A great script, a chance at representation and $1,000.
Screenwriter David Horton’s life just got a whole lot better. Thanks to ScriptXpert, Final Draft’s screenwriting consultation service. Horton contracted the service to review and give notes on his spec script, 59 Days, the story of a suburban girl who gets mixed up in a local pyramid scheme. This made Horton’s script automatically eligible for the quarterly Reader’s Choice Award. And he won.
Life is good, the educational administrator from Temecula says. And it’s only getting better. Not only will he receive a check from Final Draft for the win, but his script also received a “Recommend.” That means Final Draft will assist in helping Horton find representation. Script sat down with Horton to find out just how exciting life is for this aspiring screenwriter.
SCRIPT: What’s 59 Days about?
DAVID HORTON: The script is about a young wife and mother who move into a suburban neighborhood in the inland empire in California. When she gets there, there’s a very domineering neighbor up the street who befriends her and eventually pulls her into a multilevel marketing makeup scheme. As the story continues, the protagonist, Michelle, comes to find out that this neighbor is more than just domineering. She’s actually crazy. When Michelle doesn’t want to be in the business anymore, Jenny is very disturbed. Things don’t end well.
SCRIPT: Were there any films that gave you inspiration for your script?
DAVID HORTON: The structural set up in a lot of ways is like The Joneses, but I think the emotional tone is much more like Notes on a Scandal.
SCRIPT: Have you always been a writer?
DAVID HORTON: I got the bug for screenwriting about 15 years ago when a friend of mine was in film school. I was not in film or television at the time, and in talking with him, I kind of got more and more interested in what the process was and how it unfolded. I studied what he was doing, some of the text books and started picking it up. At that time, I really hadn’t lived enough life yet to put that into action. So, fast-forward about four years ago, it all kind of came back.
SCRIPT: Does your day job involve a lot of writing?
DAVID HORTON: I’ve been more on the academic side. Done things with a doctoral dissertation and other stuff, so my writing was really from more of an academic side. It’s only been in the last four years or so, that I picked up more of the artistic side in dealing with things like screenplays. I’m a public school district administrator.
SCRIPT: How did you get the idea?
DAVID HORTON: My wife and I were talking about things, and we decided that in the neighborhood where we live and in the town where we are, right now, there’s some pretty interesting stuff that goes on and decided that, you know what, that could turn into a screenplay.
Script: What’s the best part of Final Draft’s ScriptXpert service?
DAVID HORTON: With both of the screenplays I’ve written, I’ve used ScriptXpert. I’ve been pretty religious to receive both the written coverage, where I would get notes, bullets and notes and suggestions, but also along the way and even more valuable has been to also do a half hour phone call with my reader. That’s been invaluable because then I get to hear the thought process behind the notes, so I get to hear more about why the wrote certain things in the coverage.
SCRIPT: Why were the phone sessions so important?
DAVID HORTON: That really helped me more than anything when I would go back to the workshop and start to pull my script apart. I would be able to hear the phone conversation matched with the notes, and that became for me a really great springboard to get the creativity going.
SCRIPT: What did you learn most from ScriptXpert’s notes?
DAVID HORTON: To trust the process. That the feedback is the most important thing you can give to your script. And to remove any defensiveness that may come from that feedback and look at it and say, “Those notes are coming back for a reason. Somebody who read my stuff saw this, and it might not have been what I intended but I need to attend to it now.” So, by trusting the process, by me going in and clarifying and readjusting, it’s going to remove that rough patch in the script that this person saw. This feedback became the most important element, and that was something, when first getting started, I was not as prepared for that.
SCRIPT: How do you feel about the fact that Final Draft’s ScriptXpert is working on getting you representation?
DAVID HORTON: I’m really excited. I think the thing that was especially true for me on the first screenplay, and even more so now, I really now have come to value the opportunity to have a completed script go out to people in the industry. You don’t really think of that so much when you begin the journey of wanting to get into screenwriting. When it finally dawns on you that when the screenplay is done, you’re not done. There’s another wave of effort that needs to go into it to market it and get it prepared to go. So to have it go out through a vehicle like ScriptXpert, and have people like that assist that process, and send it out, and have actual people in the industry read your stuff, is an incredibly satisfying experience.
SCRIPT: How did you feel about winning the Jackpot prize for $1,000?
DAVID HORTON: I feel really good about that. The exciting part, more than anything, was the direct reflection on the coverage process and the notes and me working with the reader I was working with. I worked with him not only on this one but on the first one. As that relationship developed and matured more and more, it became more and more obvious, that I could handle very pointed feedback. I would say to him, “I don’t want you to be nice. Whatever you find, I want you to say it and let’s get on with where this is going to go. If you see a way I could make it better or stronger or I need to subtract something, take the gloves off.” That’s the only way I’ll be able to get this better and to tell the story I want to tell.