Who: Former pararescueman in Iraq and Afghanistan; has sold several screenplays; recently co-created dramatic series Six for the History Channel
What would be your advice to aspiring screenwriters?
One piece of writing advice that I’d heard over and over was to trust the process. I always liked the sound of that, but I wasn’t entirely sure what the process was, so I had a hard time trusting it. I had trust issues.
At one point, I was strongly considering a career change into medicine. It was what I had done in the military, and the clear-cut career path and steady work was appealing. I went back to school and took my prerequisites, from biology to organic chemistry, and studied for the MCAT. I’m not a big science guy, and the workload was a beast. If I looked at the whole thing all at once, I was in trouble. The only way I could do it was to work problem by problem, grinding away day by day, and trust that if I showed up consistently, I’d get to where I needed to be. It worked. In the end, I decided not to go to medical school, but it was a watershed moment when I realized that writing scripts was exactly like studying for the MCAT. Neither happened overnight. I had to settle in for the long haul and take it line by line to get to fade out. I had to trust the process.
What are you working on right now?
I’m writing and producing a show I co-created for the History Channel called Six, about Navy SEALs and their families. We’ve been engaged in the longest running war in American history, and these are our most professional soldiers. They go into combat like other people go on business trips—in the carpool lane with their kids one minute, parachuting into the ocean at night to take out out a target 24 hours later, then back home again. They’re mythological in a lot of ways, and have largely been portrayed as bulletproof superheroes. To me, that’s a disservice to what they do and who they are. They’re specifically not bulletproof. And neither are their families. They’re like us, with flaws and fears, and yet they do this incredible job under the most challenging circumstances, and they do it over and over again. In my mind, that’s what makes them heroes. And that’s what we want to explore.
Do you have a favorite experience at Austin Film Festival?
I volunteered as a theater manager for the festival while I was in college. It was an incredible experience, as I was able to see the full spectrum of audience members. There was such a wide range of people, and they all brought so much energy and excitement to every screening. I’d watch them go in with popcorn and quiet anticipation, and watch them come out, talking excitedly, eyes lit up by what they had just experienced, transformed. It made me a true believer in the appeal and power of the medium.
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