In the Spotlight: Connor Etter
Connor dreamed of being a screenwriter since he was a young boy. Having that type of desire in our youth is part of the magic of childhood. How many of us wanted to be firefighters, race car drivers, or astronauts? How many of us grew up to achieve our childhood dreams? Not many. Connor is one of the select few who held true to himself and his vision. Now, he has set himself on a path of growth to not only be a screenwriter but to become the best he can at his craft. That very passion and drive is why I am excited to introduce you to him.
This is Connor Etter…
I have been in creative writing since a young age. As a boy I would write elaborate stories and tell my parents “I am going to grow up and be the greatest author ever.” By the time I reached my early teens I turned my focus towards film and started writing screenplays. Growing up, people always told me that most people in the film industry end up being a waiter or homeless, but that never stopped my ambition to become a screenwriter. When I took a video production elective in high school, I realized that I had to take a chance. So I applied to Southern Connecticut State University as an applicant for Video Production.
During my time at Southern, I was a founding member of the SCSU Digital Production Club. It was designed to for students who made short films and wrote scripts for future projects. After graduating from Southern, I managed to land on-set gigs for television shows, and also worked on my own independent projects.
I’ve been told my writing style is unique. That I portray human emotion and present characters with personalities that readers can relate to. I love to use suspense in my writing the way old horror films did. I feel they were far more effective at building suspense then more modern approach of gratuitous violence.
How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I was nine years old. I enjoyed writing stories as a hobby, but one night I watched a movie where the main character wrote plays and I said to myself “Hey, I could do that.” Then I started taking my stories and turning them into scripts and got better at it as I practiced and grew.
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Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
Peter Jackson. Especially his work on The Lord of the Rings. I remember watching an interview with him when Peter mentioned that when he read the books, he couldn’t wait for it to become a movie, and then as he grew older, he decided that he should make them himself. A lot of times I wrote good stories that I felt would be good movies. I said to myself, if he can take the initiative to bring these stories to life, then so can I.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
The first person who believed in me was my third-grade teacher, Mr. Starno. I was nine at the time and we were doing a class project on creative writing. I really enjoyed writing and Mr. Starno told me that I should be an author. When he told me that, it encouraged me, and I eventually began to seriously consider it. When I told my parents, I wanted to be an author, again at nine years old, they were very supportive and told me “Practice makes perfect.” Even though there is no such thing as perfect, that motivated me to constantly want to make the stories that I wrote better. I was never satisfied when hearing it was “Alright” or “Pretty Good.” I set the bar really high.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
Looking back at it, I realize that there wasn’t a specific moment. It was a combination of events. It would start with my love for writing stories, as well as the interview I saw of Peter Jackson, the recognition from my third grade teacher, a movie I saw that encouraged me to convert my stories into screenplays, and the support of my parents to pursue creative writing and screenwriting.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
Success to me is creating something that has mass appeal. I know that not “Everyone” will like it. But, if something is really good, I feel that MOST people will like it. So, when I create things, whether it is a screenplay or a project, etc., if the majority of people like it, including myself, then I consider it successful.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
Every morning I get up at 5 AM and go to the gym. When I get back home, I eat Wheaties and then I walk my two Black Labs. I don’t eat lunch everyday because there are a lot of times where I am not hungry. When I do eat lunch, I normally gut a Buffalo Chicken sub with Blue Cheese. There really isn’t a simple day to day for me, because sometimes I am working on television shows or projects, and then other days I am working a simple, boring part time job. But whatever I do……it’s always an interesting day. The type of stories you would tell at parties lol.
Q: How do you define a successful day?
A successful day to me is one that has had a positive impact, whether on myself or others. I don’t like wasting time. I would rather do things that make a difference.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you’ve developed on your path to screenwriting?
The most important skill I developed using detail instead of dialogue to tell a story. I learned this while attending Southern Connecticut State University, in my screenplay class. Never allow the character to say everything that is happening. This is something people do sometimes without realizing, but the audience should be able to tell what is going on based off the descriptions in the script. Obviously, dialogue is very important, but don’t make the character narrate the story, unless if that is your specific intent.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
The greatest challenge I had in writing was learning how to accept criticism. I was always able to take criticism, but accepting it is different. Accepting criticism is when you allow yourself to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Read the feedback they gave you, and make changes to your script based off that feedback. In the past I would look at feedback and see it as that person’s opinion. But as I developed as a writer, I learned that sometimes you have to accept their opinion as correct and admit to yourself that your script isn’t as great as you think. Once a writer develops that skill, they can write scripts that will do well in festivals and get in the hands of the write person who might consider filming it.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you’ve made?
That is actually a two-part question. The first reward was developing the ability to accept that my opinion on my script isn’t the overall opinion. When I realized that, I wrote better scripts because I would take feedback from readers and use it to make my script better, rather than tossing the feedback out and assuming that they are wrong.
The second part of the “greatest reward” was after making significant changes (at times) to my script, through the first draft to the final version, I went on to becoming a Finalist in many of the top Screenplay competitions out there.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
I have learned from my peers. I want young writers to learn from their peers. I would encourage people who write screenplays to always ask for a second or third opinion. Write down what the person is saying. Then go over the feedback and take it into serious consideration, because a script is better when most people enjoy reading it. To get from the first draft to a finalized draft that people like, you have to accept criticism and encourage feedback to improve…. not just improve your script, but to improve as a writer.