“It was a dream come true. The cast couldn’t possibly be better, and to hear some of the best actors in the world say my lines was a true gift. Jennifer was very gracious and a delight to work with. Everyone was. The producers included me throughout the entire process.” Quoted by Patrick Tobin Hollywood screenwriter when asked about working on his latest movie “Cake” featuring director Daniel Barnz and actresses Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza and Anna Kendrick.
I have always been so impressed by the assignments and work Patrick does, which is why when I got the chance to interview him and find out what it takes to be a Hollywood star and global writer, I was so delighted! Patrick keeps himself busy by working on projects such as “No Easy Way“ and on his own personal enjoyments like updating his site with news and articles as well as photography. He takes us all on a road of how to break into the industry, to be a prosperous writer and the scoop behind the scenes of a screenplay writer working in the competitive, tough but rewarding industry.
“When I was a child and in high school I wanted to be a marine biologist, but I was also in love with movies and I would write and think about stories. During my senior year in high school I discovered you could study filmmaking in college, so I decided to apply to USC and I got in.” Quoted by Patrick when asked about getting into the world of being a writer.
Becoming a writer takes visualization, exploration and constant inventiveness. As many writers know or even people who are writing essays for school or college, writers block is a big agony and stress, mainly when targets are on the horizon. Patrick tells us how he deals with the cruellest.
“I just keep writing. You can always go back and rewrite (which I find easier than the first draft) as many times as you want.”
Here Patrick tells us the good, the bad, the struggles and even some fun facts of his insights to his life and how he achieves his goals, including his favourite recipe to working in the tough, but pleasurable industry.
Hi Patrick, so starting off with a few fun questions. If you have to be any kind of fish what would you be and why? “A flying fish – it would combine two dreams, flying like a bird and swimming like a fish.”
I like that! What about food..?! Everyone has a favourite recipe, what is yours?
“Martha Foose’s Lemon Icebox Pie – you can find it online. I add a lot of extra lemon peel to it, and I also add a layer of fresh blueberries before I put on the whipped cream. Everyone loves it!”
That sounds lovely, I must give that a try, mind you I am not the best of chefs! What advice might you give others who are interested in starting within the entertainment industry with writing? “I broke in because I won a contest, so I’d say unless you have some other kind of access to managers and/or agents, you should try the festival/contest route. But not all festivals are created equal – I did homework on the ones I should enter. There are several articles online about “best screenwriting competitions” and also you can look at the contest websites to see who the judges are and what kind of industry exposure they provide to finalists and winners.”
That’s fantastic! I do have to ask, if you could have lunch with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why? “Charlotte Bronte – she’s my favourite novelist and she had a really interesting life.”
You recently finished the movie “Cake”, how long does the average film take to write up? “I was working full time in marketing for an engineering company when I wrote Cake, so it took me a couple of years to finish it. Now if I’m working full time I can write a draft in a few months.”
How do you go about gathering the best of information for you pieces? “I do a lot of research online. Like for Cake, which deals with chronic pain, I contacted an organization that deals with chronic pain. I find that there’s always someone who’ll answer questions for you, especially if you say you’re doing research for a script!”
Do you find that your first drafts are underwritten or overwritten? “Overwritten usually. The second draft is almost always about deleting and consolidating scenes that I don’t need. Also, my dialogue tends to be too much in the first draft, so I’m always weeding out unnecessary dialogue.”
I guess its best to have a little more than less. When writing your scripts, do you take into account market trends or do you just write what should be in the market? “I think there are two ways to write projects. One is a project that you just have to write, it’s a passion for you. That was Cake for me. If you look at it objectively it’s not a hugely commercial movie, but it was from my heart and I think that’s what got it made. But then I think you have things that interest you, but maybe you find out that it’s not a particularly viable subject for the market. I have one idea that I think would be terrific, but it’s problematic as far as subject matter. Do I spend the time writing it or do I wait for a time in the market when it’s more probable that it gets made? It's not like I "have" to write it, so I'm putting it into my ideas folder and waiting to see if an opportunity comes up to talk about it with someone.
That said, you still always have to be passionate about the story/characters. I think if you’re not in love with the characters it’s probably not something you should spend a lot of time working on.”
A question readers love to know, is there one book you would read over and over again? Which one? “Charlotte Bronte’s novel Villette.”
What does a typical day look like for you? (when working, of course) “Lots of meetings – either general meetings or specific to a project. Then I’m at my computer writing.”
What might be your next biggest upcoming project? “There is another one of my short stories that I’m adapting with Ben and Daniel (Producer and Director of Cake) that I’m very excited about. It’s a very different genre than Cake.”
That sounds exciting! Keeping a mixture of different projects is what many writers need. What is the main skill to becoming a successful screenwriter? “The ability to observe human behaviour and listen to people. From when I was a child I was always watching and listening to everyone – family, friends, teachers. I could “inhabit” those people in my imagination. And from observing and listening, I get most of my ideas for stories.”
Finishing off, if you weren’t working within the entertainment industry what would you have been? “A marine biologist would have been a dream job. I love the ocean, I love marine life, and I love swimming.”
There you have it, from Patrick himself. Be sure to check out his site, work and exciting events! “Cake” is not to be missed and watch the billboards for Patrick’s future projects!