Writer Interviews

Grandpa Hank’s Writer Interview – Allen Ivers (Part I)

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Writer Interviews | 0 comments

I thought this would be a great first interview to feature on the site. Allen Ivers is a fantastically imaginative screenwriter and producer who is currently attempting to break into Southern California’s notoriously difficult film industry. Allen holds an MFA in Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California-Riverside, where he also completed his undergraduate degree in theatre. While at UCR, he served as artistic director for “The Golden Mean Players,” UCR’s student-run theatre troupe, a position that helped him earn the 2010 Richard Risso Award for Excellence in Theatre. He’s also written numerous plays and screenplays including his own web series, “My Roommate is a Hitman,” which he also directed.

In other words, for a young guy, he’s worked his ass off and gotten a lot accomplished. And now he’s hovering in that “on the verge of almost sort of being close to nearly discovered” phase of his career. Here’s what he had to say about what he’s learned in the last few years.

GRANDPA HANK: When you began graduate school and committed to writing as a profession, what did you picture your career would look like at this point?

ALLEN IVERS: I began graduate school with the same picture I did when I left undergrad. I knew I wasn’t ready for prime time, and the job market of 2010 wasn’t ready for me either. A two-year program would give me the time to sharpen my skills, make some friends, grow up a little, and jump into the market ready to go. I pictured having a collection of finished scripts and a vault of ideas ready to dive into for meetings, parties, etc. But mainly, I expected to start off with a lot of training and begin somewhere as a writer’s assistant- likely in story development or production.

GH: How is reality different from that vision? Is any aspect the same or at least close?

AI: That (vision) turned out to be hogwash. Most assistant positions are ultra-competitive. Grad school taught me how to write, not how to cover a desk, and no one was interested in teaching me how. To most people, my Master’s Degree indicated that I was “going to move on” before I could be of any use. But the closed door pretty much ensures I can’t even get to a place I have the opportunity to move on from.

As it turns out, assistants rarely have any kind of writing background or professional training. They’re business majors – power players whose whole goal is to move up the ranks of those organizations. Writers are found… well, anywhere. They’re winners of contests, novelists – and yes occasionally former assistants. But no one wanted to hire an assistant whose objective was clearly not to eventually become an agent or an exec.

All that frustration acceptably vented, I have an enormously gifted luck. At a school-sponsored pitch festival, (where rookies get to talk to industry professionals) I met my manager. I actually wrote a script on a dare that just happened to fit what she was looking for at the time. We took it, reshaped it, and that script bought me dozens of meetings all over town. While it hasn’t been optioned yet, it made me a known commodity – and it’s led to two other projects coming up in the new year.

GH: What was the dare?

AI: Write a family friendly animated feature. Something G-rated. Not really my normal fare.

GH: To follow up, what specific obstacles have you encountered upon setting out into the great post-graduate void?

AI: Obviously, the job market. I’ve been officially unemployed for nearly two years. And I’m a highly qualified applicant with a graduate degree, four years of management experience in theatrical production, multiple awards, and scholarships. And Starbucks doesn’t want me. Target doesn’t want me. Nobody wants to hire someone they seemingly can’t have for ten years. So I’m faced with the concept of omitting a bunch of things on my resume simply to try and get food money.

Two years of solid applications isn’t just a drain on the resources. It becomes a detriment. What about this kid is unemployable? Is he a slacker? Lazy? A moocher? Being unemployed and trying to work becomes it’s own yoke to pull. The longer I’m unemployed, the harder it gets to fix.

GH: How did you get past, or attempt to get past those obstacles?

AI : Luckily (again with the luck) I have a generous family that has been supporting me (and my fiancee) until we could find work. Personally, I’m not relieved by the safety net or arrogant about it. To me, it’s a burden, a bar to clear – a lot of young artists don’t have the support I do. They’d have to quit and immediately go where the work is – if there’s work to be found. There are people fighting so much harder than I am– what excuse do I have to whine and moan about how hard it is? I don’t know what hard is! So I double-down, knowing I have no excuse for failure, being this pasty rich kid who sweats too much.

I’d have been screwed without my folks. I mean it. There wasn’t a way out. There wasn’t a fix. I’d be living in my parent’s house right now. Thankfully, my fiancee managed to snag one of the aforementioned assistant positions, and that’s been helping. But it’s not the ultimate fix we need.

To be continued……

Look for the second part of Allen’s interview later this week where we discuss more upbeat things like his favorite scripts and most successful projects.

Also, congratulations to Allen, for being the first person since 1946 to successfully use the term “hogwash.” You’ve won the admiration of grandmothers nationwide!

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Grandpa Hank’s Writer Interviews

Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in Writer Interviews | 0 comments

Ever since the moment I realized I’d been blessed with a talent for writing, I also became acutely aware that I had no idea what in the hell to do with said talent. Basically, I knew that you wrote something good and when it was polished enough, you got it to… people. But you couldn’t just get it to any people. You had to get it to the right people. The process, as I understood it went like this…

Step 1) Write
Step 2) Revise until awesome
Step 3) (Radio static)
Step 4) Success

Seriously, drive across Wyoming some time and try to find a decent radio station. (Don’t cheat and use satellite) In my head, that’s what I heard when I tried to process step 3. But I swore that other people heard it loud and clear. They were somehow getting awesome music and sports scores twenty miles west of Powder River. There had to be a path. A concrete, discernible, step-by step blueprint I could follow. And so I’d ask the same question to every successful writer I met.

“How did you get to where you are today?”

Their frustrating answer always entailed a lot of hard work and about nineteen coincidences I had no chance of duplicating.

“So you’re saying if I buy a crappy old Honda Civic and move to Seattle with your old boyfriend there’s a chance that on my way to pick him up from jail after he got arrested for urinating on a school bus, I might get sideswiped by a literary agent who’s only in town from San Francisco picking up her niece from college because her klutzy brother fell off a ladder and couldn’t make the trip. Seems doable.”

It was frustrating. It all seemed so… random. But somehow in the story of their successes, it seemed like the entire thing was predestined all along, which was strangely uplifting.

With that in mind, I’m going to occasionally do interviews with writers at various stages of their careers. These writers will fit into three distinct categories – successful, semi-successful, and hoping to someday be successful. Some earn their living off nothing but the words they type, and many are simply struggling to keep their dream afloat.

I’ve found that as writers, it’s just nice to realize that other creative people are going through the same ups and downs. It also helps to know that successful writers weren’t always successful. We just don’t know about the years and tears it took them to get to where they are. Hearing other writers talk about their own path helps the rest of us not feel so alone in our setbacks. And that’s the goal of all of my upcoming interviews.

I’ve lined up a lot of very interesting people and hopefully we’ll get at least one interview a month up here. My first interview is going to be with a writer named Allen who is only a year out of graduate school trying to wade through the cesspool of Hollywood after earning his MFA in screenwriting last June. Look for the two-part interview later this week.

Also, thanks to all of you who followed my November twitter novel. It was a fun exercise and the story of Barry, the love note, and a bunch of slacker zombies turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. If you haven’t gotten to read it, follow me at @grandpahank.

Hope your Thanksgiving was spent enjoying friends and family and your Black Friday was also spent enjoying friends and family, far, far away from the greedy consumer driven shame we bring upon our great country each and every year.

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