I admire Christopher. He is a man who has mastered balance in his life. By doing so he is setting himself up for major success. All too often I see a screenwriter who goes all in only to burn out and fall off a cliff of despair, stress, and anxiety. Not Chris. He is a dedicated family man who knows that slow and steady wins the race. He's already proven it too. For a screenwriter who's only been doing this for a handful of years he has already been recognized by some of the biggest competitions in the world. I know writers who have been doing this twice as long as Christopher and can't make those claims. I am very excited to see where this talented writers career goes and that is why I am proud to introduce you to him.
This is Christopher J. O'Bryant...
By day I’m a professional bad guy (I work in the field of Collections), but my dreams, as the song says, “are not as empty as my conscious seems to be.” I’ve told stories since I was a child, sometimes for good reasons, other times for, uh, less than good reasons…
About ten years ago I tried to write a pilot script, and being completely honest, it was awful. I mean horrible. Everything a TV pilot shouldn’t be.
I started reading scripts, a lot of them. I read blogs, books and articles, trying to decipher the secret code that would allow me insight into the language, format and structure of screenwriting. I wrote another script and thought, “Yes, I cracked the code!” I found a coverage service and paid for a read and discovered… They were less than convinced of my code breaking skills. I was devastated…
But I refused to give up.
What I finally figured out, this isn’t a secret code, there’s a lot of hard work, late nights and constant edits. So I sat down, checked my pride, grabbed a lot of red pens and went to work.
I submitted to my first script contest in 2016, since then I’ve had recognition in big contests such as Script Summit, The Nicholl Fellowship, Finish Line Script Competition, The Page International Screenwriting Awards, Big Break and more.
Each year learning more and applying that to new scripts as I (hopefully) hone my craft and refine my scripts to become a better storyteller.My primary genre is “People Under Pressure,” Drama, Thriller, Horror, Mystery or Crime. I want to see what happens when characters are pushed to their breaking point.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I’ve always tried to embrace all forms of writing. It began in elementary school when I took crayon to paper and wound up creating some truly awful comic books.
My first grade teacher read them to the class, so maybe they weren’t all that bad, but I doubt I’d want to see one of them now…
Writing for the screen was a natural evolution of visualizing ideas that by their very nature would allow collaboration and discussion.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
My parents were avid readers so storytelling was always a huge part of my life. The older I got I realized the tremendous amount of skill it took for William Goldman to do what he did, for Aaron Sorkin to dazzle me with his dialogue or David Mamet to blend structure and story like it was music.
These were the people I wanted to learn from, wanted to become.
Submit to the Script Summit
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
My mother was the first person to see it and sometimes my harshest critic. In High School several teacher’s acknowledged I had potential, which, at that age, I mostly squandered, choosing to do everything the hard way.
I was always writing something, comics, novels, screenplays. My wife encouraged me at every step and suggested I start putting my scripts ideas out there, and as usual, she was completely right.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
I remember sitting in the theater asking who wrote “Back to the Future.”
I told myself, even way back then, this is what I want to do.
From there I started to pay more attention to the writer’s byline, telling me who wrote what, and I noticed similar names.
Moving into my 20s, I saw the work of Tarantino change the way I thought of narratives, and Michael Mann showed me a movie could be even more powerful than a novel with HEAT.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
There are several different levels of success. The first is completion. So many ideas never make it to, “The End,” so I always celebrate when one does.
From there it’s about rewriting, cutting the fat out of the story so it can shine.
But at the end of the day, true success as a screenwriter will only come when I’m in my local Cineplex, tub of popcorn and Junior Mints in hand, ready to watch something where I see my name under “Written by.”
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?
By nature I am a night owl, but the day job forces me to get up early, so you’d never know it. But, give me a few days off from work and I stay up later and later, no matter how painful the first day back to work is.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Shower and coffee, which is my way of saying I desperately try to find a way to wake up (probably because I stayed up too late the night before) – Did I mention coffee? I go through a lot of coffee.
What’s for lunch? Do you eat the same thing every day or mix it up?
It’s a mix. Usually driven by leftovers, my wife hates leftovers, so it’s my personal mission in life to finish every last bite.
What do you do during the day?
Day job or write – Always one or the other. Even at the day job, I plot, plan and daydream. What happens next in the story, how characters will interact when they first meet – I do this a lot while stuck in traffic. I should probably worry about that more than I do…
What do you do at night?
Write, edit, relax, watch TV. Play with my cat, who secretly runs the house and, probably, my life.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
Collapse into bed, because I wound up staying up far too late and know just exactly how early that blasted alarm is set for.
How do you define a successful day?
By how much writing/editing I complete. The day job pays the bills, so I have to make time to be creative. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful wife who supports my dreams.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Writing. Editing. Re-writing. More editing. More re-writing.
Learning to take notes and find ways to keep the narrative I want while making necessary changes to tell the story better.
It’s a hard pill to swallow at first, but now I’d rather have notes that cut my story to the quick, the kind of notes you can learn from, not just for the script I happen to be working on today, but for all the others scripts I’ll write in the future.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
Time. There’s never quite enough of it. In 2018 I managed to put together 10 separate projects, in 2019 I’ve only created 4 new projects and spent the majority of my time editing and rewriting previous work. There are still a ton of ideas in my head trying to get out and just can’t quite find the time to get to them all.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
Without a doubt, my family. The best choice I ever made. They are loving and supportive, no matter how many hours I disappear off to my office (especially on weekends).
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
Frankly, everything. Tips, tricks of the trade, better ways to do things, format and express ideas. I want to network and grow. I want to hear about the successes of others. I want to offer praise and share notes and work with people to help create a true community where everyone supports each other.
We all have out stories and I want to read as many as I can, and tell even more myself.