When it comes to screenwriting contests, Final Draft’s Big Break™ screenwriting competition, unlike others, puts its winners face-to-face with Hollywood’s most elite dealmakers. “It’s exciting to have people reading my work and really considering it,” says third place winner Larry Brenner, the 33-year-old professor who teaches public speaking and the fundamentals of interpersonal communication at Bronx Community College in New York. His comedic horror script, Flesh and Blood, about a vampire who ends up protecting the last few surviving humans during a zombie apocalypse, has piqued interest in several industry professionals. Script sat down with Brenner to learn more about his process as a writer and to see how Big Break™ changed his life.
SCRIPT: Where did you get the idea for Flesh and Blood?
LARRY BRENNER: I’m a big old nerd. I’m a Dungeons & Dragons playing, comic book reading, science fiction watching nerd. And when you’re a 13-year-old nerd you ask questions like, “If I lived in a zombie apocalypse, would I let a vampire feed off of me so I wouldn’t have to face the zombies?” In more recent times, I played a role-playing game where I played a vampire. One of the things that occurred to me is one of the tragedies of being a vampire is that it either means you’re going to be killed – because you can’t naturally expire, or you’re going to outlive everything and everyone you know. When the world ends, you’ll still be there. Neither alternative is particularly ideal. The original idea was a vampire would survive the apocalypse, and that there is no one left in the world at all. But then I thought, hey, what if it was a zombie apocalypse? They’re dead; he’s dead. He’s a monster, but he’s disgusted by the mindless hordes around him, and doesn’t want to be affiliated with them. It’s a Dawn of the Dead kind of movie. The dead walk the earth. This is a horror movie, but in many ways, it’s more of an action-comedy.
SCRIPT: Describe your writing process.
LARRY BRENNER: I write for an hour every day. Usually over the last few years, that hour has been nap time, when the kids are asleep. I put aside an hour, and it’s got to be some sort of writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or if it’s bad. For that hour, I’m in front of the computer screen, typing. I don’t surf the net and I don’t take phone calls. This is time to throw things on the screen and see what resonates.
SCRIPT: How did you get into screenwriting?
LARRY BRENNER: I started out as a playwright. I’ve written several nationally recognized plays. I’m a big character/dialogue guy. Character and dialogue come first and story comes second. But if a story comes to me visually – and when I started writing this script, at the end of the first week, the first 15 pages of the screenplay, there was not one word of dialogue – then it has to be a screenplay. You’d have a hard time doing that in a play. Currently, I’m in the stages of completing my MFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University. I share my scripts with my mentors and fellow students there, and I love them for it. They give fantastic feedback. I also have to shout-out my best friend from high school. He and I constantly read each other’s work. I am really blessed with a supportive group of friends. And my wife, my parents. I’ve got a really supportive family.
SCRIPT: What was it like to win the contest?
LARRY BRENNER: Amazing. I’ve placed in some contests before, and that’s great, but this experience completely blew my mind. Everyone from Final Draft was so generous with their time and energy, and really worked to make this a special experience. It was so exciting to come out to L.A., meet industry, and have conversations about my script. It was like a dream, and I remember walking around with far more energy and excitement than I knew what to do with.
SCRIPT: What happened after you placed in Big Break™?
LARRY BRENNER: There are a number of people who have offered to read the script, who have shown interest in developing a relationship. That’s exciting. Just a few months ago, the big issue for me was not whether or not my work was good, but whether someone would read it. It’s exciting to have people reading my work and really considering it.
SCRIPT: What’s next for you?
LARRY BRENNER: I have a couple of projects happening now. I had a play go up over the summer, Saving Throw Vs. Love, a comedy about a woman who discovers her fiance’ secretly plays role-playing games, and I’m working with producers to turn it into an Off-Broadway production. There’s been interest in me turning it into a screenplay, too, which is my current writing project.