In the Spotlight: Steve MacLaren
Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Steve has struck the balance. He has been on both sides of the aisle as a filmmaker. He's done mainstream commercial work, and has rolled up his sleeves to be an indie filmmaker. This has given him a unique perspective and the key ability to take a step back from a project and glean a broader view. Most of us get stuck and too focused on our work, which ultimately results in us blinding ourselves from seeing the truth. Not Steve. He can break a project down to find out what works and what doesn't. The core values he holds true to and his veteran eye as a filmmaker is why I am excited to introduce you to him.
This is Steve MacLaren…
I've been in the industry as a storyteller and filmmaker for 20 years now, where I started as a cinematographer and was thrown into directing.
I've been creating content for other people's stories till one day; I finally started writing. I have developed projects such as a 5-season story bible for a sci-fi series "A Town Called Zoa," where I worked as lead creative in the story development as well as one of the writers. I then shifted into writing screenplays, which I have produced into short films with plans to expand them into features.
I'm on a great path and am developing a new limited tv series or episodic tv show with a femme fatale feel to it and a nod to the military entitled "Over Here" beyond that I'm also in the process of writing some psychological thrillers as well.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I honestly never found myself as a writer. I was always working as a director, and ironically, I never planned to do that either. I was originally a 3D artist and became a cinematographer. I started directing when I was on a few hot sets where the director quit or was asked to leave, then the producer would ask me to finish the day.
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After adapting to becoming a director, I started to enjoy it. I'd talk with writers and develop a story, but I never truly had full control of the creation. It always difficult being in the commercial aspect of the story showing my vision but not entirely falling in love with the project. I had my AC pass me a script one day, and I liked it, but it wasn't as in-depth of a narrative, so I re-wrote everything, even the dialogue with his permission, and that threw me into wanting to write even more. I'll admit that it took me some time, hard work, and also writing classes to clean up my skill set as a screenwriter.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
I started writing to develop the narrative of a vision for my project further. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny or idea, and then I could tell the story the way I saw it in a dream or just some random thought I would jot down on a piece of paper. I now carry a small notepad in my back pocket or just find myself typing it up on my computer or my cellphone in final draft.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you
This one is tough. I've worked with so many great people who have had faith in me and my projects. But, I love it when my grandmother asks me to walk away from horror and move into children's programming. Which she's right about. There is a big kid show market, but that isn't my passion. Also, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I also want to say that my folks really believed in me so that I could be able to tell my story.
There was one person who really drove me into writing like a madman, and it was a gentleman by the name of Joel Eisenberg. He is awesome! I met him at a pitch fest called film com from my Nashville days he loved a script I developed with friends but had to pass on it. He told me to write something new because he liked my style and wanted to work with me in the future, so I did, and I penned "Over Here" my current baby, which I am now polishing and submitting to the screenplay contest at Script Summit 3.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
Wanting to be a screenwriter was something that happened when I could no longer depend on others to develop the story I had in my head. I grew frustrated with scratching someone else's back creatively, which can happen in the indie film community. That being said, I still help other filmmakers and help guide their vision, which is well beyond it being a paid gig. I do it because I believe in them.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
This may seem laughable, but when I was first writing, a finished script to me was a huge success — then moving into producing and directing short films/features. Now I find my focus going into. The world we work in as creators as changed a lot over my career. My adventures working in tv commercials, leaving those for features and finding myself developing a short to help assist in the sale of a full product has been a remarkable yet rewarding journey.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
I am naturally a night owl. I will be working till the wee hours of the morning and watch the sunrise. Then I retreat to my room and pull my blackout curtains tight.
I don't have a consistent routine as I have too many hats to bother with. Personally, I support an unnamed independent coffee shop where I inject coffee all day and often write on an empty stomach. This can prove to be foolish but isn't noticeable till after I have finished my work, and my stomach is screaming at me for being over-caffeinated and not indulging on some form of sustenance. When writing, I usually have my gel pens and a yellow legal notepad. I hate white paper notepads no clue why. It just feels like they suck out the creativity.
Q: How do you define a successful day?
As a writer, a successful day is finishing 5 pages or more or editing an entire script and putting it away for a week. It really depends on your own needs. I'm fully happy when the script is finished broken down and ready to shoot along with the cast of actors to fulfill the story.
Q: What's been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Not to use celtx, just kidding, but seriously don't do it. No celtx and no macros. Invest in the tool that will make you a better artist.
Honestly, developing and telling the story from paper to picture is a significant venture. Sure, there's formatting, grammar, and typography, which are all critical skills to possess. But, being able to tell a story is the best part about it. I can imagine if we were in a world of cave-dwelling people, I'd probably be painting stories on the walls in the middle of the night and watching the sunrise.
Q: What's been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
The greatest challenge is and always will be simply telling the story. Ironically that is also the greatest success. Writing to me is like painting or any other version of art; your never quite finished with it.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
Everything and anything.