Who: Writer of Triple 9 (2016), The Duel (2016) and the upcoming Paul the Apostle, produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Hugh Jackman (who stars); served two combat tours in Iraq and as a former correspondent in Afghanistan
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I actually broke through from acting, which was always one of my biggest passions. I’d studied and worked on whatever I could while in college. I moved back to Austin after the military and was working back into it, when I had the good fortune of getting cast in a film directed by the larger-than-life Texas actor Barry Tubb. After the filming, Barry invited me out to Snyder, Texas where he holds an annual dove hunt. It was there I met Mike Simpson, the legendary agent at William Morris Endeavor. A couple of months after the hunt, I finished writing By Way of Helena (now The Duel) and decided to take a shot and pass it along to Mike. He was gracious enough to read a script from a nobody writer and the rest is history. I’ll forever be grateful to Barry for casting me, and his friendship.
What would be your advice to aspiring screenwriters?
Pick your battles carefully, and at some point, recognize you have to let go and put trust in your director. At the end of the day, at least in film, so many hands go into the finished product, but the director is captain of the ship. Also, the same advice the great Bill Broyles gave me, which is: Never fall in love with your own writing.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I think the major turning point in my career happened before it began. My experiences in the wars and the people I met in the military made me an infinitely better filmmaker and storyteller.
Who is your favorite screenwriter?
Truth be told, I don’t particularly enjoy reading screenplays. I’ll read submissions for work or a friend’s screenplay to give notes, but otherwise I don’t read them. I do try to devour as many books and movies as I can.
1. Annie Silverstein 2. Jared Frieder 3. Mike Covino and Sam Kretchmar 4.Troy Anthony Miller 5. Kieran Fitzgerald 6. Ya’ke Smith 7. Brian Klugman 8. Nina Ljeti 9. Kevin Hamedani 10. Eric Haywood 11. Andrew Lanham 12. Julie Howe 13. Tess Morris 14. Matt Cook 15. Monica Zanetti 16. VJ Boyd 17. Edward Ricourt 18. David Broyles 19. Sasha Gordon 20. Eric Hueber 21. Faraday Okoro 22. Arturo Ruiz Serrano 23. Maya Perez 24. Max Taxe 25. Negin Farsad