Screenwriter Colin Costello just got the news he’d been working for eleven years to hear – he’s now a member of the Writer’s Guild. After eleven years. That’s a long time, that’s real persistence. I was struck by Colin’s determination and patience and I thought he might have some pearls for Just Effing readers.
So Colin, you just got into the WGA. After 11 years of trying. What was the first thing you did when you found out? Did you scream? Pass out?
Haha. I did an old school dance called, “The Running Man.” It was embarrassing. Seriously, the real honest-to-god truth is, I did the same thing I always do when I get good or bad news — I take it in, process and then text my best friend who happens to be the love of my life and my inspiration, Lorna. Then we both do “The Running Man.” It’s ugly.
So exactly how did you get granted membership, what did you write and sell?
I have been working with a Chicago company, Dreaming Tree Pictures, for the last year or so. We actually have a feature coming to theaters next month called, “The Stream.” It stars Rainn Wilson, Mario Lopez, Chris Gorham and Kelly Rutherford. I was asked to join last year, based on that film, but they were not a signatory at the time. So, they got me for cheap. However this year, I worked on a kids’ web series with them called, “Moochie Kalala Detective Club.” This time, all the paperwork was completed correctly and well, there it is.
Who is your rep and how did you first gain representation?
Representation is hard to find. I have had various managers and agents. Right now, I am with a wonderful woman, Rachel Dunn, who is basically my work wife. She gives me great notes and has a great head for business. As for an agent, that is a different story. Rachel and I are still looking. Hello, agents?!
Getting a good rep is two-part. A lot does rely on talent and the other part is how they vibe with you. Can they put you in a room and feel confident about you? Can you deliver the script the producer is asking for? Can you take their notes without jumping off a ledge?
What writers need to realize is that even with a rep(s) you still have to get out there and sell yourself. It’s a part of your job to remain relevant. You are as good/hot as your last job. It’s easy to get forgotten about. It’s up to you to keep yourself out there.
11 years is a long time; did you ever feel like giving up?
No. Never. Ever. It’s a process. There are no overnight successes. If someone is introduced as that, then you had better believe they were working on it from the time they exited the womb. And honestly in the interim, I have gotten very close with other projects. I did have a feature, we won’t say the name, screenplay contest wins, and three shorts. So there have been minor hits along the way.
What kept you going?
I have a deep belief in going with what the universe tells you. From the time I was given a Super-8 camera, I have felt a need to tell stories and make movies. I took a detour in advertising, which has been very good to me, but there has always been a big part of me that is happiest when I am writing and creating a new world. I love entertaining people with a good (hopefully) story. It was never a question that I would write movies, it was just a matter of when I would be blessed enough to break through.
What’s your day job? How did you become interested in screenwriting?
I am the Group Creative Director of Walton Isaacson, a wonderful ad agency in LA. Our main accounts are Lexus and The Dodgers. Go Dodgers!
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Back in college, when I had the chance to major in film or advertising, I would’ve grown a pair and told my parents that I am going to major in film. Don’t worry about me making a living, the money will come.
What is the best thing you did to reach this point?
Becoming president of the Chicago Screenwriters Network. The year I spent doing that opened up so many other doors and relationships. I also learned the realities of really breaking in. That is what factored into my moving to LA.
What advice do you have for writers trying to break in?
Persevere. You have a story(ies) to tell. Do not stop at one script. Or two. Or three. Keep telling your stories. Enter contests. Go to LA if you can. Meet people. Let them know how wonderful you are. Also, remain loyal to and support your friends who are actors, writers, directors. You need that support system. Read… read… read. Go to the movies. A lot.
Coffee or tea?
Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte… iced preferably.
So what’s next for you? Are you headed to St. Martin’s or do you already have work on your plate?
I literally just got word that Russell Simmon’s new digital network ADD is moving forward with a superhero comedy animated pilot I sold. I have also just turned in a new draft for a horror script that I am working on with the former director of development at Lion’s Gate. I just finished working on Superman animated film called, “Superman: Origins.” And while I work on a raunchy new comedy for another production company, I will keep my fingers crossed that a feature I am passionate about begins shooting March ’14.
What’s your motto?
“Up, up and away!”
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
Frank Darabont, Ernest Lehman, Joss Whedon, David Goyer, Stirling Silliphant, William Goldman, Nora Ephron, Lawrence Kasdan.
Which film do you love so much you wish you had written it?
Man of Steel, The Avengers, Captain America, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, As Good as It Gets, Black Sunday, Jaws. BTW I am up for Captain America 3 if you’re reading, Kevin Feige.
Okay I said one not seven.
I’m enthusiastic, what can I say?
If you could come back as a person, place or thing, what would you be?
I’ve led a pretty interesting life so far. I have met people I never dreamt of meeting and done things I never thought possible. I think I would like to just come back as stupid ol’ me and make sure my girlfriend, Lorna, is a part of my life. Also, I have two fantastic daughters in Chloe and Maxine. Without the three of them, none of this means anything to me. I think that goes for another life as well.
Thank you, Colin, we’ll be looking for your work in theaters! What’s your favorite screenwriting blog, huh, what is it?
Does it start with a “J”?
Treat yourself to Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas