Since I won third place in the Final Draft Big Break Screenplay Competition, I’ve been walking around saying “This is so CRAZY.” Sometimes I change the inflection a bit… “This is SO crazy” or “THIS… is so crazy.” I think I’m still in shock. It’s that surreal.
The night I won the award is kind of a blur. I remember Shelly Mellott pulling me aside and saying that Palak Patel from Joe Roth Productions wanted to meet me. I remember Palak saying he wanted to make my movie, Bethlehem, and I remember responding I wanted to let him. And then I was up until 3 AM PST (because my wife wouldn’t be awake until 6 AM EST and I NEEDED to talk to her), pacing around my hotel room like a madman. That night changed my life.
I can honestly say I wasn’t prepared for success. I wanted it, and I was working for it, no question. It just seemed so improbable. I owe a great debt to my writing professors at Spalding University’s MFA program, partly because they really helped me refine my craft, but also because they were there to help me with the decision making. I find that even a little success can paralyze you, make you terrified of making “the wrong decision and blowing your one chance.” Also, thank you Mom and Dad for paying for the degree. I have no intention of ever paying you back, so enjoy the grandchildren.
There were a lot of calls from potential managers, but I really connected with Mitch Solomon from Magnet at the Final Draft competition, and I knew he believed in the script. After a little bit, Palak got my script to Martin Spencer at CAA. We met for dinner when he came to New York and the next thing I knew he was interested in repping me.
And then I got my first chance at going after an assignment. Brad Simpson and Franklin Leonard were interested in having me read Angelology and come up with a take on it. I worked on the pitch for weeks, and when I finally got to tell it to them over the phone, there was silence on the other end. I tried to parse what the silence meant. Was my pitch that good? That bad?
Apparently, at some point during the pitch we had been disconnected. It took me about thirty seconds to figure that out. But when we reconnected, they told me my pitch was “outside-the-box and interesting,” and they liked it. I kept working on it with them, and in August, I flew out to LA to pitch it to Sony. I got the job, and it’s been an amazing experience!
I also had the opportunity to meet with production companies I have loved for years. And they wanted to talk to me. It almost felt like a science fiction convention, where people cared about my opinions. Suddenly all of the things about me that made me an outcast in junior high school – my passion for super-heroes, the Muppets, vampires, and science fiction – made me cool in a meeting. I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. I went down again in January, and now it seems like I’ll be flying out once or twice a year.
Hey Mom and Dad! Remember when you told me I need to stop playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading comic books because I needed to do my biology homework? You were totally wrong. What I was doing was way more important.
Larry Brenner is a playwright and screenwriter. Universal just bought his screenplay ‘Bethlehem,’ which was the script that made him one of the winners of Final Draft’s 2010 Big Break™ competition. Larry earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Spalding University, where he now teaches as faculty, and is currently earning his PhD at NYU.