Brad Holloway: “Everyone gets burnt out”

I’ve always been a film lover, but when I first moved to Los Angeles my goal was to get a day job at an advertising agency and write novels. When none of the agencies hired me, I went to work as an assistant for a literary agency (UTA), started reading the scripts that had sold […]

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I’ve always been a film lover, but when I first moved to Los Angeles my goal was to get a day job at an advertising agency and write novels. When none of the agencies hired me, I went to work as an assistant for a literary agency (UTA), started reading the scripts that had sold around town, and fell in love with the craft, which is a very specific skill set. I sold my first script to Warner Brothers a year later.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Holloway.

Brad Holloway has been a working screenwriter for twelve years. He sold his first feature script Black Box to Warner Brothers with Lorenzo Di Bonaventura (Transformers). He went on to write feature length scripts and pilots for Warner and other major studios, including Paramount, and Lionsgate, working with producers Jason Blum, Michael De Lucaa and Rodrigo Teixeira and director James Mangold. His current projects include The Games of 1940 with RT Features (Ad Astra, Call Me Your Name), based on an original idea by David Seidler (Oscar winner for The King’s Speech), Conception with producer Dylan Russell and director Fulvio Sestito, Swine with producer Nikki Stranghetti, and Carnival with Robert Lawrence (The Kingkiller Chronicle with Lin Manuel Miranda, Clueless, Die Hard With A Vengeance). The accomplished screenwriter and Naples, Florida resident recently made his directorial debut with his short comedy Open House 1–4, a film that takes a dark yet humorous look at the intensely competitive and sometimes dangerous real estate industry. The film is currently on the festival circuit.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Ohio, the son of an FBI agent and a nurse. My mother encouraged my interest in storytelling from a very early age. I would dictate and she’d jot down the words. Then I’d do the illustrations myself. She still has the first graphic novel we made together when I was five or six. It was about gladiatorial dinosaurs equipped with lasers who fought it out in a massive coliseum. It still holds up!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been a film lover, but when I first moved to Los Angeles my goal was to get a day job at an advertising agency and write novels. When none of the agencies hired me, I went to work as an assistant for a literary agency (UTA), started reading the scripts that had sold around town, and fell in love with the craft, which is a very specific skill set. I sold my first script to Warner Brothers a year later.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My favorite stories usually involve the research process. There’s nothing like firsthand accounts! For my script First Among Equals, I went to Moscow to meet with actual gangsters who fought for power after the fall of the Soviet Union. For my script Conception, I went to Medellin to meet with brujas (witchcraft is a big part of the culture in Colombia). I interviewed FBI agents who were on the scene of the plane crash in Pennsylvania for my script Black Box. So yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to have a ton of interesting experiences over the years.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

For the short film, my biggest mistake was expecting every submission would result in my film getting accepted into the festival. Some of these festivals are getting thousands of submissions for dozens of slots (or so they claim) so you’re not going to get into them all, or even the majority. Like anything else in the entertainment industry, you’re going to deal with a lot of rejection so temper your expectations and always stay positive. Also, I didn’t budget for the marketing my film. Finishing the film is only the first half of the process!

For screenwriting, when I first started my career I didn’t realize that when studios submitted IP (a book, magazine article, etc) for open writing assignments, they expected me to come back with a fully flushed out pitch. I just assumed that if they’d spent a bunch of money, they would have some preconceived notion of what the movie would be, that it’d be a collaboration from the start. Wrong! So yeah, this led to a lot of confusion and missed opportunities when I showed up for meetings with high-level execs to get THEIR ideas instead of pitch.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I got bored with lifting weights about a year ago so I joined an MMA gym. This led to me writing the first two episodes of a limited series based on everything I’ve learned about the fight game. It’s a hybrid sports/crime film set in Dublin — darkly comedic, good times.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Any writer with a unique background is going to approach storytelling from a different perspective and that’s fantastic. I’m all for a wide variety of stories created by writers who accurately reflect the demographics of our multicultural society. That said, the show runners, directors, executives etc who actually discriminated against minorities (i.e. Baby Boomers) are still very much in power while white guys my age are told to not even bother trying to get an entry level job on a writing staff. It’s so bad that I had a former manager ask me to write some essay about getting bullied for having red hair that he could use that to get around the entry-level diversity protocol. I refused. So yeah, I guess my only comment would be that there should be more diversity at the top as well.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Don’t make entertainment your full-time job even if you’re making six figures. Unless you have a show on the air or are actually shooting a film, don’t give up your day job. The industry is just too damn fickle, you can have a burgeoning career one day and it’s gone the next, payments are often made months late, if you’re dealing with independent producers who sometimes they won’t pay you at all and the lawyers will have to get involved to enforce the contract. A pass isn’t a slight against you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or director. It just means that for whatever reason your work didn’t appeal to that particular person. Also, a lot of people have terrible taste! It’s all subjective. I wish I had worked as a PA and spent more time on set when I was in my twenties. It’s easy to be in a bubble when you’re just writing screenplays. Unlike when I first started and your reps did the heavy lifting, you have to go out there and really sell yourself. In this day and age, traction on social media can be the difference between getting hired or not. I wish I could just be an artist out in the woods but the writers who are out there hustling will get the gig before you, even if they aren’t as talented. Is that 5?

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Everyone gets burnt out. It’s inevitable. You have to occasionally take time off to recharge the batteries. If you take a couple months off and you don’t feel guilty, if there’s no impulse to get back to it, then you should probably do something else with your life. For me, it was never a choice. It’s more like something akin to an addiction, the need to express myself through storytelling. I guess my self-worth is somehow tied up in it?

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The biggest issue in America is wealth inequality. The vast majority of our problems stem from a few hundred people, mostly billionaires, hoarding the vast majority of the resources. If I could start a movement, it would be to remove these people from power, establish a system where everyone shares in the fruits of their labor, then start tackling the greatest threats to our future, pandemics, global warming, etc.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m not a big fan of agents in general, but there were a handful of reps at UTA who read my screenplays in the early running and sent my material around town. If I have anyone to thank for my success, however limited, it’s them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

No one knows anything. I mean, this isn’t 100% true but on some level, especially in Hollywood, we’re all just winging it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Well, I live in South Florida, now so Jorge Masvidal would be a cool guy to meet.

How can our readers follow you online?

I just started back up on Twitter after a long hiatus. What can I say, I’m a glutton for snarky depressing content. It’s @gingerking1983

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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