As an autodidact myself I can appreciate the amount of sheer will and grit it takes to be able to learn something without the benefits of a conventional education. The hard truth is with screenwriting no one cares where you got your MFA from. What they do care about is how good your script is. The work says it all. Adam knows this and has thrown his all into his writing to make it exceptional which has landed him some great opportunities. Adam's determination and perseverance are why I am excited to introduce you to him.
This is Adam Ristau...
I live in Warren, Pennsylvania, a small town that has always been known to me as having a fantastic theater community. Growing up was hard, writing was a form of escapism from real-world problems, but it quickly turned into a passion. I am an avid Science Fiction nerd, who would love to one day enter his own universe into the fandom.
While writing from a young age, I actually got into screenplays out of curiosity. I grew up without television and therefore found myself unable to watch many of the television shows that were out at that time. During Christmas one year I received a “Star Trek Encyclopedia” CD-ROM, which happened to have every single “Star Trek The Next Generation” Screenplay buried under menus. For a child who had always been curious about these hour-long shows, it was a goldmine.
My first foray into screenwriting was with “Vic,” in 2014. It was a kidnap thriller that did alright in the Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Festival, however, I consider myself truly coming into my own just last year in 2020. I penned the screenplay for “Howitzer Tales: The Boogeyman,” which has won multiple accolades in the film festival circuit, and even now is circulating through to different festivals in the future. I have a science fiction drama\comedy penned and in pre-production as well, plus a follow-up and side story to “Howitzer Tales,” which I hope will prove to be just as good.
Q: How did you Stumble Upon Screenwriting?
I was always a writer, starting from kindergarten picture books, but it wasn’t until I was reading ST: TNG scripts that I caught on to the format, and tried my hand at writing screenplays. I found the format to be surprisingly comfortable to my writing style, which is already more dialogue-heavy than it probably should be in novel form. I was around 12 years old at the time, and haven’t looked back with regrets since.
Q: Who\What inspired you into taking this path?
For better or for worse my father. He was an aspiring writer who first got overwhelmed with children, and then with sickness. A Brain Tumor destroyed some vital parts of his humanity, and unfortunately, that didn’t spell a good childhood for us as children. I however am very much a clone of my father, with the same deep interests in writing, and in some way the darkest days sparked my creativity. I do want to note that I don’t blame my father, and I love him. He was not in charge of himself at his worst, and I am still honored to be picking up things where he had left off.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
Even back as far as kindergarten, my teachers were always extremely supportive. They would make sure I had notebooks, pencils, even tape recorders, and tapes so that I could keep recording stories. Honestly all through my life, there have always been teachers looking out for me. Where most kids looked forward to cutting class, I was always a terrible student who just happened to get perfect attendance.
Submit to the Script Summit
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a Screenwriter?
It started as a curiosity as I was reading the Star Trek Episodes. I had my own Star Trek fan series written out, and I was pleased, however, I don’t think it was until I branched out into Original Content that I knew this was for me. I remember sitting around Chemistry class, ignoring the work I was supposed to do, writing out a series of shorts my friend Kyle Stewart and I called “Universal Wars.” At the time it started as a “What if MASH had been in space?” comedy, and of course darkened as the teenage years got thicker with angst.
Q: How do you Define Success for Yourself?
In high school, I would have talked you up about red carpets and press. As I have gotten older, and am a husband to an amazing wife, plus father to two fantastic children, I have to say quite simply, landing paid gigs. In these hard times I want to be able to secure my children's future and let my hard-working wife, Amanda Ristau, finally rest, only then can I stop breathing and just be proud of what I have accomplished.
Q: What is the typical day in your life?
So a typical day can kind of look like pure chaos to anyone looking in from the outside. I’m a Night Owl, who doesn’t always get that ability, and instead spends the daylight hours playing or working with my children. My wife is a CNA, and although we have never loved each other more, her job is especially demanding, so a day spent with her is always an extra special treat.
Once my children are in bed, I’m typically either a gamer, or working with a local production studio MaW Mediaworks by writing for them, or working on one of the other various tasks our small crew has to accomplish. Honestly, there are very few days where I go to bed not feeling accomplished, as not only have they entrusted their series into my hands as Head Writer, but have also opened themselves up to help create my own Original Content.
Q: What has been the most important skill you’ve developed on your path to Screenwriting?
I would say I have a very deep understanding of natural progression. In my head it’s like playing chess, I don’t want to leave the plot threads open for attack, so I always make sure that there is a reason for every decision I make in a film. The natural flow of my scripts has always been highlighted to me throughout my life, and it is something I’m very proud of.
Q: What has been the Greatest Challenge in your Writing so Far?
My challenge is not with writing itself, as much as what to do after I am done. I was not a great student, I spent far too much time practicing for this life, to be honest, and so college was always a stretch for me to imagine. The few times I tried going to college, my hands shook when it finally came down to signing the loans.
With this in mind, I have always had to learn on my feet, and because of that, I have never really known how to achieve my goals as a well-known, well-respected writer. Luckily I have had some wonderful friends along the way who have supported my growth every step of the way. MaW Mediaworks in particular was a major piece of my puzzle, as now I am around people who can actually teach me the ropes beyond just writing the script. I don’t know where I would be without all of them.
Q: What’s been the Greatest Reward in your Writing so Far?
To be honest, I feel like I have had many. “Howitzer Tales: The Boogeyman” probably takes the cake as a writer. This film was the first time I really got to do all the writing as a Head Writer, and immediately after releasing the film, we won at the very first film festival we were involved in. The Journey has been great, it was just nice to be working on such a professional level, for such professional people. I can’t wait to see what they can do with the future scripts that are just waiting the pandemic out.
Q: What do you want to Learn from a Community of your Peers?
I think by now it isn’t about writing the actual screenplay, as much as what to do with it after. I love what I do, but it just isn’t good enough to be a good writer who can’t make a buck doing it. Without a proper college education, my Peers in the Entertainment industry have ALWAYS been instrumental in my growth, and that is never going to change. At this time I am very interested in learning how to sell what I do, to make a successful career in an industry that is hard to break into. I just hope that everyone who has helped in the past, and everyone who has helped in the future will know how much I appreciate them.
The Successful Screenwriter Podcast - (Episodes)
We Fix Your Script - (Free Consultation)
InkTip - (List your script)
International Screenwriting Association - (ISA Connect)
WriterDuet - (Screenwriting Software)
Bulletproof Screenwriting - (Script Coverage)
Indie Film Hustle Academy - (Screenwriting Courses)
Krista Keller Talent - (Management)
The Robb Company - (Management)