Interview with LA working screenwriter Mark Sanderson | #scriptchat #screenwriting #londonswf #amwriting 1

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Mark Sanderson has over 15 years experience in the industry. Passion, hard work and perseverance has led to produced films I’ll Remember April, An Accidental Christmas, Deck the Halls, the stylish indie noir Stingers and action-packed thrillers USS Poseidon: Phantom Below (aka Tides of War) and Silent Venom (aka Sea Snakes).

Mark’s films have premiered on the US networks Lifetime, LMN, SyFy, Fox Family, Here!TV, NBC/Universal, and have received worldwide distribution. With numerous Hollywood experiences and contacts to his name, and now also venturing into teaching/consultancy, Mark’s got a wealth of experience. I was absolutely thrilled to have the chance to chat with him about his journey towards becoming a successful screenwriter.

Hi Mark, and welcome to Writesofluid! It’s wonderful to have you over for a virtual cuppa (cup of tea, that is; do you take sugar?) for a chat about your experiences as a writer and consultant.

It’s my pleasure and thank you for this opportunity. I’ll take a cup of Earl Grey with a splash of milk!

Coming right up! But while the kettle’s boiling…

Your screenwriting and film-making career began when you were just 12 years old as you began making films with your buddies that garnered a lot of attention. Suffice to say, we needn’t ask if you always wanted to be a film creative, but did you have any specific aspirations for the type of writer/film-maker you wanted to become? Did you know from that early on that screenwriting would be your number one passion, or did you perhaps equally want to become a director or actor?

When I started making films at twelve-years old with my childhood friend director Matt Reeves (Felicity, Cloverfield, Let Me In), we made the films in the genres that influenced us the most at the time: Sci-fi, secret agent/spy, and action films. We did everything on the production from writing, to directing, to acting, to cinematography, to editing and even marketing and advertising.

We would screen the films in his garage and charge admission like a real movie theatre.

So, my passion was every aspect of filmmaking. I knew that being a filmmaker was something that really grabbed my attention and as the years went on and as I continued to make films in high school and then college, I had made the decision it was going to be my life’s pursuit.

I really enjoyed directing and the ham in me loved acting, but it was screenwriting that always seemed to feel the most empowering. The act of sitting down and creating a world on paper and preparing the blueprint for the movie became my focus. When I graduated film school, I had made five or six films culminating with my thesis film, but it wasn’t good enough to get me signed by an agency as a client. My three feature scripts were not good enough to send, so I knew that I had to make a choice to focus on one particular craft — and screenwriting became that choice.

I loved the fact as a writer you didn’t have to wait around for a crew, search for financing, or put the project together as the produces does; you could sit anywhere with your laptop and write.

It was that freedom that I really started to enjoy. Well, the freedom a writer has until the script is turned over to the producer! That’s when the notes begin, but it’s all part of the process.

Still from STINGERS

I’m transitioning into becoming a producer/writer now to have more control over the creative choices of my projects. I previously co-wrote an indie feature called “Stingers” that starred Academy Award acting nominee Seymor Cassel, and that was a very empowering experience. I learned how to really put a feature film together from the inception to its distribution. Recently I co-wrote another indie film called “Area 54” with the director and I’m a producer on that as well.

I also still love acting and I’ve been able to do a handful of projects, but I don’t pursue it as a career. If asked, I’ll go out for a part, or if a filmmaker thinks I’m right for a part I’ll certainly do it. I had three years of experience writing and performing on stage in the sketch comedy group that I co-founded, and it was satisfying to receive that immediate feedback you get from live stage work.

I wrote a submarine action film, “USS Poseidon: Phantom Below” and the director Brian Trenchard-Smith wanted me on set as the writer in Hawaii, so he offered to have me audition for a role in the film so the production company would have to send me over.

(L to R: Adrian Paul, Matt Battaglia, and Mark Sanderson)

I picked the communications officer as it was a smaller part, but I had five scenes with the lead actors. It was an amazing experience being on set in Hawaii as the writer and in the film as an actor. I had scenes with acting veterans and I was truly living my dream. I was on set every day and even once the director had me fill in and call out the dialogue that would later come through the PA system of the sub and also yelling “BOOM!” so the actors could react when the sub was rocked by depth charges. It was very surreal — me reading aloud my written words and the scene coming alive right in front of me! I also recently starred in a web commercial for a new iPhone app and that was tremendous fun. So, I still act when someone feels I’m right for a part because it’s another outlet for my creativity.

Was UCLA film school a natural progression, and what did you gain from the course? In what ways did it help you advance your career?

At first higher education was not a natural progression after graduating high school, because my original plan was not to attend college and just venture out into the real world and try to find work in the film industry. That was short lived and I started taking classes at UCLA Extention’s Film Certificate program here in Los Angeles, but quickly became disillusioned, as I really wanted to go to film school, study film, and make films in a creative environment of like-minded filmmakers.

I decided to attend Santa Monica City College and spent a few years completing the courses required for transferring to a four-year university. As a junior, UCLA Film School was the only college where I applied and I could not go over my total credits because they only accepted students of junior status. It was truly a “do or die” mission for me because if I didn’t get accepted, I’d have to wait another year to reapply and I could not take any more credits and affect my junior status. I remember the seemingly endless wait to her back about my acceptance or rejection. I had pretty decent grades and UCLA required applicants to submit a short film script, a critical analysis of a movie, and an essay on why you wanted to attend film school.

This was a critical time for my big plans of being a filmmaker. I was twenty-one years old and had been already making films for nine years. It was my life’s dream to be a working filmmaker in Hollywood and I believed that film school was the next logical step to further my studies. I had no idea if I was going to be accepted, but I had to keep my faith.

I remember the day UCLA’s letter arrived. I was terrified, as I knew the outcome of their decision would directly affect the next year of my life — good or bad. I ripped open the envelope and dropped the letter on my desktop. I didn’t immediately read it and my heart raced with fear of the outcome. This was real life and I knew whatever the letter said was out of my control. UCLA had made their decision and the only part left in the process was for me to read their verdict. I finally sat down and slowly unfolded the letter. It was typed on official UCLA stationery and personally signed in ink. My eyes shifted to the first sentence: “Dear Mr. Sanderson, Congratulations! We’re pleased to notify you of your acceptance to UCLA Film School.” I felt so relieved and overjoyed to be accepted into one of the top five film schools in the world. I almost didn’t read the remainder of the letter.

It’s difficult to explain in words, but everything looked and felt more alive that day—the sky was more blue, the sun was brighter, and my senses were heightened by the joy of being accepted to one of the top film schools in the country— the only college where I applied.

The ways film school helped in my later career was that I set aside this amazing period of my life to study cinema, learn critical analysis, learn screenwriting basics from working professors, and create more films. This is when I started to focus my writing on feature screenplays. I look back on those early scripts today and they’re so primitive in their execution, but it’s a necessary reminder of where I started and how far I’ve come as a screenwriter. It’s been a very long journey with ups, downs, failures and successes, but I’ve survived in the trenches and I’m blessed to be getting paid to do what I love to do.

It’s often debated that it’s not necessary to have done a screenwriting or film course in order to “make it” in the industry. Do you agree? Of course, you have had both practical experience as well as an education. Do you feel that one was more valuable than the other?

I strongly believe that studying your craft is extremely necessary. It’s everything. I could not have achieved my success if I didn’t focus and study my craft early on in my pursuit of being a filmmaker. I believe that both education and practical experience are equally important.

Aspiring screenwriters will need the time to fail and write badly.

You can only become excellent over time and finding your unique voice as a writer, but you need to know the history of cinema too. You need to know the conventions of genre and rules for screenwriting before you can break them. You also need to find the genre that best suits your style and passion. This all takes time and you need to be patient. I thought after film school that I would run out and get a three-picture deal. That’s just not the reality of the business.

I find many aspirants are impatient and just want to sell their first script for millions because it’s just that easy. Believe me — it’s not that easy. It takes years of working on your craft before you can compete in the professional world. You’ve heard about the overnight success that was ten years in the making? It’s true. After graduating film school, my own journey took me six years until I landed my first professional writing job with the MTV network. It was two years after that until my feature screenplay was produced (my fifth spec). That’s eight years of hard work and focus. It’s a long haul and beginning writers need to respect our craft and that means taking the time to study and learn.

Your talent is equally important as your professional attitude and work ethic.

What’s your advice to any aspiring writers who may not have found their passion early enough to have made a start on it until now. What’s the best way for them to get started and to progress quickly?

I don’t know if there is any “quick” progress that can be made.

It’s like a marathon. You can’t just decide one day to run a marathon and hope to finish. You may be able travel a few miles and then hit a wall unless you have the proper training and endurance. You have to spend the precious time to train and workout—to fail and succeed.

The same goes for writers. Any writer of any age can’t go from never writing to suddenly finding their voice, their genre, and being an excellent screenwriter in one script. One script usually does not make a career. I would advise aspiring writers who start later in the game to respect the craft and the mountain they are about to climb. And climbing that mountain never ends. The pursuit of getting to the top may be achieved eventually, but you have to stay on top and over time no one does. So keep that in mind and write every day, focus, follow disciplines and always be a professional in your actions and attitude. There is no easy way around it for anyone — only through it.

It’s okay to start now — today is all we have. Consider yourself fortunate to find your passion in life as many people do not or they live with regrets having never gone after their dreams.

You have to move forward without fear. Passion for a craft at any age is what I believe drives us to want to tackle it and solider on. I love what I do. I’ve worked extremely hard and sacrificed over the years. I’m blessed to continue to do it and never take it for granted. As you live more and experience life’s ups and downs, you will have a wealth of real life material to draw from in your writing. Authenticity is the key to all writing. Always being truthful and honest.

You’ve gone on to write many screenplays of varying genres, ranging from family dramas to action and even noir thrillers. When starting out, were you drawn to write any particular genres/stories, and why? Are there any other genres, themes or stories that you would like to approach?

When I was a pre-teen making films, my first scripts were all spy, martial arts, and sci-fi movies—basically the genre films that we loved at that age and wanted to emulate. In film school some of my films were more experimental and explored deep issues like death and regrets, but others were light-hearted comedies. When I started writing feature screenplays in college my first ones were comedies. I always seem to have a default back to the comedy genre. After college, I was the co-founder of a successful Los Angeles based sketch comedy troupe and we performed a new live show once a month. I was able to act and write during this period with the group. I have been lucky to work in many different genres or hybrid-genres in the indie world.

Most of my assignment work has been on the drama/family drama side, but overall I’m attracted to stories about broken people in difficult circumstances who find a way back to happiness.

These stories really interest me in any genre. How we can deal with our life’s challenges — if it’s fighting thirty deadly snakes on a submarine hundreds of feet under the ocean or a group of kids innocently befriending the “enemy” during WWII. I’ve tackled most every genre that has been offered my way and has interested me and there isn’t one that I yearn to write at this point.

You’ve written for both TV series and film. Which do you prefer? Do you need to have a different skill set/be in a different mindset for each approach? Do you find one to be more of a “collaboration” than the other?

I love all writing. During the sketch comedy days, we’d get immediate feedback if something worked or fell dead on stage and the energy of that feedback was an amazing experience. The film and TV writing may take a year or many years before it ends up being produced and eventually screens for an audience for response. And most of the time I am not around to experience that response if something premieres on TV.

I don’t think you need a different mindset to write features or TV, but in both you need to tell interesting and honest stories within the different formats. TV allows you to explore characters over a longer period of a season. Feature films a lot less.

The feature script generally has three acts, the half-hour series has two acts, the hour series has six acts, and the movie for television usually has eight acts. I find with my feature scripts there is less collaboration as I answer to usually one or two bosses (the producers) and then collaborate with the director to get it into a place where he or she can most effectively film it.

In my TV work, there are more “collaborators” with regards to the many producers guiding the scripts and this is when writers need to learn the craft of executing notes and being a team player.

As it’s development season, I’m currently focused on my TV pilots and I’m out around town pitching my two pilots to showrunners and TV production companies. It takes a good chunk of time to develop a pilot and the series bible and creating these two shows have been taken up over a year to get them ready.

Your success has grown through hard work, perseverance and recognition from competitions and film festivals. How beneficial do you consider competitions/initiatives to be in getting writers’ names “out there”? Many new writers strive to place in competitions. Do you have any top tips for them?

I believe the top competitions can help a writer even if he or she places and does not win. It’s a fantastic gauge of how you’re writing and the level of your writing. If you compete and place or win in the contest, you’ll know you have something special.

But you must choose wisely. You can spend a lot of money entering dozens of contests. I would pick four or five of the top contests and enter them all with a few of your top scripts. If that’s cost prohibitive then pick just two. Focus on the more well-known and respected contests.

I don’t know how much it’s valued to win or be runner up in an unknown, small contest that most people in the business have not heard of before. Be sure to check if the contest is run by a production company. Many times the contest is a guise to gather material so they can look for new films. This may sound good, but if you win and accept the cash, it may be payment for your script and considerably less money than if the script sold on the market.

Read the fine print on the rules for any contest that you enter with your screenplay.

Early on as I was pursuing a screenwriting career, I entered competitions/fellowships in an attempt to make some noise in a crowded marketplace. After film school, I finished my fifth spec script I’ll Remember April, a WWII coming-of-age drama set in a small town on the coast of California two months after Pearl Harbor.

Haley Joel Osment starred in I’ll Remember April.

I entered it in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship with hopes of winning. There were thousands of scripts entered from around the world. If you do win the Fellowship, they have a huge ceremony and promote the event and winners to Hollywood. I ended up in the semi-finals and the top 3% of all scripts — mine was in the top 21 of scripts — but the first 9 writers received the fellowship that year. The coordinator called me personally and gave me suggestions and notes. I know he didn’t do that with everyone of the hundred or so semi-finalists. Funny it was a script that one of the biggest agencies in town rejected. This was a good test to see if I had something of value.

I was able to use the top 3% placement to get agents and managers to seriously consider my script and me for representation. My script went on to be optioned the following year, went into development, purchased, produced and distributed worldwide.

What would you consider to have been your “big break”; what propelled your career forwards into new territory from amateur to professional?

My “big break” happened when I was able to quit my job and get paid as a professional writer. This happened when I landed a staff-writing job for a show on the MTV network. Before and during college, I worked as a waiter in various restaurants to pay my bills. That ended up being a ten-year slog overall and it was a great job at the time that paid well and also allowed me to focus on my craft of screenwriting.

Being a waiter allowed part time hours for decent pay and a flexible schedule — important for any aspiring artist who needs to take meetings, work on productions and have time to seriously write.

When I landed my first professional writing job, I quit the restaurant and never looked back. I made a pact with myself to never go back to any job and only move forward. A door closed and another opened and I entered. But it’s funny how life throws us a curve and then it’s about how we react and adapt. I found myself fired from my first writing job (Ouch!) prior to the Christmas holidays, but I had the good fortune a few months later to have my script, I’ll Remember April (the same Nicholl placement) become optioned for money and go into development. So, the “big break” got me out of a job that I didn’t like anymore and brought me into the world of a professional.

Any screenwriter’s journey is about how to stay in the game. Unless you work on a TV series for a season, writing feature films goes from job to job. It’s always about your last job, your current job, and finding your next job. It never ends at any level of the film business.

Are you, or have you been, represented by an agent? In the UK, it’s possible to get work without one, but very beneficial as a working professional to have an agent. How would you say this compares with the US, and do you have any tips for writers on how to get an agent?

Yes, in my career I’ve been represented by both agents and managers. The agents were usually from a referral or my manger at the time knew them and was the go between. I’m currently between agents, but my manager has been with me for two years now. We’re courting various agents, but generally my experience agents will come on board when you are already working on a TV show or your script is about to sell. Only once did a meeting that an agent set up turn into a job. Usually you are networking and trying to utilize your contacts and then you have your agent or manager set up the meetings.

A screenwriter needs to always take responsibility for his or her career. You can’t leave it up to anyone else.

Agents usually do not want to add new clients to an already crowded roster of people they can’t find work for either. My manager is always the go between with an agent and I communicate with the manager daily and the agent generally only when we are preparing to go out with a project. It is possible here in the US also to get work without either, but it’s more difficult.

It helps to always have a solid entertainment attorney in your corner to look out for your best interests. An agent is necessary more in TV here than features, but finding a great one is difficult. I’ve always had better relationships with managers who are able to produce as well here in the US while agents are not. Managers also usually come out of a development/production background and offer great notes on projects before they go out. I’ve never received detailed notes from an agent.

How does a new screenwriter get an agent? Attract a representative by always being busy and being an excellent screenwriter. Make some noise. Sounds easy, right? It takes time.

Do not wait for them to “discover you.” Always have a new script, treatment, pitch and logline at the ready. You can’t be a one-script wonder or hope that your “one” script makes your career. A career is made from a break and then the constant steam of excellent work that follows. Agents love workhorses, not divas.

Also, many beginning writers are not even close to being ready for an agent. They are not writing or executing notes/changes at a professional level, so you’ll waste an agent’s time because you are not ready. They have to feel confident that if you land a job you’ll be able to execute the work, you won’t be difficult, and ultimately you won’t get fired. Agents get paid by commission and if you don’t work they don’t make money from you.

Success or no success, agent or no agent, one thing’s for certain: writers need to network. Do you have any stories to share with us about your early experiences of networking? Any tips for those who may be unsure or nervous about networking?

Networking is so important to screenwriters as your contacts are the life’s blood of your career. Learn patience on your journey because it will take time to establish yourself as an excellent screenwriter before you can fully cultivate your film industry relationships.

As you build your solid network of contacts make sure that you are generous with those who deserve your time. You never know where your contacts will lead and that is why you need to build a solid list through networking.

Here’s a good example of my own early networking experiences: After I graduated from film school and I was just starting out, my girlfriend at the time had a friend who was a producer’s assistant and she believed in my spec script (my fifth script). She got another assistant interested whose boss was about to form a new production company. He convinced his boss to option my script, they eventually bought it as their first purchase, they produced the film and it sold internationally. My contact’s position in the company grew and he eventually became the President of Production. Years later he hired me for over a half-dozen paid script assignments. You never know where your contacts will lead.

Here are some networking tips that I use: If someone helps you—pay it forward. Be a solid and trusted contact yourself. It can’t be a one-sided relationship. Offer help to others and it will eventually come back to you ten fold. If asked, read a contact’s script and offer notes. Help out with a live script reading. Work on a contact’s film production or short movie for free. Support a contact by attending their film’s screening. Even if you help someone and there is no pay, always do your best work because you leave behind the imprint of your reputation. Show your contacts at every level that you are a talented and generous professional. When you project a professional attitude you will attract like-minded artists.

As you gain experience over time, you’ll quickly learn how to weed out the aspirants and bullshitters from the professional minded folks. The professionals are the ones who you want to keep as contacts. Every project is either a new opportunity or a failed opportunity. It depends on the way you choose to play it.

Which of your produced (or in development) works affected you the most; i.e. is there a particular story which greatly moved you emotionally and/or which you approached with a particularly strong passion? Why was this?

The project that affected me the most has to be my first spec sale the script “I’ll Remember April.” It’s the story of a group of kids in 1942 who live just north of Santa Barbara in California during the early part of WWII.

They discover a stranded Japanese sailor who fell overboard from his submarine off the coast and they take him hostage. It’s on the backdrop of the Japanese internment and examines issues of race and friendship during those rough times. I was on page 60 of my first draft when my father passed away, so I stopped writing and couldn’t touch it for six months. I finally got back to writing and the whole issue of my loss deeply affected the rest of the script.

I was in such an emotional period of my own life at the time, I think it really came through in the writing and the characters.

WWII was a time of great loss and there was tremendous sacrifice for those on the homefront. This script idea came to me out of a dream that I had. When I did more research, I found that a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Santa Barbara and shelled an oil refinery on the night of February 23, 1942. So, my idea was based upon a historical incident it gave the story even more relevance.

I had shopped the script around Hollywood for five years until I found a producer who had just formed a new production company and wanted my script. It took three more years until the first day of photography, so that was a seven-year journey with this particular project. It would be another two years until it’s TV premiere and international distribution. This movie was a labor of love and because of my emotional connection to the script and the long journey to find the right home. It also had special meaning to me because it was my first screenplay sale. The project really had significant personal importance to me on a professional level but also an emotional level and that’s rare to experience in a career.

What’s your latest script in development about, and how did you come to write it/be taken on to write it?

I have five screenplays ‘in development’ and that means I was paid to write the scripts, they are out to investors, and hopefully moving along in the pipeline toward production. Many times you can get trapped in “development hell” and it can take years, so you need to move onto your next project.

The script is out of the writer’s control once it’s turned into the producer or production company. They take control and the project either moves it along or it does not.

There are so many factors that impede a film’s production and the number one factor is not being able to secure financing. Many times a distribution deal isn’t set up, so a screenwriter may be writing a project that has yet to find complete funding or a buyer before it’s made. The business aspects in Hollywood always take longer than you could ever imagine. Many times final contracts alone take months because of the back and forth between the entertainment attorneys. I call it “Hollywood’s time warp” and this is when you need to learn patience.

But you solider on and continue to write your next project. A recent script that I co-wrote with the director is called “Area 54” and it’s a romantic/action comedy about a reality TV star who hunts relics and teams up with an old love interest to find the living remains of an ancient alien trapped in a hidden pyramid in the desert of Roswell, New Mexico. The movie is a comedic throwback to the B-Sci-fi films of the 1950s and 60s. We planned and budgeted it to be shot in 3-D. It’s been partially location scouted by the director and the script is out to investors and to acting talent for consideration. Securing the money can be a long process, but this project is one of my favourites and I am a producer on it as well. We plan to shoot on location in Roswell hopefully in the spring when the weather is warmer.

Until then, I’m focusing on my TV writing and as development season is winding down, I’m making the rounds with my two TV pilots, a half-hour comedy and an hour action/thriller. My manger is setting up meetings with showrunners and producers. It’s all part of the process to return and meet with old contacts who are fans of my writing and to meet new contacts.

A screenwriter’s life is an ongoing journey to create your next project while you peddle your current projects.

You’re now branching out as a consultant. What made you decide to go down this route, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I’ve been blessed to work and collaborate with some top professionals in film industry and many have become my mentors over the years. In that same spirit of teaching and learning, I felt the need to “give back” and pay it forward to those who are coming up behind me.

I was first given the opportunity when my friend who teaches art in middle/high school would ask me to come into her classes and talk about the life of a screenwriter. She wanted to show the kids various options of a professional career in the arts and that writing was a possibility. I also run into so many people who ask me to read their scripts and it was hard to work it into my busy schedule. As I write professionally, many didn’t respect the fact it’s what I do for a living, and they would expect me to read their script just because I was a writer. So, I decided to build my screenplay consulting services and fill that need for in-depth feedback. I give page specific notes on all aspects of a screenplay. It’s not traditional coverage. It’s not my place to say “PASS” or “FAIL.” I act more like a coach and offer suggestions with critical analysis to make the script more effective if it needs help. This is important before you unleash it upon Hollywood.

I’ve developed a full day workshop that I teach at the LA Creative Workshops in the Canoga Park area of the west valley in Los Angeles. It is a master class in disciplines that I’ve used before, during and after the first draft to help establish my career. It’s really fulfilling to get the immediate feedback and see when attendees learn new ways of going after their careers. I have a wealth of real world experience to back up my disciplines and I think it helps attendees, to have someone teaching who’s been there and done that. I’m also busy editing my new book about surviving in the trenches of Hollywood. It should be completed by the spring. I also just did a Writers Store webinar, “How To Become a Standout Screenwriter: 10 Steps to Empower Your Career.” It was a big success and a lot of fun. They have it archived on their website for sale. I’ll be offering more of my own webinars in the future, so keep checking back to my website – – for upcoming news.

I enjoy being able to help new screenwriters to avoid the pitfalls that I have experienced in the past. It’s an ongoing journey about learning, saving time and saving energy. If you can take a right turn instead of a left, it may be the difference between success and failure. Some clients have told me they’re surprised that a professional would share his disciplines and not keep them a secret.

I feel you can teach someone a discipline or technique, but it’s really up to them to master it on their own.

Many writers give up because it’s a really difficult business to achieve any level of success. It’s been reported that between 30,000 – 40,000 projects are bouncing around Hollywood at any given time during a year. In 2011, Hollywood only released 601 films in the theatres. According to the Writers Guild, out of their 19,354 members, only about 4,338 reported income in 2011. At any given time, 45% of the writers are out of work and only the top 1% make over a million dollars a year. Horrible odds—but if I only focused on the odds and didn’t believe I could make it, I’d be working at some job that I hate, and living with the regret of never having gone after my childhood dreams of being a filmmaker. It’s really about the attention to the small details and decisions of any pursuit. If your pursuit is a career as a working screenwriter, you’ll need to respect the amount of information you don’t know and realize your experience can only come with time and hard work.

You mentioned you have written a book. What’s it about and when will it be published?

The book is the culmination of my experiences in the past fifteen years of working as a professional screenwriter in Hollywood. It’s a “how to” guide to surviving in the trenches of this business with my real-world practical disciplines and methods that helped me to build and establish a career. It’s taken me about a year and a half to complete and I’m busy editing the first draft.

The editing process is not as fun as the writing of the book, but writing is rewriting.

Some other project always seems to get in the way and there is no excuse, but I’m trying not to apply too much pressure, as I know I’ll get the editing done sooner than later. I should have the new draft in a few months. My manager is politely asking me weekly “how’s it going?” as she plans to take it out to publishers. So, there is no set publisher yet, and it may end up being self-published, offered digitally, printed on demand and sold at my workshops or online. The fist step is getting the beast finished! I’ll check back and let you know when it’s done.

Thank you so much, Mark, for taking the time to share your stories and your insight into the world of screenwriting and film-making. It’s been an honour to feature you on the blog, and I wish you all the best with your latest projects!

I want to thank you, Michelle for this great opportunity for an interview. It’s been my honour and pleasure. I really enjoy your website and appreciate your dedication to the craft of writing. I wish you continued success with all of your projects as well.

Find Mark online:


Twitter: @scriptcat

Facebook at MY BLANK PAGE

Screenwriting blog MY BLANK PAGE is at

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