This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
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Next up: an interview with Brandon Alexander, author of First Period
Brandon Alexander is originally from Grapevine, TX. He moved out to Los Angeles when he was 17 with a bunch of friends just for shits and giggles. He never graduated high school or went to college, but he got started writing at around 18 through other screenwriters, writing jokes for stand ups, improv, and doing script coverage and editing for independent production companies. He worked his way up, working on bigger projects, working on a lot of things for free, and here he is today.
What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced, or your first project that was produced, or your first writing assignment?
I’ve had a few small things produced that I wrote but my first BIG project I had produced was a feature film called First Period which I wrote, co-starred in, and co-produced.
Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
I had originally written First Period as a short called “Becoming A Woman: A Woman’s Story of Womanhood.” It was a parody of really bad 80’s Lifetime movies. I really wanted to make it (just for fun) with a guy, Dudley Beene, I knew from a play we were both in. I thought he was really funny and he’d be perfect for the other lead roll. I hit him up and he wanted to do it but neither of us knew how to make a short film so we kind of dropped it. Years later, Dudley called me while I was living in Chicago and asked me if I could turn Becoming A Woman into a feature film script because he saved up some money and wanted to make it into a feature film. I said “Yes!” and I moved back to LA to make it happen. I rewrote the script in a month and we began shooting it shortly after.
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion.
Unreal. I was worried people wouldn’t get it or think it was too weird but I didn’t care because it made us laugh. But when it hit the festival circuit and we started to win awards and getting positive reviews, well, we kind of started to realize that maybe we have a pretty awesome movie after all. It played international and then we got on Netflix. I get recognized in public which is always weird because it’s a stranger knowing you, but you don’t know them. I’ve got tons of messages from people that have seen the movie and loved it. It’s a very strange experience from going from an absolute nobody to a kind of sort of somebody. It’s just a really great feeling knowing that there’s people out there that like what you’re doing.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
Getting everything organized and then actually shooting the movie. We had a very, very small budget and we only had ten days to do it in, so everything was always kind of rush rush rush. It was still fun and we laughed a lot and had a great time doing everything but it was definitely learning on the fly. The writing process from turning a short into a feature was a little difficult. It’s such a different ballgame in storytelling. And I was writing a comedy that had some really inappropriate topics in it so I had to make sure to be very careful to not offend anybody, but be as edgy as possible. There’s a fine line and I made sure to walk it as careful as possible.
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
Professional writing is a business. Pure and simple. If you are writing for a studio, or a producer, or a production company, you are doing a job and making a product, remember that. 9 times out of 10, the finished script is going to be nothing like what you had originally envisioned. You might not necessarily even be the only writer, or the last writer on it as well. If you want to write to have your voice heard or to show off your art or skills then you should try to get your work independently produced or try writing it as a book or a novel. Something where you don’t have a lot of people that you have to report too.
- What are you working on now?
I just completed a family friendly feature that is shooting in October and another feature which is shooting in early 2016. I’m also writing the sequel to my first film, First Period as well as starting my own sketch comedy series.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
Ugh, that’s so hard to say. I love so many. I will watch and obsess over anything with a really well done story or great character development. I love watching shows that you can tell the writer put in a lot of thought to it. Other than that I watch cartoons.
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
The internet is such a vast unclaimed land right now so I think a lot of distribution companies are still trying to figure out how to plant their flag in the digital plain. I have a feeling cable will be phased out and more online “stations” like Hulu and Netflix, will start popping up and with web series now, the TV format will definitely be seeing a change to structure.
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
The hardest part of writing is doing it. It really is! Forcing yourself to sit down and actually write is just like trying to go to the gym. You just have to make yourself. Watch what shows are hot or are doing really well, focus on the writing and see if there’s any cool story telling devices that you could use in your toolbox. Write shorts, get them produced, be a part of productions. If you want to get into studio writing, it helps to know how much would it cost to do all of the stuff in your script. Some scripts would just be too expensive to produce so they don’t. And learn your industry, be proactive. You want to be a writer, make it your life, make it your career, read books on it, make friends with other writers, get into writing groups, get something produced so people can watch what the end result of your writing is. If you really want to be a writer, then you will be. It just depends on how hard you’re willing to work for it.
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
Go on road trips or play video games. Just anything that gets me out of my head. Stepping away and giving myself mental vacations completely reenergizes me and it’s usually in those moments that I get my best ideas. I also spend as much time as I can with my friends. When I’m writing I become a hermit and don’t talk to anyone so when I’m done I try to make sure my friends know how much I appreciate them and try to support whatever is going on in their lives.
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
I was a gogo dancer at a gay nightclub for 3 years when I was 18. It was the easiest job ever! Nothing scary or gross ever happened. I just danced on a box to really bad pop music videos and got paid for it. I eventually turned 21 and realized I should actually think about my future and get a real job.
And take a look at the other interviews in this series:
Linda Andersson http://ow.ly/RToCT
Nicole Jones-Dion http://ow.ly/RB049
Hernando Bansuelo and Josh Watson http://ow.ly/RiJrv
Jim Vines http://ow.ly/R0gv9
Nick Felice, http://ow.ly/QIF9O
Bryce Richardson, http://ow.ly/OWxBS
Tracee Beebe, http://ow.ly/ODrGq
Mary Krell-Oishi, http://ow.ly/Olp7W
Stuart Creque, http://ow.ly/O1Ubu
P.J. McIlvaine, http://ow.ly/NIE74
Ken Lemm http://ow.ly/NoT9c
Jane Rosemont http://ow.ly/N6epJ
Todd Niemi http://ow.ly/MOfFq
Louis Pappas, http://ow.ly/LxRji
Allan Brocka, http://ow.ly/LfQNy
Gregory Blair http://ow.ly/KZj9s
Josh Kim http://ow.ly/K7obx
Jim Thalman http://ow.ly/JQ8YT
David Au http://ow.ly/JwM0A
Dwayne Alexander Smith http://ow.ly/J8GJI
Haifaa Al-Mansour http://ow.ly/ITabq
Chad Crawford Kinkle http://ow.ly/HXLq0
Mikey Levy http://ow.ly/HA9Xm
Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr
Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq
Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn
Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1