Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaires (CJ Lawrence)

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

CJ Lawrence. I was born in Florida, live here in Atlanta, Georgia for almost three decades. My hobbies include writing, cosplay/sewing which I’m terrible at, and gardening. Just being nerdy.

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

I read a story about the weirdest places in the US and apparently, Wyoming does indeed have a spaceport. In 1994, Green River, WY decided to jokingly name their new airport “The Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport”, and in addition when I read the article, I thought about what would happen if that spaceport was really a spaceport and not a joke. So, I wrote what would happen if it were.

From start to finish, I believe the entire process was two months. Though I have been tweaking it occasionally since.

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

First, I normally come up with the idea and then spend an exorbitant amount of time on names and character development. Moreover, I’m obsessed with names giving clues to the character and the story. Some names come quickly, some take weeks to find. I cannot write anything until I have secured all the names, and even then, they may change. Then I loosely mapped out the first ten episodes on index cards, so I could refer to them easily. Besides I developed a screenplay beat sheet to plot out the major points I wanted to hit and keep the pace quickly and to the point. Once the beat sheet was finalized, I began to write. Admittedly, I edited while writing, which I need to stop doing, but I had the entire script written in two weeks, the rest of the time spent on it was preparation and editing.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

I’ve been writing in every style since I was 8. But when Emma Thompson won her Oscar, it was a light bulb moment for me. She is the one who solidified my interest in screenplays. I remember watching her on the Oscars win for the Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility, which I loved. It had never occurred to me that I could make a career out of screenwriting. Thus I knew I could with novels, but I hadn’t considered movies. Although I hadn’t considered Oscars. Now I am considering both.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

David Lynch. He doesn’t see the world in black or white, but rather shades of his own colors and I appreciate that. That’s what I strive to do as well. Make the world livable but colored with your own crayons so it stands apart but doesn’t isolate the viewer.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Twin Peaks. It came around the time I started opting for screenplay lessons. There was something ironic and quirky about the show that really clicked with my personal style. Offbeat and kooky has always been fascinating to me, so this show homed in on those traits.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

There are so many, but I’ll pick two recent ones that really made me cry, though it’s really going to demonstrate how much of a nerd I am. 1) Wonder Woman – when Diana crosses into No Man’s Land, as well as the Amazon scenes. Furthermore, Patty Jenkins does such a beautiful job with that and it’s so telling about the evolution of the female character. 2) Avengers: Endgame – when Cap is almost defeated by Thanos and he hears “On Your Left”.

That one moment was the culmination of ten years of Thursday night showings and overanalyzing plot points. It was one of the purest moments of relief and joy I have felt at a movie. I give the Russo Brothers major props for that entire fight scene. Moreover, for those of us who are more than a fan, it was a moment when we too felt like Avengers. Everyone lost and grieved, and now we were going to have redemption and a chance to avenge our loved ones.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

The Tramp. Charlie Chaplin, for all his faults, was an amazing actor, writer, director. It was a walking fountain of emotion and how Chaplin accomplished it…I wish I knew because I want to tap into that emotiveness for my own work and create three-dimensional characters just as deep, vulnerable, and challenging as the Tramp.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Georges Méliès. I would love to hear his thoughts on developing a scene and how he visualized/conceptualized his pieces to make them unique and engaging.