Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist (CLAUDIO MARTINEZ-VALLE & Harry Longstreet)

CLAUDIO MARTINEZ-VALLE

Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

The following is a true story. Long before I knew how to read and write, I already knew how to write a horror film. I was a kid from Mexico City who was afraid of the dark but loved scary monster movies, so horror films became part of my life. I was probably the only 8-year-old who knew The Shining and The Exorcist word by word, line by line. 

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed you as a Finalist in the screenplay contest?And How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

Years later, as an adult, after working in advertising as a Creative Director, I decided to follow my true passion: writing horror films. And that’s how Field Trip was born. Today, my mission as a filmmaker is to make audiences’ hearts jump with the most frightening monsters and unique heroes. In short, to make people happy by scaring the hell out of them, just like my heroes did when I was a kid—heroes like George Romero, David Cronenberg, John Landis, Peter Jackson, William Friedkin, and Stanley Kubrick. Guillermo del Toro is my hero too, but I knew him way past my twenties.

In developing Field Trip, I combined two scary elements: the experiences of going to middle school and dealing with eighth-graders. They’re no longer kids, not yet adults, and mean as hell. What happens when a group of mean not-quite-kids visit a remote place and face a giant, man-eating, mythical creature? What do they do when their teachers are gone? How far will these middle-schoolers go to survive?

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

For the ensemble cast, I wanted to represent a diverse group of students. I wanted to break the mold. I developed a script outline with a strong character who is a teen Latina and likes grunge music. No stereotypes. Great horror flicks have broken these barriers before, like Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) becoming the first African-American hero in a horror film and Sigourney Weaver (Alien)becoming the first strong female lead in a horror movie.

Sometimes people ask me about my process for scriptwriting. One recent question was, “Do you have rules?” That’s interesting language, “rules.” I don’t see writing as having rules, but I do have some recommendations:

1) There is no better film school than a movie theater.

2) Read scripts. As many scripts as you can. Go online and download whatever screenplays are available. If you’re writing a horror movie, download horror scripts. If you’re writing a comedy, download comedy scripts. Study the action descriptions, the character development, script format, the voices, the balance between scenes, the beats, and the sequences of the film.

3) Write your first draft written in the paper. Yes, paper. By hand. Sharpen a dozen pencils, have several writing blocks or notebooks or stacks of printer paper, and write, write, write. Something about writing with your hand makes it more intimate and organic. Don’t censor yourself. Write from the heart. Write the whole thing. Then, on your second draft, copy your writing into Final Draft or similar software. Then you can start editing.

4) Before writing, prepare a playlist that matches the mood of your script. I had a Field Trip playlist of songs and themes from horror movies. However, remember not to write the names of the songs into the script—you might accidentally upset a producer!

Overall, writing a screenplay is extraordinary. It gave me the opportunity to disconnect from one world and create another one. Creating characters, giving them voices, developing worlds, and exploring a journey are beyond fulfilling. And having experts and artists like the people at the Atlanta Screenplay Awards recognizing your effort makes it even more special. I’m so thankful for this opportunity, and I look forward to all the wonderful screenplays to come. 

Harry Longstreet

What’s your name? And what’s your hobby?

My name is Harry Longstreet and my journey in the business was 25 years long. From writer-staff writer-story editor-producer-supervising producer-executive producer-director. I worked on 8-9 series, twenty plus MOWs, and one feature (eviscerated by three directors and four subsequent writers).

The WGA went on strike almost every three years and that was the only time to write some movie script formats. “The Hand You’re Dealt” was one of them.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed you as a Finalist in the screenplay contest?

The story was just ‘what if’ and the background came from pre-show biz in corporate PR when I handled the account for a major Vegas casino for about six years and spent much time in that fascinating world.

I retired in 2002 and have a few projects I’ve never been able to let go of.  Representation doesn’t exist for creatives in my age bracket and the connections I had are out of the business or dead. So… I now and then shoot one of my ‘babies’ into a contest. The coverage I got from ATL was a real feelgood moment.