Mark LeClair is an inspiration. Learning Mark's story moved me in a way I wasn't prepared for. At a young age, I watched my father rebuild his life after suffering a TBI. I know first hand how much grit and sheer force of will it takes to not allow an injury like that define who you are or limit what you can do in life. Mark has suffered a similar fate and the fact that he uses screenwriting (the most difficult literary art there is) as his chosen form of expression further explains Mark's exceptionalism. To my fellow screenwriters out there, I want you to meet someone truly impressive.
This is Mark LeClair...
Born and raised in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and left home at 16 to start my adventure called life! Incredibly skinny and awkward, I had to quit school to earn money for rent but gained my GED (and eventually an MBA) along the way. I joined the Navy, to better myself, gain discipline, and have an adventure. I found that as a firefighter on a ship. It was exciting for the time, but I yearned for more.
One day, while reading a Navy publication, I spotted my opportunity for more adventure and excitement, under the term: SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman). Many never heard of them, but have heard about SEALs. SWCC operators were the ones who operate jet boats that deliver SEALs, conduct extractions in very dangerous situations, and air deliver warriors to the fight. That was for me.
Unfortunately, while enjoying the life of a SPECWAR operator, I had a couple of parachuting accidents that ended my career and ‘graced’ me with incredible pain. I needed to find an outlet for that pain and writing fit me the best. I started privately writing small ‘items’ and managed to get them published in different small publications, and had a chapbook published in 2005. Wanting to be the best writer possible, I read all the recommended books and write/rewrite my screenplays.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
While searching for ways to minimize physical pain that greatly restricted me, I tried different forms of art, such as painting and drawing, but found writing helped me to compartmentalize some of the physical discomfort life was gracing me with. Watching movies and identifying what I would have liked to see differently, prompted me to pursue screenwriting. My biggest motivator was noticing how the traumatic brain injuries had reduced my capabilities and I yearned to slow down that damage.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
Identifying the deficiencies in my brain-abilities had motivated me harder to continue writing, as it proved to slow down those deficiencies. Desiring to produce a screenplay/film that highlights accurate actions and events, to further expose the profession that I loved so much, in the hopes to show the viewers a side of the Navy they never knew about. I wanted to honor my brethren, past and present, who perished doing the job they loved.
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Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
My brother, Jeff, who passed away in 2009, was my biggest supporter and my best friend. He was my inspiration and my sounding board and sometimes my only outlet when things in my life got really dark. His support and our relationship was one that I honor each day and he will always be my inspiration.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
Watching certain films regarding the military or subjects associated with the military, specifically special warfare, and seeing scenes that I would have done differently persuaded me to do something about it. Being the solution and not the complainer allowed me to focus specifically on trying to birth a great screenplay.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
Celebrating small milestones. I learned, early on, that waiting until something was a proven success only elongated the anticipation and created impatience and negativity. With screenwriting, my successful milestones included: reading the ‘how-to’ books, writing the first draft, editing that draft, re-reading the ‘how-to’ books, and revisiting the edited screenplays, then copyright and, if appropriate, submissions into contests. Small victories maintain my motivation and personal drive to be successful.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
Having a house full of fur-babies, by 4 am I have a cat performing gymnastics from my dresser onto parts of my anatomy that I prefer to maintain as an ‘impact-free’ zone, which is followed by a Great Dane snoot ‘bopping’ my face. Feeding the brood before I hit the treadmill and stretching regiment is the necessary steps to ensure a short pocket of freedom since their full bellies force them to take a well-needed nap.
I make it a point to write at that point. If I have only an hour before I leave to teach defensive classes, I use that hour to reread a previous edit and formulate my plan for the next writing availability. Toss in cooking healthy/tasty meals and that encompasses a normal day.
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?
A bit of both, especially with pets that are smarter than I am and are always trying to coax me into feeding them earlier and earlier. Depending on the situation, I will remain up and dedicated to my mission, or I will rise early and commit to that mission. Can never take the military out of the person.
When do you get up?
Some days are better than others, but, usually, I would like to get up by 6 am, however, since the Great Dane will get me up at all hours (because there was a scary bunny outside and she needed to sniff it out) and the cats conspire against me and motivate our other dog to whine to ensure I rise, my day starts usually anywhere between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. at the latest.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Stretching is an unfortunate necessity due to a body that is broken. Once I am a bit more ‘flexible’, I make the journey down to let the dogs out…again, which allows me to quickly feed the cats to get them to stop yelling at me, and then finally I pour my coffee. I say it’s only a cup, but it’s a cup that holds ¾ of the pot.
Do you have a morning routine or ritual?
After feeding the brood and getting my coffee, I check the DVR to see what movies I recorded and begin my watching/assessing of the movie. This allows me to drink my coffee and review how the characters are developed in the movie and dialogue and compare it with my current screenplay endeavor.
What do you do during the day?
If I am not writing, I am teaching defensive techniques with firearms. With my background in special warfare, various firearms are where I gravitated, and teaching made sense early on. It allows me to fine-tune the classes to my audience to ensure each student understands the information and performs the actions safely. This also allows me to gather specifics about people that I can use in character development in my screenplays.
What do you do at night?
At a certain time each evening, my wife and I meet on the couch to have quality time together. I use that time to make notes in my character notebooks, to add ideas to existing screenplays, or to just zone out at the television. Then the final feeding of the brood before climbing into bed.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
I will usually put a documentary on the television and set the timer. This allows us to watch a show that is informative but not something we are completely invested in.
How do you define a successful day?
A successful day is one where I can get at least one page edited or written and it makes sense. I review the scenes and re-read the edits to ensure it fits into the picture as a whole. I am not always successful but am determined to create what I would like to see on the big screen.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Reading the input from different screenwriters on the social media groups. Those who have been published or have had their screenplays optioned provide valuable information that keeps me motivated to continue writing. Deep down I know my limitations and am very realistic in my expectations, but have never backed down from a challenge and will continue on this path.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
Character arcs have been difficult, but also the balance between dialogue and action. Each screenplay feels as though I am committed to the format in a much better way, and that allows me to build my characters better. Work in progress for sure.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
Achieving the small milestones I placed in my journey. According to the health care professionals, I should have either been deceased or paralyzed and in a wheelchair by now and I am neither…unless I am writing this from the grave, in which case that will become my next screenplay! Personal achievements allow me to strive for success without craving the acceptance of those who achieved an options screenplay or published a book.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
What I learn each day: tricks that work, what the industry looks for, the importance of formatting, hints, and ‘good to knows’ from those who have been successful in the past. Life is a journey of learning and I inform my students of that every class I teach and I leave them with this: “Although you may never achieve perfection, your dedicated pursuit for perfection will allow you to succeed faster and with better results, knowing you may never fully achieve it. It’s your dedicated pursuit that will allow you to advance your skills”. I end the classes with: “The day you believe you know it all, is the day you have given up on learning!”
The Successful Screenwriter Podcast - (Episodes)
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)
The Robb Company - (Management)