Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Lindsay Heiman)

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

Hello. My name is Lindsay Heiman. Born in Atlanta and raised in sunny Los Angeles. My hobbies include writing (obviously), watching South Park with my dog, and skiing with friends.

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

I came up with the concept of “the world’s worst cult leader” years ago. I marinated on the idea and pitched it to friends for ages before finally sitting down and writing it. The idea was originally “the world’s worst summer camp counselor,” stemming from my own days as a camp counselor. As time went by, I watched as pop culture shifted in every which way. As a writer, it’s important to stay relevant while also staying true to your story. Over the years, I noticed two trends that never faded with the times – people’s love for serial killer/cult documentaries and memes of “The Office.” So I combined my generation’s obsession with Michael Scott with their obsession for cult content, and voila, you have Wolfe Pack – a cult mockumentary.

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

Coffee. Lots of coffee. From start to finish, I draft everything out on my whiteboard. One day I aspire to have a whiteboard the size of an entire wall, but until then, my 2’x3’ will do. I start out by jotting down anything and everything that comes to mind. Once I’ve vommed all over the place, I pick apart the good ideas from the bad ones (I know teachers like to say that there are no bad ideas, but, I disagree. I am full of bad ideas).

Once I’ve settled on an idea, I sit on it for a while. I marinated on Wolfe Pack for years before writing the first page. COVID-19 pandemic inspired me to write. I finally had so much free time on my hands, I had no excuses left, and forced myself to write the script outline.

Then, like all writers, I hit a block. I decided to join a UCLA screenwriting program, where I met some fantastic writers and an incredible professor, Barry Vigon. Together, we drafted the first 10 pages of my script, and the rest is history. Once it started, I didn’t stop writing until I was finished. Then the rewrites began. Oh, how I hate rewrites. Back to the whiteboard.

After some great feedback from friends and other festivals, I rolled up my sleeves and started revising. The industry calls this “killing your babies,” because it’s so hard deleting scenes you’ve become so attached to. But that’s what I did. I killed my babies. I killed so many babies, Mike Pence showed up at my doorstep. …I’m Pro-Choice, I’m allowed to make that joke. Anyway, countless revisions later, I wasn’t done. I might not be don anytime soon. That’s the problem with writing; it’s hard to put the pen down.

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

Probably some time between bombing my first math test and zoning out during science class. I’m entirely right-brained. I struggled with STEM classes but thrived in creative writing and English. I would doodle short stories in all my textbooks. Everyone always thought I’d be a journalist, but I’m way too biased and opinionated for that. I wrote my first novel at the age of 9 and never looked back. I was born to write and make jokes. All of this exposition aside, I’d say I knew I wanted to become a screenwriter back in 2004. Why 2004? Because that’s when my favorite movie came out. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. I remember watching this goofy, absurdist movie and thinking, “I can do that!”

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

Two of my biggest influences in screenwriting are the legendary Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks, and Recreation) and Michael Schur (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place). Their mockumentary style in The Office and Parks and Rec directly inspired me in my creation of Wolfe Pack. I didn’t want to copy their genius, but I did want to pull from it. The way they implement heartfelt connection into their comedy is what makes the audience always come back for more. Jim and Pam, Leslie and Ben – these are two fictional couples that showcase the writers’ talent by exuding both love and comedy in the same breath. If you can cry tears of joy, sadness, and laughter in the same scene, you’re a comedic genius. Thank you Greg and Michael for paving the way.

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

Well, my inner child says Anchorman, but my adult self has to give it to Portrait of a Lady on Fire. As to TV shows, The Office and South Park are my favorites. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park and the kings of satire, are two of my personal heroes. Their ability to intertwine current events with the untouchable subject matter is what made subsequent shows like Family Guy able to pull off so many obscene jokes and raunchy storylines. They are immune to cancel culture, and for that, they are legends in my book.

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

It’s a toss-up between the “I’ll have what she’s having” one-liner from When Harry Met Sally, or the slasher shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Two classics, and total opposites. Why are these my favorites? Because they’re staples in cinematic history for opposite genres. They set the foundation for years of romantic comedies and slasher films to come.

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

Growing up, there weren’t many female protagonists to look up to. I specifically remember the first time I got to watch a female protagonist perform live. It was Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway. Annie Oakley was the biggest gun-toting cowgirl of the West, and I wanted to be just like her. The character development was spot on. Even her reply to a cowboy belittling her for being a woman was mesmerizing. She retorts, “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” And I loved every second of that. I turned to my brother and said the same thing.

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

Easy. I would ask James Cameron (Titanic) why the hell there wasn’t enough room for Jack on the floating door with Rose. You’d think she could have scooted over…