Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaires (Edward Hicklin & Gary Bigelow)

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

I am Edward Hicklin and I grew up on the east coast of Canada, roughly eight hours north of Boston. Though obsessed with movies and character development from a very young age, Hollywood felt as though it was located in another solar system. The notion of pursuing any vocation in said town would require means of interstellar travel. That, mixed with low self-esteem, ensured any dreams of pursuing a career or even interest in screenwriting remained only dreams. The continued obsession with cinema remained, as did the low self-esteem, for decades.

How would you describe your journey?

My journey as a screenwriter has been slow and bumbling. It was not planned, organized or deliberate; rather, it came about primarily as a series of false starts and happy accidents that led to a small collection of screenplay outlines. They in turn won a lot of applause from the screenwriting community. It is said applause that had offered the confidence to continue writing with the notion that I may not be all that bad at it.

Like most, Walt Disney served as a third parent in my early years. As I matured, so did my taste in Cinema. I became obsessed first with horror in my early teen years, and in my mid-teens, my eyes were opened to the likes of Kubrick, Coppola, Lynch, and countless other masters. This marked a moment or series of moments where I changed from a fan of cinema to a devotee. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the craft, from pen to screen.

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

I knew I wasn’t entirely without talent, as I had won several creative writing competitions in both high school and university. These accolades proved insufficient as an impetus towards writing a screenplay, as that was still reserved for the ‘other.’ That is, screenwriting was a pursuit to those either born into it or divinely ordained towards it. The notion of me writing a screenplay was not only an impossibility but would have been an insult towards the institution.

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

The catalyst for change came in the form of a conversation with my sister at a bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She had also been obsessed with film for much of her life and was the preferred topic of conversation between us. She mentioned that she had had an idea for a screenplay, but didn’t have the gumption to follow through. She then shared her idea: after years of abuse from her literary hero father, a young woman grows up with a similar passion for the written word, though writes exclusively on the dried skin of abusive men she has murdered. She continued to speak, having changed topics, but I became instantly obsessed with her screenplay story structure and knew someone had to write it. Knowing that she would not, and aware that I had a knack for writing, I decided I would attempt my first screenplay.

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

Armed with Microsoft Word and zero knowledge of how to write a screenplay, I began my first screenplay. It had camera direction, notes on the music, and no formatting to speak of. I knew I was on to something, as writing this screenplay became an instant obsession. Even signed up for countless screenwriting online tutorials. The Learning process was quick and I realized how little I knew about the process. So, I read as many books as I could to help create something that could pass as acceptable to a literary manager. Between broken laptops, lost USBs, two university degrees, and countless relocations, it took me seven years to write what I could realistically call the first draft of my first screenplay, ‘Quill’.

With my first screenplay finished, I was left with the depressing and obvious revelation that nobody other than myself and my sister cared one iota about the thing. It was time to delve deeper into the screenwriting world and learn how unknown screenwriters who do not live in Hollywood get eyeballs on their scripts. Though ‘they don’t’ was the most common answer, I was eventually introduced to the world of screenwriting competitions. I entered ‘Quill’ into a handful of competitions in Los Angeles and New York and quickly forgot about it. ‘Quill’ went on to win the best screenplay awards at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood and the New York Film Awards, both in 2017.

Armed with a budding confidence offered by these wins, I went on to write three more screenplays over the next two years. These included ‘A Cozy Little Town,’ the screenplay that has now become a finalist at the 2020 Atlanta Screenplay Awards. Though ‘Quill’ was a heavy handed period drama, my subsequent three screenplays have been comedies, including ‘A Cozy Little Town.’ The project materialized around a single gag: a man is driving his car while chewing bubblegum, blows a large bubble that blows up over his eyes, blinding him, and the car crashes. The screenplay grew around this solitary goof, and was finished a few short months later.

‘A Cozy Little Town’ is the story of Smith and Rawlins, two Boston detectives sent to the small town of Marblehead to investigate a murder. What follows is a supernatural cop buddy feature inspired by City of the Dead (1960), Lethal Weapon (1987), the Salem With Trials, and Judd Apatow’s modern comedy catalog. ‘A Cozy Little Town’ is a fun screenplay that has been very well received. It could be shot with a very low budget and caters to a very wide demographic. It has recently won several screenwriting awards, including –

Los Angeles Movie Awards – Best Script 2020,

Portland Comedy festival 2019 – Best International Screenplay Film Festival 2019 – Best Screenplay

It’s worth noting that it is not the slight recognition my screenplays have received that fuels my continued writing. Like most writers, I am obsessed with it and will continue ad nauseam. It’s a daily habit that continues to delight. Happily, my aforementioned sister has also taken to the craft, and recently completed her third screenplay. It’s a strong work of art and I am very excited for her to begin her foray into the screenplay competition world.

Gary Bigelow

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

My name is Gary. Bigelow. But, I wasn’t born that way. I had several names actually which bears little interest for most. I have included these minutiae to accentuate the fact that my life, biography, is also of insignificant importance. Actually, I prefer anonymity. I wasn’t born that way. I evolved that way.

You see, I lived my life out of a suitcase. Sure, many did. I attended sixteen schools before I matriculated from high school. I hate the word matriculated. Sixteen. Oh, this isn’t a biography, this is a confession. I learned three things, maybe four.

One, you’re not going to have many friends other than your suitcase, and what you can pack into it. Two, you learn to run fast or be subjected to the slings and sucker punches of outrageous, perpetual bullying. One precedes the other. Three, you learn to laugh at the absurd, which is pretty much everything. I’m still trying to remember the fourth item?

Anyway, I was born in Montana. A semi-arid desert by classification. 5th generation. My ancestors have mountains, creeks, canyons, parks, and a family cemetery named in their honor. The cemetery is the only thing that has any relevance, and then only in passing. I now live in Florida. They say it’s Paradise, but you can’t get off the Interstate, or out of the ever-expanding community development districts to find it. I think I saw it once, briefly, blowing past me in a hurricane, and it wasn’t a Jimmy Buffett Moment.

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

Somewhere in the mix of odd jobs, military, and political affiliations, I managed to create a Thirteen Year Plan for obtaining my first college degree. Much of the plan was determined by my learned nomadism and curiosity for other anti-intellectual pursuits which were infinitely more pleasurable. Well, some were. I once saw ‘Hello, Dolly’ on LSD. It was the last time I used drugs, and the last time I watched anything with Barbra Streisand in it. True story. Aren’t they all?

I managed to acquire several degrees and would have acquired more had it not been for wanderlust and fate. Fate equals money according to the GOP. I studied design, art history, history, art and ended up in two graduate programs eventually deciding on the MFA, a degree program not advised by the GOP. An MA in history is a nonentity without a Ph.D. Much like the MFA. I emerged qualified to be a postal supervisor and real estate agent. I have been both. “They can never take it away from you?” My grandmother said that. More than once. I’m waiting.

OK. About that fourth item. I learned you need to be creative, or seek the creative. Art, writing, music, whatever. I started drawing early and writing poetry at age 15. Mostly free verse early on, then journalistic pieces, then fiction short stories. I have always dabbled with the fine arts. The film was also a big part of my creative development. Like many, Saturday matinees were my refuge.

I have written fifteen screenplays in the past year. Mostly shorts with humor or dark humor. Two are feature-length. The one exception is an artistic surreal treatment. Some have evolved from my decade-old short stories.

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

About my screenplay structure, the “Fairy Dust Boutique”. I wrote this short in one day. I love donuts and dark humor. Sweet. It stems from childhood when I visited my grandparents on their small ranch in the summer. My grandmother always took me to town on Saturday to a donut shop called ‘Spudnuts’. Sugar heaven. I have to settle for Dunkin’ Donuts these days but what a memory.

A decadent potato flour donut shop and a loan shark? It’s a natural fit. It all cycles back to the third item I discussed in my development as a writer. Humor. Laughter. The absurd. Like me.