Meet a Ghostwriter: Screenwriting Edition

The Interview is a harrowing novel that takes readers on a wild ride throughout the upper echelon of corporate America, the darkest jungles of Southeast Asia, and the seediest side of Bangkok.

Back in January, we introduced readers to a Mark Graham Communications ghostwriter. This month, let’s meet another of our ghostwriters and hear about one of his specialties: screenplays.

What genres do you ghostwrite? What do you find appealing about those genres? My projects include business advice, self-help, memoirs, genre action novels, and screenplays. I’ve worked with clients who have successful backgrounds and a wealth of experiences. I enjoy learning from them and seeing how they’ve triumphed over adversity and life’s challenges. The variety of assignments and the opportunity to meet interesting people appeals to me, as does the ability to work from home on a flexible schedule.

How did your first ghostwritten screenplay come about? Mark Graham Communications approached me about writing a screenplay based on a story submitted by one of their clients. The reason they asked me was because of my background writing fantasy and horror. The story was about a cursed passenger ship and featured a battle between lumberjacks and zombies.

What do you like about ghostwriting screenplays? What’s challenging about it? I appreciate that our clients want to present their story in cinematic format. It’s a different way to tell a story than a novel. The client and I have to think collaboratively about storytelling in visual terms. Screenwriting requires great care in handling character interactions and dialogue. And unlike a novel, a movie doesn’t allow much space for interior dialogue. The writer must always keep in mind that film is a visual format.

The challenge is presenting the story, the characters, and their motives in 110 to 113 pages. Character development is more nuanced, because the director will influence the presentation of the film. A novel is typically north of 300 pages, and in novels, worldbuilding is far more detailed on the page. In a movie, the camera can pan across a scene and the viewer will know what century they’re in, the environment, the setting, and so on. The screenwriter has to set the scene on the page, then let the other players—director, cast, set designers, costumers, and others—create the visual aspects that bring the world alive on screen.

What advice do you have for someone interested in having their screenplay ghostwritten? First, ask yourself, “Is it important to me to hold in my hands a book that has my name on the cover? Do I want that physical representation of my story that I can share with the world?” If so, a novel might be a better fit. But if you’re certain you want to share your story as a movie, begin with a good understanding of what you want included in the screenplay. Know that it won’t contain the level of detail found in a novel. Also, think about the marketing of your screenplay. Do you have connections in the production industry? Do you have a film agent? If not, do you know people who might introduce you to potential agents?

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? Reading, because not only do I learn new things, it also keeps me sharp as a writer. I like spending time outdoors and away from the internet and social media. I also have a dog and three cats who wrangle me from my office.

Finally, how is that first screenwriting client doing now? Once the screenplay was completed, the client provided it to contacts in the movie industry and is leveraging his celebrity status to have it reviewed by industry insiders. He’s not currently represented by a film agent, and the project is not yet optioned—but we’re hopeful!