Golden State Haunts and Events: This is the second year in a row you’ve won the best screenplay award at Shock Fest. What do you contribute your success to?
Jonathan Weichsel: Lot’s of hard work. I spend at least eight months on a screenplay. Most writers I know spend like, a week.
I think to be a great horror writer, you need to really know horror and understand the genre, because horror is the most academic of all genres. There are so many sub genres, and so much history, and you need to be familiar with all of it. There is nothing worse than a horror film that doesn’t understand horror. The flip side of the coin is you need to be very familiar with film as a whole, because horror cannot survive if it keeps on regurgitating the same ideas. You need to be able to pull ideas from other genres, from drama, theater, literature, wherever, because that is how you really invigorate your script with something new. And of course, you need to have a real dark, twisted imagination. You need to be able to fearlessly go places others wouldn’t, because if you can’t go there, you can’t bring others along with you.
GSHE: Where do you get your ideas from?
JW: These sick ideas seem to just pop into my head. Coming up with an idea isn’t too tricky. The hard part is developing an idea. Coming up with an idea takes a minute. Developing an idea takes a month. The tricky part is choosing the right idea out of all of them the pop into your head. You know, the idea that will still interest you eight months down the road. Because it takes a long time and a lot of work to write a screenplay.
GSHE: What is the biggest challenge in being a screenwriter?
JW: Getting read.
GSHE: What’s the biggest satisfaction?
JW: Getting read. One day I’ll be able to say watching films I wrote on screen with an audience.
GSHE: Tell us a little bit about “Alter Ego”.
JW: A neurotic mental patient with dissociative identity disorder learns that his doctor with working with his evil alter ego to sacrifice women to Satan. He escapes, but the cops don’t believe him because he’s a mental patient. So, he goes undercover pretending to be his alter ego in order to uncover his doctor’s plans.
GSHE: How did you come up with the concept?
JW: Well, the idea popped into my head and it wouldn’t go away. I spent about a month writing the treatment, and another seven months or so working on the script. I think it is very important to not start writing a screenplay until you have a solid treatment, because you are in it for the long haul and having a treatment helps you know where you are and where you’re going.
GSHE: Did you do any research writing the script?
JW: Not really. I read a bit about dissociative identity disorder, but I wanted to keep the script fantastical, so I didn’t really use anything that I read.
GSHE: What do you do when your not writing screenplays?
JW: I supervise telemarketers.
GSHE: Is there anything else you’re currently working on?
JW: I wrote a screenplay called The Cat Lady of Gramercy on assignment for Tara Cardinal to produce and star in. She asked me to write it after I won Shockfest last year for a screenplay called Ebu Gogo. She is such an amazing talent, and I really want this to happen. I also really want to get Alter Ego off the ground.
I am also developing this other crazy idea I have.