It is easy to become lost on this journey as a screenwriter. We feel as if we are pulled a thousand directions whether it be relocating to accommodate the industry as we try and break-in or losing our voice in the script from an abundance or notes. M.r. has been through it and has come out of this journey a stronger writer and person which has led her to success. This is why I am excited to introduce you to her.
This is M.r. Fitzgerald...
- I'm an independent filmmaker from West Central Minnesota where I was raised to overcome harsh landscapes. To carve out my own identity from the past, I graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris with a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and Art History. My time at UMM gave me the encouragement to pursue my dream to become a filmmaker at Ohio University where I obtained my MFA in Film Production. I lived in Los Angeles for a short time where I worked for Hulu and Partizan before returning to the Appalachian film community where I learned that the grass isn't greener on the other side. I came face to face with the aftermath of my own upbringing within the films that I wrote, directed, and produced which have screened at several film festivals and have been nominated for countless awards.
- The COVID-19 Pandemic disrupted my plans to return to Los Angeles and brought me back to my family's organic farm in Minnesota. The time in quarantine brought much self-reflection and creativity for me to write new short, feature, and pilot screenplays that, one way or another, delve into what my Midwest upbringing has truly meant to me. I am extremely fortunate to share that my screenplays have gone on to win top prizes. My scripts have also been placed at Screencraft, WeScreenplay, Film Pipeline Shorts Competition, Cinequest, FilmQuest, Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship, Golden Script Competition, Atlanta Film Festival, Shriekfest and have placed in the Top 1% of the Coverfly’s Red List. My goal is to produce my latest screenplays and to show others that anything can be possible if we come together, share our experiences and support each other as we shine a light on the rural region that shaped us all into the powerful storytellers that we are today.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
- For as long as I can remember, I loved telling stories in every way. In preschool, I would describe to the other kids the movie that I watched the night before. Even if they didn’t want to hear about it, haha. During elementary school, I was the equivalent of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” where I spent most of my time with my face buried in the pages of a book or running down to the school library to return and then check out even MORE! The other kids would jokingly ask if the “R” in my middle name stood for R.L. Stine because I was always reading his books. As a homeschooler during my high school years all the way to being an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota Morris, I wrote five novels in my notebooks that I carried around with me everywhere. And, finally, I had bitten the bullet to combine my love for the written word with my love of cinema and started my journey as a screenwriter. Never looking back.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
- My family always had a massive love of cinema. While growing up on the farm, my parents rented countless VHS tapes for my brother and me to lose ourselves in. My grandmother would have us watch TV shows such as “Keeping Up Appearances.” She was also an avid collector of mountains of books to the point where people would joke that her house was the “Library of Congress.” My childhood friend and I also shared a deep love of movies to the point where we’d recreate them with our Barbie dolls. Little did we know, we were writing/directing/producing our own films at the age of 10. Later on, my friend gave me a paperback of “Pulp Fiction” and I saw a screenplay for the first time, thinking “I want to do this too.”
Submit to the Script Summit
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
- The first person to believe in me as a storyteller was my fellow UMM Studio Art mate, Sam Bruno. We were enrolled in an Advanced Drawing class where we were assigned to create a 2-minute stop-motion film. We admired each other's films so much that Sam asked me to collaborate on a wild art project where she built a pop-up book that incorporated a stop-motion film as its final page that we lovingly dubbed a “Mook.” With a daunting and uncharted game plan; Sam built the set and hunted down other students to act in it…and I went off to write the script. The entire story poured out of me in three hours and it was the first time that I felt the intoxicating thrill of screenwriting and I can honestly say that it was because Sam Bruno asked to make this unique “Mook” together.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
- Since the age of 5, I would make up little stories and characters inside my head. However, I didn’t fully recognize that I felt the need to do this job called screenwriting until I saw “Reservoir Dogs” for the first time as a teenager. I loved how Quentin Tarantino sucked me into a story with the depth and nuance of a novel yet twists and turns of dialogue like a stage play. I wanted to create characters who were close friends who could turn into bloodthirsty enemies simply with the power of words. That film plus the action/adventure, sci-fi, and horror films that I consumed showed their influence of cinematic flair in the novels that I wrote in my teens and early twenties. That dream of writing screenplays remained just that until I saw Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist.” It was the first film to make me feel that I didn’t need to have millions of dollars and big blockbuster studios to tell a story depicting how anxiety and depression truly feel. It made me feel that I had permission to not only tell whatever story that I wanted, but to not be afraid to pour my entire self into a film and expose my deepest emotions allowing the audience to feel not alone just as “Antichrist” did for me.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
- Even though I still balance my time between writing and working a day job to pay rent and keep food on my table, I do feel successful because I am at a point in my life where I proudly call myself a screenwriter. Growing up, I always felt that I wasn’t good enough for the world around me and the only place where I felt safe was within the world of a film, a book or the stories in my head. Writing my first screenplay for the “Mook” nearly ten years ago has allowed me to stake my claim in my life and the outer world around me. Money and fame come and go, but if a person who feels like a waste of space is inspired to carve their own path from my screenplays, then I’d consider myself extremely successful.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
- On my own time, I drink my coffee and work on one of my screenplays while the caffeine slowly wakes me up. On the days that I work, I take my coffee to go, listening to podcasts and audiobooks while I’m on the move.
What do you do during the day?
- I work on an organic farm by day, leaving room to write in the morning, jotting down notes throughout the workday, and then incorporating those notes into the script before I go to bed.
What do you do at night?
- I settle in after a long day on the farm and each night it can be different as to how. I eat dinner while watching YouTube videos on screenwriting/filmmaking or reaction videos by my favorite YouTubers. Or I work on my screenplay and incorporate the notes I made throughout the day. Or I get together with my family and friends to watch a movie or an episode of a TV Show when I need a creative break to still enjoy entertainment like a normal viewer.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
- I help square away the remaining farm tasks of the day as well as chores around the house before finally climbing into bed. I read from a book or my IPad until I fall asleep. Usually with the book or IPad still in my hands. Every single night.
How do you define a successful day?
- Where I got to make big headway in a screenplay that I’m currently working on although that doesn’t necessarily mean cranking out five to ten pages a day. It would consist of being able to crack an outline, add to my “look book,” create a new story playlist, come up with a fresh idea or jot down a sentence or a monologue. Screenwriting is a marathon, not a sprint so when I finish an entire draft after those countless successful days, then it adds up to perfection for me as a writer.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
- I feel that my most important skill as a screenwriter is my ability to describe visuals. Everything that I initially learned about writing was from novels which I admit left me with a habit of overwriting, keeping me from getting to the point. It wasn’t until I studied Art History as an undergraduate where I was taught to effectively analyze works of art and write that analysis in essays and presentations. Not only was I able to finally grasp describing what I see, but also how the work of art makes the viewer feel as well as the narrative as if the reader hadn’t seen the work before. My skills in painting a picture with words, as well as perfecting the art of script formatting, have allowed me to create the proper foundation of a story blueprint that takes my readers and myself on a wild and unforgettable journey.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
- Sometimes staying true to oneself is the easiest choice and other times it can be the most difficult one in this screenwriting journey. For many years, I struggled to stay true to my own voice while being surrounded by a million voices that detracted me from my path to the screenwriter and filmmaker that I am today. I’ve made genuinely wonderful friends by staying true to myself, but I’ve lost people who I used to look up to in order to do what is best for my own mental health and the stories that I write. I’ve overcome many challenges protecting my screenplays from insidious voices and now my stories have flourished into what they were always meant to be.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
- That taking a chance on a dream turned out to be the right choice. Even after all of the good and bad choices that I have made ever since the beginning of this fateful journey, they all led towards my stories finally being released from my mind onto the page, on a film set, on camera, and on the big screen. Not every step of the process is an easy one, but whenever someone comes up to me after a film screening or a script’s staged reading and tells me how they related to and gained catharsis from the story, I feel that the highs and lows of the journey were worth it. Once my screenplays and films have gone out into the world, I want them to let the reader or viewer know that they aren’t alone in whatever they might be going through. That we are all in this together.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
- I want to learn how they stay inspired to open themselves up to this unpredictable and crazy life we live as screenwriters and creatives in general. Especially in today’s world where one has to work a “day job” besides their “dream job,” I’m always fascinated to learn what keeps the dreams of my fellow writers alive. I also want to learn what sparked their dream to write in the first place. Whether we come from completely different walks of life or adored the same films at the same age, I’m always deeply curious to see how others got into the same love of writing for the big screen and why.
The Successful Screenwriter Podcast - (Episodes)
The Guide For Every Screenwriter - (Paperback)
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)