In my seminars and my book I talk about finding that moment of sympatico with a cowriter where you end up writing as a single voice. Obviously, it is incredibly difficult to do. It takes time, practice, and someone you can trust to make happen. However, there are those rare moments when you meet someone, and you just click. Call it fate if you will, but you find that writer whom you can work perfectly with. Where the art of collaboration comes naturally. Having met and spent time with Kerry and C.M. I can tell you these two screenwriters are a power team. Their work is simply phenomenal. I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen many writing teams fall apart from out of control egos or “creative differences” but these two have something unique and they know it. I’m truly glad they are on this road together as collaborators and I can’t wait to see where their paths lead. Because all I see for these two are stars. This is Kerry Valderrama & C.M. Bratton ...
Mini-Bio: Kerry Valderrama
I grew up in LaPaz Bolivia and graduated high school in Lima Peru. I joined the U.S. Army at 19 and served as an Airborne Infantryman for 8 years. I have an amazing daughter named Angelica and currently live in San Antonio, TX which I am proud to call home. I graduated from Methodist University with a B.A. in Political Science and a Minor in Spanish. While I was working on my Master's Degree in International Relations, I withdrew halfway to work on my first feature film titled Garrison.
I managed to scrape together about 3 grand and off I went into the insane world of indie filmmaking. After a grueling 3 years of working on Garrison, I was fortunate enough to have it purchased by Phase 4 Film and distributed nationwide in the U.S. at the time on Netflix, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and Wal-Mart across the country. In addition, Garrison was released in more than 30 countries worldwide, which then allowed me to work in the entertainment industry full-time. Since then, I have directed, produced and written two award-winning feature films, numerous commercials, music videos, created a comic book series which is distributed through Diamond Comics.
Sanitarium (Starring Malcolm McDowell, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Englund, and Lacey Chabert) is my second feature film distributed nationwide through Image Entertainment and is available on DVD & VOD. "Sanitarium" is being developed into a network television series. Currently, I serve as a Board Member for the TXMPA (Texas Motion Picture Alliance) & Film Committee Member for the San Antonio Film Commission, as well as CEO of Alamo City Studios. Alamo City Studios is a Production Hub located in downtown San Antonio. This multi-functional facility serves clients, filmmakers and producers in all stages of their projects from development, pre-production, production & post-production.
Mini-Bio: C.M. Bratton
I love dragons. That’s always a good place to start. It’s from this love of dragons that I first considered becoming a writer (and yes, my first book is a dragon book). I swam through poetry, creative non-fiction, and academic writing before landing in the land of scripts and novels.
A member of the Texas Association of Authors, I’ve published twenty-four books and a solo comic series, and won several book awards. In addition, I’ve written for several film projects, including Sanitarium.
With an intense focus on character-driven stories, I love to explore how people react in unexpected and extraordinary situations. I excel at writing sci-fi, fantasy, psychological thriller, and satire. I’m also a huge nerd, as I greatly enjoy researching and editing, with excellent mastery of craft (grammar nerd) and structure.
I received B.A.s in Theatre Arts & Spanish from Yale University, an M.A. in Drama from Texas Woman’s University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Media Arts from Full Sail University, for which I was also the Valedictorian and Advance Achievement Award Recipient, hurrah! Along with teaching undergraduate theatre and writing (so... much… grading…), I’m currently working on several writing projects. These include a follow-up trilogy to the award-winning Dragonlady and Dragonlord trilogies, a sci-fi pilot for Neon Gods, a web series Online Dating for Zombies based on my award-winning zom-com series, The R.Z.A. Chronicles, and a possible sequel to the graphic novel, O.B.E.
From dragons to cyborgs to zombies (oh my!), I can’t wait to share more worlds with you. For more information, check me out at www.cmbratton.com or www.facebook.com/writercmbratton or @writercmbratton on Twitter & Instagram.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
C.M. - Stumble is truly the right word. I was cast in a (theatre) show with Kerry, and during rehearsals, he mentioned he was working on writing a film. I told him I was a writer – though at the point it was most creative non-fiction, poetry, and short stories – and he said we should work together sometime. Well, shortly after, we started working on his first feature. However, I moved right after, so the next 3 years, it was mostly here and there for writing stuff. We started working on another script of his – lots of editing and rewrites – and it ended up getting in the Semifinals of the Nicholl’s way back in 2010. At that point, I had just graduated with my MA in Drama and was trying to figure out what to do next. Kerry invited me to move back to SA to work on the script, and in the meantime, I started seriously working on finishing my first book. I did, and then out of nowhere, we started working on another project – which ended up taking off. And we’ve written ever since (for me, books and scripts).
KV - I was waiting on a friend in a bookstore in NYC, and saw a book titled "How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000 (And Not Go to Jail)." I was drawn to it, bought it, read it and then wrote my first feature film Garrison. This really brought C.M. and I together on projects for the next decade.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
KV - My friends and family have always been very supportive, but I would have to say Darren Aronofsky; the way he made Pi was a huge impact on my life and belief system towards the film industry.
C.M. - I’ve always loved writing. The first time I considered it as a possible life path, I was 9. I’d written about my summer and the teacher raved about it and said I was incredibly descriptive and I thought, hey, this could be a thing. I started working on the first book when I was 12, and it took 20 years to finish after a rather long and winding path. But writing was always present, and I knew one day I’d be ready to take real steps down the writer’s road.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
C.M. - As mentioned above, it would be my 5th grade teacher who raved about the paper, but I’ll always remember Mrs. Devers who loved my poetry and let me sit in her class at lunchtime to write. I should also mention my mother who read my first book before everyone else and just loved it – did I mention how violent it is? But she supports everything I do. So does my dad, but he’s often overwhelmed by how much writing I produce.
KV - Much of my inspiration came from researching other filmmakers on low budget projects and seeing, while it is a lot of work, it can be done.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
C.M. - I’ve always enjoyed the process, and I enjoy writing movies as well as books. I loved writing “Sanitarium” and discovering shorter, more contained stories. But the moment I first saw “The Expanse”, I knew I wanted to write series as well, as it’s a blend of a longer story (novel) in script form.
KV - I have always loved the art of storytelling since a very young age and once I was fortunate enough to be paid for it, I never turned back.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
C.M. - Hopefully this is not too cliché, but being able to pay my bills and enjoy life while doing what I love is generally how I measure success. Getting fan mail in the middle of the night or having someone say how much I’ve inspired them is the most wonderful feeling, so having an eager audience makes the day or project a true success.
KV – I agree with C.M., being able to do what I love and make a living at it.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life
KV Typically, I wake up and drink coffee, after which I head to work and drink more coffee. I then begin to breakdown whatever task I'm working on for the day, whether it’s a script, comic or video production, and then drink more coffee.
C.M. My day changes constantly, since sometimes I’m in class and sometimes in the studio and sometimes at home. I’m a big napper, so whenever I get the chance, I’m usually snoozing between 2 and 4 (take that, 3pm lull!). I like to try and get to the gym and/or walk my dog as well as get some writing in for my current book (I’m always writing books). Then there’s time with my dogs and watching shows and hanging with friends and, when absolutely necessary (so, every week), grading.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
C.M. - Pretty much just get the dogs settled, gym, and then write. Sometimes, depending on the project, I’ll go into the studio and Kerry and I will work for a good chunk of the day on something. Other times, I’m on my couch or the porch or even my bed (which I’ve trained myself to be able to do, hah!), and writing from there.
KV - When C.M. and I are in writing mode, we are on a very fixed schedule, which can go for months at a time.
What’s for lunch? Do you eat the same thing everyday or mix it up?
C.M. & KV We definitely mix it up. But if given the chance, sushi or tacos are always on the menu.
What do you do during the day?
C.M. - I’m also a scriptwriting and creative writing professor (and occasional theatre prof), so I may have a class or need to do grading/planning in-between writing. Somehow, there’s also lots of running around. Hopefully some swimming somewhere in there, especially during summer.
KV - Work at the studio on scripts and productions.
How do you define a successful day?
C.M. - Getting everything done on my to-do list early enough to relax and have me-time.
KV – Same.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
C.M. - I feel a lot more confident about dialogue. I also feel quite strong about character development, from creating individual voices to understanding what motivates my characters and how that drives the story. It’s true that even if I’m the creator of a character, how I’ve created that character sets up rules that I need to follow – a murderer might like butterflies, but s/he’ll also pull the trigger when needed. Digging into each character’s backstory is exciting and really helps me fill in the middle act, which used to be the hardest challenge.
KV - We have worked on many different projects and genres across the board, so I would also say that the ability to adapt to the materials of others has been a trait that we have also greatly improved on. Also, patience and resilience.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
KV - The greatest challenge has been learning the lesson that everything you write will not get made, nor be great and not to lose your mind over it.
C.M. - I think, initially, it was just finishing that first draft. But once I unlocked that (leveled up), I always felt my dialogue was a bit cheesy. I think I’ve continued to improve and am far less “on-the-nose”or monologue-heavy than I used to be, but I hope to continue to develop in that area.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
KV - We have been very fortunate to have many projects that we’ve worked on come to light and I am eternally grateful for that.
C.M. - The reaction of the fans and the unexpected boosts in terms of messages or conversations. I never set out to become an inspirational figure – I just wanted to write, which is my life’s path. But knowing that I do inspire and encourage and uplift so many others has been this unexpected reward and motivates me to keep going, even on days when I wonder if anyone will ever read/see my stories. They live in me and want to come out, so I’m letting them, and touching so many lives makes it all worth it.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
C.M. - I’m not too confident about writing horror, but I feel like I should be, so I want to get tips on that. I’d also like to learn from others what it’s like to work with an entire team. Having a writing partner (who I know very well) is a little different from working under a show-runner, so I would love to peek in on that collaborative process. I also love writing comedy, but it’s rather satirical and I’d love to learn more tips for that.
KV - That we are all in this together and we always need to build each other up.