An Interview with Screenwriter: Mark Witteveen

Screenwriter Mark Witteveen

We recently sat down with nine of the top 13 screenwriters from the 2009/10 CSSC and asked each of them to share their response to the same 13 questions. The answers varied greatly, were sometimes unexpected, above all insightful and beyond all else, they were all honest about their experience.

Recent CSSC finalist and alum, Mark Witteveen (who wrote the script Publish and Perish), is fourth in our list of nine… about his life, his stories and his experience submitting a short film script with the CSSC.

CSSC: What is your day job?
MW: Currently, I work as a litigation paralegal in a law firm.

CSSC: Do you have literary representation?
MW: No.

CSSC: What made you apply to the CSSC?
MW: I wrote a short script and looked around for places to submit it. To get filmmakers interested in the story.

CSSC: Is there a theme to your screenplays/writing(s)?
MW: I have no idea.

CSSC: What made you write the screenplay that you submitted? What was your
inspiration for writing it?

MW: A story idea grabbed me but it wouldn’t fit on the stage, so I tried it as a film.

CSSC: What is your screenplay about?
MW: It’s about the lengths an imaginative individual will go to get what he desperately wants.

CSSC: What was writing it like?
MW: The character’s journey came with the initial idea. I fleshed the story out fairly quickly on paper in a couple of sittings, and then tweaked it while working on another project.

CSSC: What has happened for you professionally, if anything, since applying to the CSSC and making it amongst the finalists?
MW: I hope that being a finalist generates interest from filmmakers for this project and/or some other future work.

CSSC: What is next for you?
MW: Finish a couple of theater projects, and then write another (spec) full-length film script.

CSSC: Would you enter the CSSC again?
MW: Yes, of course. Professional colleagues receptive to my work, script promotion, a film festival, exposure to first-rate talent. Need I go on?

CSSC: What advice do you have for other writers?
MW: Be bold. Keep learning. Develop your tastes. A rush to judgment serves no purpose. Future competitors? Write a good story.

CSSC: What is your favorite short film? This past year? And of all time?
MW: I’m woefully ignorant of what’s out there. I found a DVD of Spike Jonze short stuff I loved. Some Rod Serling, especially for learning film craft, the Twilight Zone stories. Of all time? Chekhov short stories. I’ve seen a few in Russian. Old timey film productions, not so great. Hundreds of his stories can to be adapted into modern short films. The Chorus Girl, Agafya, The Huntsman, Verochka.

CSSC: What is a quote that inspires you?
MW: Many. Here is one:

“Neglect nothing that can make you great.”

MARK WITTEVEEN, started writing for film in 2008. His first full-length film script THE SOLDIERS OF BREAKFAST was a quarterfinalist (top 321 of 6,380 entries) in the 2009 Nicholls Competition. PUBLISH AND PERISH is his first short film script. Another short, THE KEEPER, is set in a post apocalyptic future, where a wandering man (or woman) holds the key to peaceful co-existence for emerging centers of civilization. Witteveen is also a playwright, with works presented at theaters across the United States. Several plays are finalists or winners in festivals and competitions. Witteveen lives in Rochester, NY.

About David Cormican

DAVID CORMICAN is an award winning blogger (2010 Canadian Weblog Award winner – best literature & writing category), father, performer, producer and founder of the prestigious Canadian Short Screenplay Competition (CSSC), an organization he formed to showcase and promote emerging screenwriters through recognition and the production of their winning work. In 2010 Cormican was a nominee for the Regina Mayor’s Arts & Business Award for Innovation in the Arts and a recipient of the National Screen Institute’s Drama Prize. In addition to establishing the CSSC's Short Film Fund, he is also a partner with Minds Eye Entertainment where he is in charge of development for the production company’s feature film, television and branded content. Recent producing credits include THE TALL MAN (Jessica Biel) and FACES IN THE CROWD (Milla Jovavich, Julian McMahon) for Minds Eye and RUSTED PYRE (Brooke Palsson, Samantha Somer Wilson) and MINUS LARA (a Bravo!FACT funded short starring Romina D’Ugo) for the CSSC. He is a board member for Regina Downtown Business Improvement District, a counselor for ACTRA Saskatchewan and board member representing the arts portfolio for SaskCulture. He also sits on various committees for SaskFilm, SMPIA and the Canadian Media Producers Association.
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