2021 Screenplay Finalist "Vermin"
What is your name, company name, and URL?
Pat Semler. I don’t have a company. You can find examples of my writing at www.patsemler.com. The website is still under construction so there’s not a lot up just now.
What is your specialty: filmmaking or screenwriting? If filmmaking, which aspects?
I’m a screenwriter. I’ve done features, shorts and 3 original television drama series. I dabbled in production and directing many years back when I had no clue what I was doing, but plenty of ambition and a lot of friends who volunteered their time and talents. I got a trailer for one story and a ten minute short out of the effort. To be honest, I’m happiest at the keyboard.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working out the kinks in an older SciFi detective script I had in the files for too long. It started out as a simple murder mystery, then the backstory kicked in and tried to take over. It’s been a fight, but somehow the timing is right for this script now. I also have a new story idea inspired by current events that’s in very early stages of musing. Could be my first disaster script.
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
Unofficially I’d have to say Hal Croasmun of Screenwriting University. A real cheerleader, he’s expressed faith in my skills, nudged me to get out of my shell and self-promote.
Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?
Horror and SciFi are the what if playgrounds most adults might say they’ve outgrown. They provide an opportunity to be wide-eyed kids again, to indulge in fantasies or role playing or face down the things that frightened our younger selves under the covers. Star Trek said it best. To boldly go where no one, that is ourself, has gone before.
What do you love most about this business?
I love the breadth of creativity and the generosity of talent. As a reader for multiple competitions, I’m always amazed by how others see the world.
What do you dislike most about this business?
The process of gaining traction and entry for new writers and ideas versus the regurgitation of studio owned IP. If writing/selling screenplays was easy everyone would do it, and it sure feels like everyone is sticking their toe in the water these days, but damn there has to be a better way to get in the door.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
My first contest win was for an action/adventure feature. It was a small contest but the judge’s comment that I showed a real voice in the writing made it feel as big as the Nicholls Fellowship. A close second would be premiering my short, Five Card no Peek, at the Central Florida Film Festival. Lesson learned – partner with someone who knows promotion to get a career going.
Any advice you'd like to give to newbies?
Learn the formats. Proofread with eyeballs, not just Spellcheck. Don’t use Flashbacks in the first 5 pages. Contests that offer feedback can be a good source for finding the sticking points but make the presentation as flawless as possible so we engage with the story. Not all feedback is generous or objective. If the notes feel wrong, toss them. If more than two people point out the same issue, consider they may be onto something. Sometimes you’ll get tough love notes from contests or professional script services. They’re trying to help you make your story better. Digest them well before jumping into a rewrite. Read produced screenplays then write some more.
Anything else you'd like to say?
I’ve had a blast reading first round submissions for Shriekfest for a number of years. It’s been a fascinating education in what works and what doesn’t, whether the script is a blood-soaked slasher or a brooding subversive thriller. Making the finalist round this year (2020/21) was a real confidence booster, and the weekend filmfest of blood and gore and new friends wasn’t bad either.