Clint is one of those filmmakers who you can sit down with for hours and pick his brain about the craft. In fact, I did just that at the Action on Film Festival. What I immediately noticed is that this man lives and breathes filmmaking. It’s not just his mastery of this art that impressed me, but it’s his overall warmth as well. He is that rare individual who welcomes a complete stranger with an open heart and a hearty laugh. With his impressive achievements, Clint could easily let his ego elevate himself above all others. He does not. He is as humble and grounded as they come and it is my pleasure to introduce him to you.
I was a 2nd generation media kid. My father was an accomplished musician, but when my mom died, he realized he couldn’t really be on the road and raise a child alone. I took a job working for him when I was still in high school. Apparently, I enjoyed it because I worked in radio and television for just shy of 20 years. I ended up in management but I missed the hands-on production. I left that world to focus on writing and made my living selling short stories and novels. But, freelance writing wasn’t quite enough to satisfy, and my desire to make movies kept pushing me. So, my wife made a deal with me. I could make movies, if we could use the skills and equipment to also produce commercials and corporate videos. We started Growth Media Productions in the middle of the recession and haven’t looked back.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I told my 4th grade teacher that I was going to be a writer. I had played around with screenplays in my early 20’s, but they weren’t very good. But, I didn’t stumble into it. I dove in. I studied every book, I went to seminars. And I refined my skill set and craft. So, for me, it was a very deliberate choice.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
The best part of being born into a creative field is nobody ever told me it was impossible. My Dad knew what it took to compete in the creative fields and just made sure I had the work ethic. He never said it was impossible, just that it would take a lot of work and that didn’t scare me. And, I don’t think any indie filmmaker can not mention Robert Rodriguez’s book Rebel Without A Crew. That book told an entire generation that it was okay to make mistakes, as long as you learned from them.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
Well, my Dad, ironically has just recently started reading my work and has been impressed, but his advice was always just practical, which was useful. I wrote screenplays for about 20 years and never showed anyone anything. Honestly, I am a late bloomer. I knew I could write novels and short stories because I made a living doing that. But film seemed like a pipe dream. My wife thought my script writing was excellent, but she’s contractually obligated to be supportive, LOL. But, she put our money where her mouth was, and we started a web-series called Shotgun Mythos. She was supportive enough to know that I needed film school but couldn’t afford to just go to school and not help build our company. So, we spent 3 years working on the series. At last count Shotgun Mythos is on television in 27 markets, as well as on Amazon. But with a cast of over 70, and ten 45 minute episodes per season. We took all that we learned and started working on A Clean Exit, which we sent out to ONE film festival to see if we had grown enough to enter the world of film. We got accepted to AOF, where we won Action Film of The Year. So, Del Weston is probably the one outside of family most responsible for pushing my screenwriting from intense study to practical application. A Clean Exit has now won over 40 awards and is almost ready for release. Fat Guy With A Shotgun has won a handful of awards and Fat Guy With A Shotgun 2 is almost ready for festivals. We are currently in pre-production on a crime drama called Hell is Empty.
Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
Honestly, there really isn’t a ta-da moment, unless you count a 7-year-old me being entranced with the film Goodbye Girl by Neil Simon combined with a 24-year-old me reading Robert McKee’s “Story”. For me, that book demystified the entire process.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I am mature enough now to not really get into the definition of success. When a script is finished I merely ask myself if I am proud of the script and does it tell the story I wanted to tell. I think if you get wrapped up into the definition of success you’ll never be happy. My wife and I manage to produce, what I feel, are quality low budget films. We keep a roof over our heads and keep our children fed and I don’t have a day job. I already am successful. I have three awesome kids. I’ve had traumatic losses in my life. So, success is defined day to day. I love where I am in my career, would love to make more money, but that will come if I keep grinding it out. I think if you get to wrapped up into defining success, you’ll end up missing it.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
Early Bird or a Night Owl? Night Owl
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Check Facebook, drink a Diet Dew or coffee.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
Try not to waste too much time on Facebook.
What do you do during the day?
Typically, I work on a client’s projects early, to get that out of my way. After that I work as a Director or Editor. Preparing the next film, shot lists, whatever is important and must get done for the next project. Editing the last project. When that is all said and done, then I get to my writing.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
I keep a list of films that are set aside for motivation or inspiration. So, I tend to put one of those on and watch them with a notebook nearby. Although, lately, my pre-bed ritual is a binge of the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoons with my kids.
How do you define a successful day?
“Did I put in the work?” That’s the big question. This industry is designed to weed out the weak. I know that sounds very dystopian, but I have worked on the other side in management and the industry itself is designed to keep you out. Film and Television doesn’t really care if you have your PhD, they care whether you get the job done. So, I look at each day and ask if I pushed the ball further down the field than I did the day before. Did I waste time on something silly, or did I put the work in to get to where I want to be? That’s seriously the only question but it applies to more than just writing. Did I make sure to spend time with the kids, my wife…did I do the work necessary to make sure they know how I feel about them? That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I sit and play Witcher 3 or binge Marvel movies but even those are days that are designed to recharge the batteries a bit.
Q: What’s been your most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Separation of ego and craft. I think one thing that a lot of young screenwriters lack (me included) is they lack the ability to remove their ego from the rewrites. Working on projects as the writer, director and editor, I have learned how important it is to be able to evaluate work WITHOUT allowing your ego to dictate the response. There was a scene in A Clean Exit. I thought it was clever and I thought it was important. Nothing will change your mind quite like listening to a theater full of people shift in their seats during your “clever” scene. I fought it tooth and nail, but after our private screening I removed the scene completely. That wouldn’t have been required, IF I had kept my writer’s ego out of the editing room. It wasn’t in the film by the time it got to AOF and won.
Q: What’s been your greatest challenge in your writing so far? Every story is a challenge in its own way. Learning how to overcome the issues that come with each store IS the challenge.
Q: What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you've made? Watching an audience enjoy the films.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers? I just love hearing how people do the things. I like to hear how people attack a problem and turn it into an asset. I think if you can take a negative and turn it into a strength, you’ll figure out this industry.