DOUG PHILLIPS: FROM WRITER TO SCREENWRITER T0 ACTOR TO INDIE FILMMAKER! NOW TO TRAILBLAZER!
I'm honored to be counted as a Trailblazer.
ShIron asked me to write about myself, because it would possibly encourage others who are working in Indie film or thinking
of doing so. And I guess it might. If I could start out at the age I did, and do well, then there's hope for pretty much anyone
I've been a fiction and nonfiction writer all my life. Actual stuff that ordinary people could read (as opposed to screenplays).
In 1998, at age 48, I started a paid job, writing film reviews. (Don't bother searching; it was done under a pseudonym.)
That work caused me to look at films in a new, critical way. I saw how they were constructed. How visual storytelling differs
from the written approach.
In Fall 2000, I saw an online article about the first Project Greenlight contest, which was already in process. I'd had
an idea for a movie for quite a while, so I decided to enter. That meant that I had to learn what Proper Screenplay Format
was, get the formatting software, write the script, convert it to a PDF and submit it, all within a matter of weeks. There
were 8500 entries. The first cut, down to 250, was done by the organizers having each of us randomly evaluate several scripts
by other contestants. My entry Lost Boundaries didn't make the cut, but it did get two out of three Recommends. That was enough
encouragement to keep me writing.
Also in Fall 2000, I accepted my first speaking role in an Indie, the Ted Roesgen film Hollywood, Wisconsin.
I viewed pursuing acting as a totally separate endeavor from screenwriting. I wanted to write only on spec, sell my scripts,
and have other people produce them exactly as they were written. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Ted, who was
kind enough to read a draft of Lost Boundaries and give me feedback, told me that the only way I'd see my own vision on screen
in my lifetime was to write simpler scripts and produce them myself. Mortgage my house, if necessary. Well, I didn't want
to hear that.
But the truth is, if you're a pure writer and don't produce your own stuff, there's only one chance in several thousand
that your script will get Optioned, Greenlighted, bought, produced, and released. And if all of that DOES happen, you probably
won't recognize the final product. Because a script is only a blueprint. Once you sell it, the new owners will modify it to
their own needs.
I've had a literary agent for my screenplays. Picked up a number of writing awards. Been complimented on my sense of
story, and my realistic-feeling dialogue. A revised draft of my Lost Boundaries script was Optioned in 2005 by Buzzmedia Networks
BV (in The Netherlands). I also had an Option offer for another script, from the Creative Actors Alliance of Los Angeles.
But no one has ever actually Produced any of my work, except me. Ted was right. It's not easy out there.
So, how did I morph from pure writer to wearing all these other hats?
Back in 2002, I submitted Lost Boundaries to the Screenplay contest within Bare Bones. It made the Top 5. But I didn't
attend the Fest that year, since I was working a new Day Job (Mayo Clinic) and I'd just gotten back from Las Vegas where Lost
Boundaries had placed 3rd in the Nevada Film Office contest.
In Spring 2004, I sent Bare Bones another script. That year, I did come down to the Fest, for the whole week. Put on
Staged Reads. Won the screenplay contest. Met a bunch of wonderful, kindhearted people who wanted to help me out any way they
And I kept hearing the same advice that Ted had given me. I got it, in one form or another, from Oscar and ShIron. From
other Indie folks in the Bare Bones family. And from visiting Hollywood folks like Catherine Bruhier and Fulvio Cecere. The
only way to get my own vision produced was to do it myself. So, I gave in. (But I didn't mortgage my house.)