SCREENWRITER PROFILE: PATRICK CAULFIELD

2010 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition Grand Prize Winner

patrick caulfield headshotPatrick Caulfield won the Grand Prize of the 2010 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition with his comedy script, Saint Patrick's Day. The script is about 3 best friends struggling with the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood. When they find their annual Saint Patrick's Day celebration under threat, events begin to spiral out of control. Read what Patrick has to say about screenwriting, his  experience winning the Fresh Voices competition and what has been happening since. 

FV: How long have you been writing?

PC: I’ve been writing/editing copy for a marketing and ad agency for about seven years now and writing scripts in my spare time for five. 

FV: Did you go to school to study film or screenwriting?

PC: Technically, yes. I completed the Masters in Film & Video program at American University in Washington, DC. The “technically” comes into play because I took all of the courses, 33 credit hours of screenwriting, film theory and production classes, but then started working full time and never finished my thesis. So I have a background in film, but not in finishing things I start.

FV: Have you taken any classes or workshops? Other than the screenwriting class I took at A.U., I haven’t.

FV: Do you have any favorite screenwriting books?

PC: A few of my favorites are: Breaking In by Nicholas Jarecki, Adventures In The Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? by William Goldman, Stephen King’s On Writing, and a book called And Here’s The Kicker, which is a compilation of interviews with great humor writers. I go back to those books all the time, mostly when I could use a little inspiration. I also read a lot of screenplays. Right now, it’s Tootsie.

FV: What’s your mentality/ philosophy as a writer?

PC: My mindset is a fifty-fifty blend of confidence and panic, while I’d say that my philosophy is “It’ll come as long as I put in the time.” My day job has taught me that I just have to sit down and write, even if I don’t have any ideas.

FV: How do you approach the blank page?

PC:I get rid of it as quickly as possible; the second I open my laptop I’m writing something. It’s always nonsense at first, but at least the page fills up, and it usually goes somewhere.

FV: What’s your writing process? Do you outline, write treatments first?  If so do you deviate or stick strictly to the outline?

PC: I like to start small and get bigger. The first thing I do is tell myself the story in two or three sentences, almost like a query letter. After that I’ll do a five- or six-page page outline roughing out the scenes and big beats. The first draft usually follows the outline, but I don’t mind going off the reservation if a better idea comes along.

FV: How many hours do you spend writing?

PC: I try to spend three or four hours in the morning on whichever script I’m working on, then switch to my paying assignments, which call for eight hours a day. Any writers reading this will know that means I do about forty-five minutes of actual writing on a given day.

FV: Do you submit to a lot of screenplay competitions?

PC: No. Contests are one of the few ways people like me can get their script out there, but I feel like you have to be careful. It sounds like there are a lot of scams, and I would always wonder if I’m just giving forty-or-so dollars to some guy sitting in his basement who’s never going to read the script. I entered Fresh Voices after doing a little research and deciding it was a good bet.

FV: How often do you enter competitions? How did you do? Did anything materialize from any of the previous screenplay contests you placed in?

PC: For the reasons I mentioned, Fresh Voices was the first one I’d entered in a long time. The first script I wrote made it to the top 200 of the Nicholl Fellowships, which is the only other competition I’ve entered, but nothing ever came of it.

FV: What was your experience like with Fresh Voices – Communication, Quality of Feedback, Prizes?

PC: I had high hopes that Fresh Voices would be worth it, and it was. It was a great experience and the contest was professionally run. I guess winning makes it easy to say that, but it’s true. All I’d expect from any contest is for them to do what they say they’re going to do, and Fresh Voices delivered on everything they promised. The coverage, which is something I think most contests charge extra for, was free and quite thorough. It was clear to me that whoever covered Saint Patrick’s Day had done that sort of thing before. I was just happy to know someone read it!

FV: What was it like winning Fresh Voices?

PC: Writing can be a grind. There’s not a whole lot of external reward at my level, so it was gratifying to get this sort of recognition. It was a confidence boost and let me believe for a moment that maybe I’m not a complete idiot for thinking I can do this. All anybody in my boat wants is a shot; I’m hoping that winning Fresh Voices will get me one sometime very soon.

FV: What has happened in the weeks since winning?

PC: This actually goes back to my thoughts on Fresh Voices delivering on what they promise. The day I won I got a call from Joel Mendoza at Attraction Entertainment about managing me. We met a day or two later and he had some minor thoughts on how to improve Saint Patrick’s Day. We are currently submitting the script to production companies so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I also received the $3,000 in prize money within one week of winning so that was great.

FV: What’s next? Are you writing a new script?

PC: I’ve just finished a comedy script called Reverse the Curse. It’s about two frustrated sisters who accidentally curse their unsupportive husbands to take over their “monthly appointments” for them. I know that sounds pretty weird, but if I’ve done my job right, it’ll be a movie both men and women will laugh at. I pitched it to Joel, and since reading it, he’s offered some notes which I’m currently reworking.