Script brings you behind the scenes to get to know our family of contributors on a more personal level. Meet Dan Goforth, author of Short Circuit.
Former rocket scientist, shark safety diver and award winning screenwriter, Dan Goforth’s most recent assignments were RIDING ON FAITH, the true-life story of rodeo champion Amberley Snyder and the feature film adaptations of New York Times bestselling author Col. Walter J. Boyne’s DAWN OVER KITTY HAWK, as well as the sci-fi graphic novel, THE CHRONIC ARGONAUTS, from New Baby Publishing. Visit Dan’s blog, Script Soup and follow him on Twitter @Dango_Forth.
What was the first movie you ever remember seeing or the one that made the most impact on you as a child?
The first film I can recall was Darby O’Gill and the Little People… and it absolutely terrified me. That wailing banshee stayed just outside my window through most of my childhood, just waiting for me to venture out after dark. 🙂
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Hands down, Roman Holiday, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Love, honor, friendship… everything about what is best in all of us is here. This is a film that speaks to everyone, no matter what the time period.
What word or scenario do you never want to see in a screenplay again?
“Ruggedly handsome”. Please, unless you’re casting a schlub (like me) and are trying to butter him up, please please please don’t describe your main character this way.
What profession did your parents want you to have?
Lawyer. I even took the LSATs and scored high enough to get into law school. But my path was the one less traveled.
What profession, other than your current one, would you like to try if you could have a do-over?
Ichthyologist. I have always had a fascination with fish and sharks. Of course, my wife maintains it is an UNHEALTHY fascination on the shark side…
I was up in Chicago doing some consulting work. I went into a local bookstore for something to pass the time and stumbled upon the Chicago Screenwriters Group showing and analyzing The Hunt for Red October. I was immediately hooked.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
My wife and I have adopted twelve children, some with special needs, who coexist (for the most part) with rescue horses, abandoned-and-adopted dogs and cats, etc. at my “secluded mountain fortress”.
What do you wish you knew about the industry before you jumped in?
You hear established writers always talking about the long game. I think that new writers tend to read that and just kind of gloss over it. I know, for a fact, that I did.
Most, almost all, new screenwriters complete their very first script – and their very first question is rarely, “How do I get even better as a writer?”… Instead, it’s almost always, “Now how do I get an agent?!” They’re concentrating strictly on the short game: the immediate short-yardage-break-it-open-for-a-touchdown play. In the beginning, pretty much EVERYBODY sees themselves as the superstar running back who makes things happen on their own. Hollywood knows this – everybody is going to try the end-around and make the quick score. And they also know that 99% (or even 99.9%) of their opponents simply don’t have what it takes to score at this stage of the game. If they can just stop them at the line of scrimmage, they don’t have to waste resources covering the end zone. So, Hollywood puts these giant Hulks at the line. And it works for anyone trying for the quick score. These defensive linemen are the Gatekeepers (assistants, no-submission policies, etc.) – and anyone who’s been in the business will confirm just how adept they are at “holding the line.”
So, what is the long game? That’s the series of plays and downs which must be executed well to set up the long pass to the end zone. And that doesn’t happen because of one person. It takes a team: a quarterback (you), blockers, receivers – all working together to make the play that can score. They’ve spent long hours, days, weeks, YEARS working together to be ready to make the play that can score. This is YOUR team: fellow writers who you share scripts and honest critiques with, experienced pros who take the time to share their wisdom via columns, websites, podcasts, books… It all works together: your writing gets better, perhaps you win a competition or two, friends get in a position to give referrals, etc. And finally, you cross that goal line. Hopefully, along the way? you’ve also learned to give someone else a turn at quarterback – and you can do some blocking for them.
Admittedly, sometimes even with a good team surrounding you, you can still end up with a losing season/career. So learn to cherish the time with your teammates – on and off the field – because when the final whistle blows, real fulfillment doesn’t come from the scoreboard… but by how you played the game.
If you could impart only one piece of knowledge onto writers, what would it be?
Learn to concentrate on the joy of creating. Although the business side may end up paying the bills, the stress and setbacks can weigh you down unless you remember why you became a writer in the first place…
If you have any other fun tidbits you want to add, go for it!
At home, I drive an ‘89 GMC four-wheel drive pickup truck named Sully – cuz he’s big and blue and a monster.