By Spencer Lee
Wayne Powers is no stranger to success in the film and television industry with 11 sold TV pilots, 8 movie scripts and 3 rewritten films. He wrote the blockbuster hits The Italian Job and Deep Blue Sea. He is also a creator, director, writer and executive producer for the Emmy-Nominated mini-series Out of Order on Showtime. Wayne Powers got his start from the show Cagney & Lacey which won multiple Primetime Emmys.
We were lucky enough to get an interview with Wayne Powers who took time out of his busy schedule to share how he broke intothe industry and give aspiring screenwriters some heartfelt advice. Even better, Wayne is teaching three classes that will give you the knowledge to help you write the perfect scene (Scene Writing Clinic), use action to further your story (Action Scenes) and develop an amazing movie script with Wayne’s help and learn something new about screenwriting craft every session through film clips and lectures in his Screenwriting Bootcamp. For now, let’s have a chat with Wayne…
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, how you became a writer, and how you got into the industry.
I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire not knowing anybody in the business, but knowing that I would go to California and go to film school. I went to USC from school, getting in after four tries and worked very hard earning a student Emmy. I took a year to complete a screenplay that I started in college. That screenplay got me a lawyer, an agent, and then my first job writing a TV movie for ABC.
2. Do you find that it’s harder to write a project along with other writers? Does it serve as an ego check at times? Or does it limit your creative process?
It’s easier to collaborate if it’s with the right people. I enjoy working with people that are upbeat and don’t just come up with problems, but rather solutions.
3. You have written the blockbuster The Italian Job and have sold multiple movies and TV pilots. What do you think the key is to writing a script that the studios or networks want to buy? Is your approach to writing blockbusters such as The Italian Job different than writing smaller projects?
I see about 100 movies a year which is important. It’s important that you listen to your executives and not consider them the enemy. They all want the same thing: to get the movie made.
In a smaller film, you have to be realistic about how many sets and the overall budget can handle. On a smaller budget, keep the length shorter, but make sure every scene is essential. You take more chances in smaller films than you need to with more mainstream with bigger. In bigger films you can hide your themes, but they can still be there.
4. For The Italian Job, you not only had to reintroduce the movie, you had to make the heist genre fresh again. How did you approach the genre as a whole? Did you have to do research prior to writing?
I studied every important heist movie going back to Kubrick. I wanted the script to be breezy and fun. I did research into the Mini Coopers, which had not been reintroduced in America yet. I also researched safecracking, the weight of gold, The Venice Canals, etc.
5. Do you have any advice for new screenwriters?
Spend a lot of time on your spec script. Work until you are sick of it and can no longer work on it. This is a much better idea than having five screenplays that are not fully put together. Write to your own voice and don’t try to copy whatever is currently in vogue; by the time you finish your script, it’s likely not to be anyway.
6. You are teaching a Scene Writing, Action Scene and a Screenwriting Bootcamp class. What can students expect to learn in your class?
In the scene writing class, we will go over what needs to go into a scene, with its relationship to the sequence it needs to fill, plus how to find an approach to that scene that makes it different from your typical one.
In the actions scene class, we will go over how action is character, how an action scene fits into an overall sequence, then into the overall act. We will also go over the style of writing that is so important in action scenes.
In the Screenwriting Bootcamp, we’ll go over ingredients of a theme, the pieces that go into sequences, structure, what makes a strong main character. The different types of supporting characters, paradoxes, style and more.
7. What is your favorite TV show that you are currently watching and why is it your favorite?
My favorite TV shows of all time were Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere because they made me want to write television and made it not feel inferior to film writing.
Shows that I watch that come out of that tradition include The Sopranos, Deadwood, Veep, Mad Men, Transparent, etc. There is simply too much excellent TV out there to watch it all.
Thanks, Wayne. That was fascinating!
Sign up for Wayne’s Scene Writing Clinic, Screenwriting Bootcamp and Action Scene Workshop, and you might write the next Italian Job. Maybe.