Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaires (Bobby Sacher)

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

My name is Bobby Sacher. I was born in Ridgewood, NJ, and now live in Florham Park, NJ, with my wife and 3 boys (two in college at this point). Other than movies (which doesn’t count as a hobby, since it’s my career), I’d have to say my hobby is poker – have a semi-regular game with friends (that sadly hasn’t happened in the last year.)

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 originally thought of a Doppelganger-type look-alike that was killing a man’s friends and family a few years ago. A decent idea, I thought… but something was missing. When I thought of a man who can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy, the script outline came together. The protagonist became Eddie, a just-released schizophrenic, trying to put his life back together. This added the unique hook I needed: we spend the whole script wondering if this demon is real, or if Eddie’s meds have failed. Whether he is responsible for the deaths of those around him or not (and Eddie is consumed by the same question). The first screenplay structure took 3 or 4 months, but to turn it into its current version took another 6.

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

After the initial idea, I try and get my marketing pieces in place. Who is the audience? What kind of a budget am I aiming for? What is the transformational journey? And the main conflict of the protagonist. Then I move to a screenplay outline. It usually takes a couple of stabs, going from big-picture moments (Inciting Incident, turning points, climax, and so on), to a scene-by-scene outline. Each with a one-or-two-line summary – knowing that much of it will end up changing before I’m done. Somewhere in there, I will “interview” my main characters, to get to know them better (have a set of 18 questions I ask, and then just let them “talk”).

And then, I start writing. I make it a point NOT to go sequentially, but instead to write the scenes as they start appearing in my head. The whole process usually takes 3 to 4 months (depending on the script, and how much it’s driving me crazy!). Then, I take the script through at least 10 rewrite passes, focusing on a different aspect of the writing each time.

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

I started life as an actor, which I did professionally for about 10 years. Somewhere in there, I got tired of waiting for someone else to “let me” act and started writing, which I could do on my own. The idea of actually creating an entire world on my own soon took over as the most exciting thing I could imagine accomplishing.

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

William Goldman was the first screenwriter that I READ. He had a way of talking to the reader during the writing – of being as excited by what was happening as he wanted you to be. After reading “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, I devoured all his writings ABOUT his writing. I particularly remember his insistence that, as a writer, you have to be willing to “murder your children” – meaning ideas that you love, but just don’t work for the script you’re writing. As far as style, the one thing I have tried to keep of his – while doing it in my own way, of course – is to make sure my action communicates. I want the audience to feel and see as I see and feel.

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

I continue to be obsessed with both the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and the “Harry Potter” movies – two of the most wonderful, funny, tragic, and redemptive stories ever told, to my mind. LOTR, of course, feels like the “original story” in so many ways, and Peter Jackson realized the passion and beauty of the books in a spectacular way. I am amazed by the thoroughness and completeness of the Harry Potter story – everything in that plot fits together seamlessly, which is a rare feat. And the metaphor at the end of “Deathly Hallows” is so well earned, and well done, it takes my breath away every time I watch it (I’m a sucker for fantasy, as you can see).

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

Well, that’s not fair – ONE moment? I could say the final moment of “The Game”, when Michael Douglas looks around with a smile, wondering if the game is still going on… The beauty of the scene between Harry and Dumbledore at the end of “Deathly Hallows, Part 2”, with Dumbledore’s parting line: “Of course it’s all happening in your head, Harry. Why should that mean it isn’t real?”…

But if you’re going to force me to choose, I’ll go with Sam’s speech at the end of “The Two Towers” – SAM: “Folk in those stories, had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something…” FRODO: “What are we holding onto Sam?” SAM: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for!” Not only a beautiful moment in the story itself, but I can’t think of a more powerful defense of the purpose and the power of storytelling itself. It’s why I love the moment the lights dim in a movie theatre so very much.

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

These are cruel questions, you know. ONE favorite character. I guess I’ll go with INDIANA JONES. An easy pick, to be sure. My “why” has to do with what I always strive for in my own writing. I work in the world of the unreal. My LinkedIn page says the lines “if you can’t find it in the real world, you’ll find it in my scripts”. With that as my rubric, I always want to make sure my character development is proper. Since they come from the “real world” they react to bizarre, unreal circumstances as a normal person would. And that is what Indiana Jones did, I believe, better than anything else.

He’s an action hero, sure – but he doesn’t really WANT to be. He’s the ultimate reluctant hero, trying his best to get through the insane situations he’s in with the least amount of fuss and trouble that he can. If he is always forced to do the right thing in the end, he’s never happy about it. And he does a wonderful job of letting us know, every step of the way, that he’s in over his head, and sure would like to be anywhere else. (My favorite lines: INDY: “I’m going after that truck.” SALLAH: “How?” INDY: “I dunno, I’m making this up as I go.”)

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

I debated this for a while and threw out the usual names: Jesus, Einstein, Shakespeare, etc. And while a few questions did occur to me (Jesus: “What do you think about modern Christianity?”; Hitler: “Wtf???”), I mostly wouldn’t really know what to say to your average super-famous person.

My choice: Stephen King. Perhaps this seems trite. A silly choice. But I must disagree, for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve always been a fan, and the “Constant Readers” King addresses in the forwards to his books. I have always enjoyed both his interviews and his writings “on writing”. One thing has always been clear, both in his own commentary and in his writing itself – this is a man who truly adores what he does. And there is a wisdom in that, that I would love to discuss. To pick his brain more about his process, why he thinks he NEVER seems to run out of ideas, etc.

Few more choices

If that were all, though, I’m not sure it would be enough. There is one very specific question that I would kill to be able to ask him. Because, in his “Dark Tower” series – in Book Six, I believe – Mr. King, whose main characters hop from the fictional “Mid-World” of the books to our “real world”, takes the final, insane leap of writing himself into the novel. The main character Roland, and a few of his cohorts, go to visit “The Author” – SK himself, of course – somewhere in, I think, the 1970s.

True to form he renders himself a bit player in the novel. As a character, he doesn’t come off especially well, something King himself has battled in the past. A clever bit of writing, sure. But here’s the thing… I feel like there’s at least a 1 in 3 chance that the scene described in the novel happened to Stephen King in the real world. And I just HAVE to know. I’ve always had a pet theory, that EVERYTHING is real.

All the worlds we imagine, every fiction book was written based on a real place. And those words that resonate through us all, do so because authors tuned those alternate realities with the most clarity. And if Stephen King’s “fictional” encounter happened in the real world that would change everything.