Audiences are not aware of — or interested in — the screenwriter. When he film business is collaborative. A screenwriter needs to be prepared to see a script changed during the production.
The best attitude to have about a script is that it’s a gift to the audience.
Audiences are not aware of — or interested in — the screenwriter. When a character says something memorable, audiences will attribute the words to the character or the actor.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Murray Suid. He produced and co-directed The J-Walker, a short comedy that won the special jury prize at the Marburg Film Festival. As a screenwriter, he’s had one script produced — Summer of the Flying Saucer — and half a dozen scripts optioned. His limited-location feature “Erica’s Crime” is scheduled to be shot in 2021. He’s also written a number of nonfiction books including Demonic Mnemonics, The Kid’s How to Do (Almost) Everything Guide, and How to Be President of the U.S.A. As a journalist, he’s best known for his interview with Stan Lee — “Meet the Wizard of Biff! Bop! Pow.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a working-class neighborhood with lots of amenities — especially good schools. My father worked as a shipping clerk in a clothing factory; my mom had her own dress shop. She was a serious reader who motivated me to read widely. Her radical nonconformist attitude made me want to pursue a creative life.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was teaching in a New England boarding school. One of the students, who had a super 8mm camera, wanted to make movies, but he didn’t have any ideas for stories. So I wrote a script that we shot and showed at an assembly The three-minute comedy got a good response, and I knew then that I wanted to make movies.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been many memorable moments. Early on, for example, while shooting guerrilla-style in New York City (no permits), our protagonist used a metal cane to try to recover a “diamond” ring that fallen through a grate. The actor nearly touched a high-voltage wire, which would have been the end of him and my career. Another time, I had a film shown in Boston on a program that featured a movie by Andy Warhol.
But I suppose the most interesting experience had to do with a short film I wrote and co-directed — “A Splice of Life” — that I shot in Cambridge, Mass. The film played only one time, at Indiana University. A professor there saw the movie, and then told the film’s plot to several people at a dinner party in Philadelphia. A few weeks later, I mentioned the film’s title to a woman with whom I was having a first date. The woman, who had been at the dinner party, proceeded to recite the plot beat for beat. This coincidence made us think that maybe we had a connection. We got married soon after and have been together for decades.
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?
We were shooting a short comedy — “The J-Walker.” For the final scene, we needed an attractive young woman whom the protagonist sees across a street. He can’t reach her because he’s been brainwashed not to J-walk and there is no crosswalk. A friend told me he knew the perfect person to play the part of the woman. The young actor arrived on set. She was pretty, but also quite pregnant, a condition that didn’t fit the story. I learned not to take casting casually.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
At this point in my career as a screenwriter, three of my limited-location scripts have been optioned and are in development. These are projects meant to be produced on modest budgets featuring only a few actors, with the action happening in only a few places. Given the rise of Netflix and other streaming platforms, this type of movie is becoming more popular especially among indie moviemakers. I’m just finishing a book on how to write this kind of screenplay.
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?
I’m a great believer in the melting pot theory — that culture benefits from bringing together people with all sorts of backgrounds and interests. A great example is rock n roll, which would have come about only in a diverse society. In film, having all sorts of people write scripts, direct them, and perform them is the sure way to generate movies that are worth watching.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- The number of rejections you get will vastly outnumber the number of acceptances. Rejection doesn’t mean the work is bad. It does mean you need to keep trying. One of the scripts of mine that is about to be produced was rejected by about 20 producers. Then, a woman producer read it, loved it, and bought it.
- The film business is collaborative. A screenwriter needs to be prepared to see a script changed during the production.
- If I get a terrific new idea for a script, there’s a good chance other screenwriters will be working on something similar.
- The best attitude to have about a script is that it’s a gift to the audience.
5. Audiences are not aware of — or interested in — the screenwriter. When a character says something memorable, audiences will attribute the words to the character or the actor.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Focus on the project and not on oneself.
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. 🙂
I am appalled by the amount of name-calling we have in public discourse — in politics and elsewhere. Name calling shows a lack of respect for those who hold different opinions from those we hold. I like the Biblical advice: “Love your enemies.”
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?
There are so many. David Mallery, a Philadelphia educator, took interest in my writing early on and introduced me to a publisher. I also learned a ton about writing from my first coauthor James Morrow, who is a celebrated sci-fi novelist. And a film school classmate, Ronald Kruschak, got one of my scripts to a producer in Ireland, leading to my one feature film credit. These people inspired me to try to help people who could use a boost.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
At the end of Terminator I Sarah Connor tells her unborn son about her relationship with his father: “…in the few hours we had together we loved a lifetime’s worth.” This quote really makes clear the importance of living in the moment and living intensely.
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. 🙂
Steven Spielberg. Anyone who loves popular movies will know why.
How can our readers follow you online?
I write weekly articles at MobileMovieMaking.com and daily posts on Instagram @mobilemoviemaking
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!