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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Rich’

“You write your first draft with your heart. And you rewrite with your head.”
William Forrester (Sean Connery) in Finding Forrester
Written by Mike Rich and directed by Gus Van Sant (both who are based in Portland, Oregon)

“It helps to live in LA, but it’s not imperative.  I was living in Portland, Oregon when I got my first break (“Finding Forrester”), and given the fact we had three kids, my wife and I really wanted to stay here.  We’ve made it work ever since, though it’s certainly a double-edged knife.  On the plus side, we get to live in Portland, a city I’ve loved since my college days.  On the minus side of things, general meetings and pitch sessions require a trip to LA; sometimes lasting several days.  Oftentimes, the general meetings outnumber the pitches, simply because there’s so much turnover within the industry.  Familiar faces you’ve worked with in the past don’t always stick around, and I find myself constantly meeting new folks who will make the decision on whether a project moves forward.
Screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, Secretariat)
Do You Have To Live In L.A. To Make It As A Screenwriter? by Alfredo

P.S. That Mike Rich quote is the perfect way to celebrate the 1,400th post today on Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places. As I’ve said before on this blog, Iowa is a metaphor. A place far from the core. It could be Iowa or Ojai . West Des Moines, West Africa, West Covina—or West Portland. Most importantly, it’s not where you live but what you write. Rich got his first break when he won a Nichol Fellowship in 1998 for his script Finding Forrester. 

Below is a WordPress summary map that shows where readers of this blog are located. And while I only have one view in places like Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, and Gambia—it almost covers the globe. And these are just the 2012 numbers. Thanks for reading, and may you keep on writing wherever you live.

Related Post:

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Screenwriting Quote #145 (Mike Rich)
Why You Should Move to L.A.
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A.

Scott W. Smith

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“When I was writing Finding Forrester, I was writing it as a hobby.”
Screenwriter Mike Rich

“I knew (Finding Forrester) was a special story. I had confidence that it was. I still couldn’t get anybody to look at it. So I entered it in a competition.”
Mike Rich

The phrase “hobby screenwriter” pops up from time to time often with a derogatory tone. Much like people talk about the guys down the street with their little garage band. But the truth is— you gotta start somewhere. Before screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, Secretariat) was paid to write screenplays he started writing screenplays as a hobby.

Rich was born in 1959 so he was almost 40 when his script for Finding Forrester was awarded a Nicholl Fellowship in 1998. So the big question is—what was he doing before that? Rich was a news director and DJ in Spokane and Portland (sometimes working the night-shift).

“A radio anchor by trade, he started writing screenplays in his late 30s as a creative outlet. Every day after work and before his children returned from school, he would sneak in two hours in front of the computer. After a few practice scripts, Rich wrote Finding Forester, a story about the relationship between a fatherless teen and a reclusive author. The screenplay won the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship award and Rich’s career was launched. Soon after, he was hired to write The Rookie for Disney, which grossed $75 million and further advanced his career. He’s been busy ever since.”
Christianity Today article by Drew Dyck

But what about that gap between completing writing Finding Forrester and winning the Nicholl Fellowship? (A place where many writers find themselves.)

“Rich tried all means to get his script out into the world: contacts, query letters and contests. Studios and production companies passed, which left the contests as his only hope. Though he didn’t make the cut in the Austin Film Festival’s screenwriting competition, winning the Academy’s prestigious Nicholl Fellowship more than made up for it.”
Yahoo! Movies

Any questions why Rich has found success writing inspirational underdog stories? Do you think there are perhaps a few parallels between Rich’s life and the character in The Rookie played by Dennis Quaid? (Rich’s second produced script about a late-blooming baseball pitcher in the major leagues.)

And now that he’s completed a decade long run throughout his 40s (in a business where 40 is considered old) his career doesn’t appear to be slowing down. A few years ago he was asked about his writing schedule.

“I get up in the morning at about 6:30 a.m. Read the newspaper and do the morning thing for an hour or so. And then I write for four hours or so. Take a lunch break. Go to the (fitness) club, maybe, just to get a break. Then I’ll write for another couple of hours. And then that’s usually it. Six hours is about my ceiling, because after six hours, you may think it’s good but … So, then you call it a day. And do it again the next day. I do it Monday through Friday and I take the weekends off.”
Mike Rich
Absolute Write interview by Jennifer Dirks

Writers are great at writing excuses. But let’s review all the excuses Rich had to not write and break in;
1) Full time job
2) Wife and kids
3) Lived outside L.A. (For the record, he still does)
4) Didn’t try hand at screenwriting until his 30s
5) Could only sneak in two hours a day writing
6) Wrote a few screenplays without success
7) Wrote Finding Forrester, but couldn’t get it optioned
8) Decided to go the contest route
9) Didn’t win contests
10) Sent script to the Nicholl Fellowship with several thousand other people

But there he is today with a screenwriting hobby turned career, and a nice stack of hit films in the last ten years. An example of the good ole’ patience, practice, perseverance school of screenwriting.

P.S. Mike Rich also did uncredited writing on the 2004 Disney film Miracle. Here’s a 2 1/2 minute video I made earlier this year surrounding the events of that team and movie.

Related  post: Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl from Ohio

Scott W. Smith

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If you’re looking for a poster child for a screenwriter outside of L.A. who has been able to have a Hollywood career — Mike Rich definitely qualifies. Born in Enterprise, Oregon, he graduated from Oregon State University, and he now lives in Portland, Oregon.

He was awarded a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting in 1998 for his script that in 2000 became a film starring Sean Connery, Finding Forrester. He followed that up with The Rookie, Radio,  The Nativity Story, and most recently Secretariat. (And uncredited work on both Miracle and Invincible.)

“A great story isn’t so much about the story as it is the character. What attracts me to a story is the characters involved. With Secretariat what makes the story work is the character. If you don’t have good characters, it doesn’t matter how strong your story is, it’ll sink. For me, it’s always been about finding that character that I could really sink my teeth into.”
Screenwriter Mike Rich
Tri-City Herald interview by Gary Wolcott

So if you want to launch a career from outside L.A.—being awarded a Nicholl Fellowship is a good start. All you have to do is write a script that is better than the other 5,ooo or 6,000 scripts that the Fellowship receives each year and then get someone like Sean Connery interested in the script.

Scott W. Smith

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