Who: Former antitrust attorney in Washington, D.C. who won the AMC One-Hour Pilot Award at AFF for his pilot Ascension; now a story editor on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I got my start thanks to a very patient wife. A fellow attorney, she wanted to make a career change, which took us to Kansas for a few years. Since I couldn’t practice law there, I had the opportunity to write full-time. In Kansas City I lucked into finding a great friend and screenwriting mentor, Mitch Brian, who taught me pretty much everything I know about the craft.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
Ascension, which is set on a Louisiana sugar plantation in the years leading up to the Civil War. The challenge was in synthesizing tons of research, telling a story on a grand scale from many points of view, and avoiding the pitfalls and clichés common to stories that deal with slavery. I tried to make the characters as complex and human as possible, and put them in charge of the story.
What’s been your favorite experience at Austin Film Festival?
Having to give an acceptance speech in front of Jim Sheridan, Ed Zwick and Matthew Weiner.