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2012 NHFF Screenplay Competition Winner, Steve Lucas, Talks Selling Scripts, Screenwriting, and His Experience at NHFF

Steve Lucas NHFF 2012The extended deadline for NHFF film and screenplay submissions is approaching on August 15. During this final stretch of deadlines, we sat down with 2012 NHFF Screenplay Competition Winner, Steve Lucas, whose screenplay, LA MUJER,  took home our grand prize. In this interview Mr. Lucas explains his unique views on the craft of screenwriting,  the submission process, NHFF, and the merits of winning our competition.  Those interested in learning more about LA MUJER and the other works of Steve Lucas, including his upcoming short, THE PROCESS, can do so via his personal website, thestevelucas.com

NHFF: When and why did you start writing screenplays?

SL: I started writing my first screenplay (which would ultimately win the 2012 NHFF) in January 2012. I was driving back to my home in Costa Rica after a week working in Nicaragua. I saw a beautiful, well-dressed woman walking along the road. I wondered what her story might be. For the next several hours a movie played itself out in my head. By the time I arrived home, I knew every beat. 

At the time I knew nothing about screenwriting. So over the next three months I read books on screenwriting and almost a hundred screenplays that I found online. As I was learning, I started on “La Mujer.” By April, it was done. 

NHFF: What drew you from Plano, Texas to the New Hampshire Film Festival Screenplay Competition and why did you choose NHFF?

SL: I decided to enter film festivals and screenplay competitions as a means of getting feedback, and hopefully breaking in. New Hampshire had an amazing festival, and the entry fee was reasonable. The prize package offered for a win was also quite attractive. 

NHFF: You won the 2012 competition with your script, “La Mujer”. Can you tell us a little more about it?

SL: In “La Mujer” (The Woman), a beautiful but lost woman attracts the attention of a drug cartel when her ability to reveal dark secrets connects her to a horrific murder, while a conflicted reporter struggles to put the pieces together before they are both killed. 

NHFF: What was your process with this script? How long did it take to write and how much re-writing and revision did you go through before you felt strongly enough to enter the competition?

SL: I wrote just about every day for three months. My early drafts were awful, and they have been destroyed for the sake of humanity. But writing is re-writing. Sometimes I would work a scene for days until it sounded right. Finally, when I had a draft fit for human consumption, I asked my family to do a read-thru with me. I assigned parts and we dove in. At a critical point in the first act, my daughter (then 15) gasped. I knew I had something I could share with the world. I knew I was ready. 

NHFF: How would you describe your own style of writing and who are some of your favorite screenwriters?

SL: I believe I’m a tight writer. I hate fluff. I should probably embellish more, but I’m a minimalist. I’ve read a lot of other screenplays and I love and hate most writers. When I was first learning I limited myself to Academy Award winning scripts. It was then that I discovered that most screenwriters are a balance between genius and crap. I figured why not one more? 

NHFF: What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?

SL: Finishing. The third act is a beating like no other. I hate contrivance and cliché, but sometimes they feel unavoidable.. 

NHFF: How do you work through it?

SL: The trick is to keep writing until it works itself into something that doesn’t suck. Or, until you are convinced that your contrivance isn’t contrived. 

NHFF: How many screenplays have you finished?

SL: Four: two features and two shorts. I’m about 60% done with my third feature. It’s my best work yet. 

NHFF: How do you find time to write?

SL: I put it on my calendar like any other appointment. 

NHFF: What was it like to see your script as a semi-finalist, finalist and then winner of the NHFF Screenplay Competition?

SL: Every time I saw my name—the semis, finalist, winner—it felt like a pat on the back. It was great. But shortly after I found out I was a finalist, my dad died. I flew back to the States, and was standing in his home getting ready for the funeral when I received word that I had won. It was bittersweet. The news was great, but I never got to share it with my dad. He was a writer, and my biggest fan. It was a wonderfully tough day. 

NHFF: You attended a reception with Grand Prize Judge Joyce Maynard during the festival in 2012. What was your experience like at the festival itself and in the city of Portsmouth, NH?

SL: Portsmouth and the NHFF were amazing. My son flew with me from Costa Rica, the people were amazing, Joyce was an inspiration, and the film selection was very entertaining. It was over too soon! 

NHFF: What was your overall experience at Star Island during your residency in the summer of 2013?

SL: I had no idea what to expect on Star Island. What an amazing place. I was able to take my wife and kids, and we enjoyed some of the activities, most especially rowing to Smuttynose! While there I worked out the beats to a horror set on the Shoals, which I hope to write after I finish my current script. It would be incredible to see it filmed on location by one of the producers I met at the 2012 NHFF! 

NHFF: What’s been happening for you and your script since winning the NHFF in 2012?

SL: “La Mujer” did well in several other festivals, but as of yet has not found a home. I’ve sold two shorts, one of which is in post. I’ve also continued to write, while working full time in Costa Rica. 

NHFF: What advice would you give to other aspiring writers and contest participants?

SL: Love your story more than you hate criticism. See feedback for what it is—a chance to improve your story. No one owes you anything, so at the very least try to have fun with every part of the journey. 

*A big thank you to Steve Lucas for participating in this interview! If you would like your script to be considered for the 2014 NHFF Screenplay Competition, and the amazing Star Island Writer’s Retreat Grand Prize, it’s not too late! Submit your screenplay by August 15th.