The winner of our Horror Award 2019 was also the Grand Prize Winner of our Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest: MONGER by David Axe!
Having already introduced it here, we thought we’d get a more in-depth look at the project with a Q&A with David…
To find out what inspired the project, how he went about writing it, and his advice for writers, take a look below. And if you’d like to give yourself a chance to follow in his footsteps and win our Grand Prize of $2000, enter our Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest by March 1st!
What was your inspiration for writing MONGER?
I borrowed from my own experiences. I was a war correspondent for many years and spent time with combat troops in several war zones. In 2011 I was riding in a U.S. Army vehicle in Logar province in Afghanistan when a bomb exploded underneath it. I was fine but many of the soldiers in the vehicle were not. More generally, I’m no stranger to trauma, guilt and alcoholism. I wanted to write about these things while also giving them substance. As in, a monster.
Why did you choose to write a horror movie?
Horror stretches the rules of everyday life, allowing a writer to play in a much wider space than, say, a strictly naturalistic drama would do. I wanted to give form to guilt. I wanted my characters to literally fight a monster that embodies their worst trauma. Hence horror.
What was the writing process, and how long did it take?
I write steadily, from beginning to end, over a period of a couple of months. Once I’ve got a solid first draft, I get some notes from readers I trust. In the case of MONGER, I hosted a table read that was very helpful. Then revisions lasting a few weeks. The whole process of writing MONGER took maybe four months.
How have your own experiences as a filmmaker informed your writing?
I’ve made a few indie features, most recently LECTION. The more I direct, the more I simplify my writing. As a director, I want a very clean script with clear conflict and strong characters. The texture and nuance come from performance, photography and production design. The writing should be a robust, strong framework. In other words, the director in me wants the writer in me to not overthink it.
What would be your advice to other screenwriters?
Write like it’s your job and you’re going to die soon, which you are. Get used to rejection and being ignored. Don’t be shy about showing your work. Be humble when people offer notes but also learn to smile and nod and ignore bad notes. Try everything you can think of to con someone, anyone, into producing your script. And if no one will shoot your script, consider doing it yourself. At the very least, you’ll learn a lot. Then sit down and write another one. And another. And another.