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Richard Pierce

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Let's just dive right into your process, your writing process. What is it like in the mind of Richard? 

I'm very blessed to be doing this as my primary career. Right now, it’s screenwriting, so I'm very happy to be doing that. 

 

However, my dreams started to come true right alongside getting married and having a kid. So my creative process is determined around family schedules. My wife and I have worked it out. We take care of my daughter on alternating shifts and most of my writing now happens late nights, after bedtime, which is a really interesting time to write. Late night hours is kind of when the creative process happens for me. 

Is there a moment that you're ever stuck and how did you overcome that moment?

After graduating from film school a decade and a half ago, when I really wasn't having much success, the one agreement I made with myself and my wife was that I would write every single day for one hour a day. I'm writing pages and getting something done, so if it doesn't seem like the train's moving forward, I'm at least doing something that will hopefully lead to something which will then lead to the thing that will, you know, be a break of some sort. 

Now, it's really different because I'm working with a lot of companies and studios that have very firm deadlines, so you don't have time to get stuck. You gotta make sure your ideas are as crisp and thought-out and as good as possible, as quickly as possible, and the biggest lesson I've learned when any sort of writer's block - I hate that phrase, but writer's block is a thing - whenever you get stuck with that is just write the bad version. 

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It is so much easier to re-write bad pages than it is to write pages that don't exist yet, so whenever you feel stuck or whenever I feel stuck, at least, it's just crank through the pages, even if they're terrible. You can re-write them later. Make sure you don't show anyone those terrible pages, but get it out there. Rewrite them. It's always going to get better when you can chip away at pages that you've already written.

That is such a good piece of advice. So has there been a piece of art, another screenplay that you have read or watched that has inspired you on your journey? 

I could point to a dozen movies that have inspired me over my life. Die Hard inspired me, but it's not necessarily the screenplay that inspired me. It's kind of a weird medium to be a part of, because even in the movies I've written, what you see in the end product is sometimes very little of what you actually wrote. So no, there's not one particular thing.

When you go see a movie and Tom Cruise is on screen, he looks great. I like the idea of making other people look great in a creative fashion, so if I could put words in someone's mouth and make them look great on screen that's what's inspiring to me. You take bits and pieces from a million different movies and say ‘that line inspired me’, ‘that performance inspired me’, and then it all led to me thinking, you know, words on the pages is where I want to hopefully inspire other people.

A little bit about Artcee, we here are all about collaboration and connection - job postings for the Arts and Entertainment industry. How beneficial do you think that is for our industry? Being sort of a LinkedIn for arts and entertainment.

I've never been a painter, but I would imagine if I were an artist who painted, all it would cost you is a canvas and some paint. With film, it's a completely different thing. I mean you could be a true author and just go shoot something yourself and that's great too, but even then you're involving other people who are going to be acting, other people who are going to be running the equipment, or grabbing lunch, so collaborative.

For film, I think a platform like this really could do a lot of good and a lot of people have dual roles. Unfortunately, I don't know how to do anything else in film, but there's a lot of people who are boom operators and sound mixers, a lot of people who are directors, do photography, but also want to produce, so you get a lot of people with multiple job titles on their business cards and I think that's where someone like this could be really beneficial.

Something that caught my attention in one of your answers is that you sometimes don't even get to see what you wrote for the screen. How often does that happen and how do you deal with that?

Right now, I write a lot of stuff for the Lifetime channel. A lot of my films are turning into Lifetime channel movies and you always want to make sure there's a little bit of you in the script so that way you have your way into the story. 

That's been a little interesting right now because most of my movies are primarily about high school aged girls, so there’s very little of me in there. My first movie was on Lifetime and was all rooted in the main character struggling with jealousy and then crazy things happen and people start getting killed, so it turns into a fun little thriller movie. When I was in high school, I was like the most jealous dude ever, so even though I've never been a high school age girl that was my way into the movie and so you pour a lot of yourself into it. 

Sometimes when you see the end product - like I just had a movie that came out last month - and it's very different from the scripts. I would say 30 percent of the dialogue made it into the movie. There are lots of things that change on the fly. Sometimes actors will just have a much better take on a line or a scene and they'll make it better. Sometimes, it's worse but more often than not, you hope it's better if it is different. 

It's a pretty common thing because again – from me at my keyboard, to you watching it on TV, there are 35 other artists who have their interpretation of the material. That's what's really intimidating sometimes as a screenwriter, but it's also really cool to see things change and evolve, and hopefully it's for the better. And occasionally it's heartbreaking, so it can't go both ways. 

You got to be made of thick skin when you're in this business, very thick skin. I've been told 'I suck' or 'my material sucks' more times than you could ever imagine, but every ‘no’ is just one more thing that you can use to build up to a ‘yes’ and it's all part of the process. You can't ever let your feelings get hurt. 

So for other aspiring writers – because you've had quite a journey to get to where you are today – what sort of parting words do you have for people that are inspired to write every day and never give up? 

I was 35 when I got my first – what would be considered a big break – and that was after years and decades of writing every single day. I would say to read lots of screenplays. Screenplays are unlike any other writing style. 

It's not writing poetry, it's not writing prose. It's such a unique format and a unique way of expressing yourself. You want to make sure you're doing everything up to the industry standard while still being creative. And not that you could never expand the boundaries of the rules, but you never want to blatantly break the rules. There are a million screenwriting rules out there. Like in film school they'll tell you, ‘if you do this in your screenplay, no one will take you seriously.’ That's bullshit. You can break any rule or bend any rule, but as long as you're doing it in a way that's creative and fun and unique and has a voice – that's the most important thing, is to have a voice.

One thing I think has kind of helped me get ahead is, I've had several people tell me when they read my scripts they can tell I wrote it, which is really cool. You want to make sure that people get a little of you in there. If you're writing a comedy, be funny in the screenplay, not just with the dialogue. Be funny in your descriptions, be funny with how you describe the world through the action lines in the screenplay. Be creative. Write your ass off. Don't give up. 

Do you want to plug yourself, like do you have an upcoming project we can watch? Can you talk about that yet or do you want to? 

I can't talk about either. I have one filming in LA right now and I have one filming in Canada right now. I can't really talk about either but hopefully sometime next year both of those will be coming out.  I'm producing a movie in Indiana later this year. That'll be a lot of fun. It'll be my first time doing something other than screenwriting. 

You are fully immersed in the movie business. 

Trying to be, yes. 

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