I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
when I saw ROCKY III. It inspired me,
at the ripe age of 12, to attempt a screenplay about a female boxer. I hadn’t
a clue what I was doing - but as long as I could hear that theme song in my
head I could keep writing.
I know I've succeeded........
when I can earn a living doing what I love. I
know the script doesn’t always make it to the screen – but as long as it makes
it to paper I’ve succeeded. To get paid for making those words hit paper would
be the greatest gift I can imagine.
My inspiration to write HIGH PROFILE.......
was Princess Diana. As corny as it
sounds, HIGH PROFILE began as my way of imagining a happier ending to her
What inspired you to write?
Debra Vance: I can’t say any
one thing inspired me to begin writing. It is something I’ve done my
whole life, and the way I’ve found best to give voice to the conscious
and subconscious pains and passions of my mind. It’s more what’s
inspired me to keep writing that I can put a finger on: some of my
earliest memories of praise, validation and understanding were in
response to things I’d written. Powerful drugs are these.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Debra Vance: I think I
prepared DURING the writing of my first script – which consequently
took 20+ drafts and several years to really complete. During that
journey I read over a dozen screenwriting books, and at least 100
screenplays and worked in the industry. I also did a significant
amount of living, which informed the voices of my characters and the
arcs of their stories.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Debra Vance: This is my third script. It’s tough to attach an
amount of time to the writing of this, or any of my previous scripts,
due to the nature of writing while holding a day job and raising two
kids. Time has become an elusive thing to gauge. If I had to give it a
number, I’d say two years of writing 4-8 hours per week (usually
closer to 4).
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
I do. And this set time and place are my salvation – the hours which
get me through the rest of the week. The good thing about having a
limited amount, and set time to write is that for me it’s produced a
work ethic and level of productivity which were unfathomable when I
had more time to "spare".
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Debra Vance: I believe SOME screenplay contests are important
for aspiring screenwriters. There are many, many, many out there. If
you are not discerning, you could waste a lot of money and become very
frustrated. However, if you do your homework and try to find
competitions with good reputations, and experienced, knowledgeable
judges, I believe it can be a way to get your work in the hands of
people who could help your career. And, of course, if you win a
reputable competition it just might convince the Agents, Managers and
Producers you approach to (gasp) READ YOUR SCRIPT.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?
Debra Vance: ‘Filmmakers’ was one of three competitions a
friend in the industry recommended.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Debra Vance: I would urge aspiring writers to read as many
scripts as they can get their hands on - and in the earliest draft
they can find. I think it’s very important to read screenplays from
films you enjoy, and in the genre you are writing. I try to avoid
scripts written by the director of the film, because it’s a far
different task that befalls a spec writer than a writer/director. By
genre, I would recommend: Action: THE FUGITIVE, romantic comedy:
NOTTING HILL, comedy: THE FULL MONTY, drama: MILLION DOLLAR BABY.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Debra Vance: Besides screenwriting, I am passionate about
playing the other "roles" in my life to best of my ability. I believe
working hard at everything you do is essential to develop a solid work
ethic. When I am busy and productive at my "day job", that energy
carries into the rest of my day and life. Likewise with my kids – if I
take the time to play with them and read to them, the energy and
imagination it takes carries into the rest of my life.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
Debra Vance: My favorite screenwriter is William Goldman –
because he does it all so well. I love that he writes in all genres
and that he’s able to respect the genre while making it his own. I
didn’t list any of his scripts as those I’d recommend to aspiring
screenwriters for the same reason aspiring painters
shouldn’t begin by studying Picasso – you’ve got to learn the basic
rules of the craft before you can even appreciate those who’ve
mastered, then broken them. And Mr. Goldman is truly a master.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Debra Vance: I would love to work with Ridley Scott for
somewhat the same reason I love William Goldman – he does so many
genres so very well. Mr. Scott creates a strong, unique visual
language for each of his films which adds to, yet never overwhelms,
the story. He creates strong moods and ambiance
with imagery that surrounds the story and creates a singular world
which the characters must struggle with or against. The result is
often an unnerving tension which enriches the film-going experience
and reinforces the film’s theme.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Name the actor you would love to work
with and why?
I would love to work with Russell Crowe (which goes nicely with my
choice of directors). I think he has an innate ability to find a
character, and seems courageous enough to ‘go there’ once he’s found
that character. Mr. Crowe also seems that rare breed of actor who,
even after tremendous success, is able to remain unaffected in his
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
I’ll feel more confident giving
advice when I’m a working screenwriter. But since you asked…I’d humbly
suggest the importance of loving what you are doing. To know that you
will be a screenwriter till the day you die regardless of how many
years are spent without an agent, a sale, a finished film, is to have
the freedom to really love the craft itself and savor the hours spent
alone in front of a computer.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
A comedy. That’s my current project.
"What’s next" for me is always a screenplay of some kind.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
I will be writing screenplays.
Hopefully, I will be writing all day, instead of squeezing it in
during the hours I’m not at my "day job".