I’m still peddling my SF Bay Area-based indie dramedy Davenport, CA. I had a local producer interested in making it, but he did a disappearing act, haha. Happens a lot in this industry.
JS: Thank you, Mark. Is there anything else you have learned over the last year that you feel you should share with our readers? New outlook on life or the writing world?
MS: Yes. Live small. Not large. I’m not sure exactly why this year has taught me this, but I think it’s important. Love. Friendship. Random moments with loved ones or friends that seem boring or meaningless. These are the things to appreciate and pay attention to, as much for the sake of your own happiness and sanity as for being a good writer. Not sure if I’m making sense, but hopefully I am. Don’t lose sight of the big picture or your dreams, but don’t worry about the big picture either. It’s the small picture(s) that matter.
For more on Mark and how he came up, check out Creative Writing Career, take his screenwriting course, or sit back and wait for his movies and TV shows to come out (I’m sure it won’t be long).