Our next featured Young & Hungry screenwriter is Charlie Efron. He is an LA-based screenwriter who originally hails from Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of USC’s MFA screenwriting program, where he a created a web series for New Form Digital. His Tiger Woods biopic Isleworth made both The Hit List and The Black List.
HOW YOUNG AND HOW HUNGRY DO YOU NEED TO BE TO WIN A PLACE ON THE YOUNG AND HUNGRY LIST?
I can only speak from personal experience, but I’m guessing relatively young – in your career, not your age, which shouldn’t matter – and pretty hungry? You’d have to ask the other writers on the list. I know I’m hungry as hell.
DESCRIBE YOUR UNIQUE PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND THE SPECIFIC PROJECT THAT ATTRACTED INDUSTRY INTEREST?
Well, let’s see. I grew up in Washington, D.C., went to college at Michigan, worked as a project manager at a couple small tech companies, got an MFA in screenwriting from USC, and… to be honest, my background isn’t all that unique. But I’ve been a voracious reader, movie buff, and, most importantly, sports fan, for as long as I can remember.
I wrote a feature in grad school about an injured quarterback that attracted my manager. Any my next script – and first sale – was about Tiger Woods. I don’t think “writing what you know” means writing autobiographically, but writing what you care about. You have to speak the language of your characters, or at least speak it proficiently enough to fool readers.
WHAT PERSONAL QUALITIES DO SCREENWRITERS NEED TO MAKE IT?
I’m by no means an authority on this, but solid writing skills are probably a must. An ear for dialogue, too. Attention to detail is important. But off the page? Resilience has to be up there. Rejection is part of the job. So are notes. Brutal notes. Most working writers I know are good at rolling with the punches.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A SCREENWRITER ABOVE ALL OTHER CAREERS?
Honestly? It’s fun. I sit around and make stuff up all day. It’s not the most stable of careers, but I don’t mind the ups and downs so far. It keeps things interesting.
HOW DO YOU BECOME MANAGER BAIT?
From what I can tell, there’s only one way: Write a good spec. I know it’s easier said than done, but you only need one. They say once you have that calling card, your phone will start ringing, though it’s possible I just made that up. After that, it probably helps if you have other good ideas, and you’re not a total crazy person. But even that isn’t a deal-breaker, I don’t think. A good script seems to trump everything.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR CREATIVE INSPIRATION?
Idea-wise? I ingest a ton of content to fill the well, so to speak. Movies, TV shows, screenplays, novels, nonfiction, short stories, long-form journalism and random Wikipedia articles. I literally mean random. There’s a “Random article” button on the left side of the page. I’ll click it over and over until I land on a topic that intrigues me, and then go down the rabbit hole, looking for things that engage me both intellectually and emotionally. Yeah, I waste a lot of time.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH IDEAS ARE WORTHY OF PURSUING?
I’m still refining my process, but I try to find the overlap between my obsessions and the marketplace. It’s not easy. When I think I have a good idea, I first run it by my girlfriend, a writer and producer who has excellent taste, if I do say so myself. Then I run it by my manager, who also has great taste and keeps his finger on the pulse of the market.
He rejects around ninety percent of my ideas outright, which I’m thankful for. I briefly outline the other ten percent to see if A) There’s actually a movie there, B) I actually want to write it, and C) I’m the right person to write it. Then I’ll sit on it for a while. If I’m still obsessed after a few weeks, it might be a good idea.
DO YOU HAVE A WRITING BRAND IN TERMS OF INTERESTS YOU GRAVITATE TOWARDS?
Like I said, mostly sports or sports-adjacent movies thus far. But apparently, it’s hard to make a career out of that unless you’re Ron Shelton or Angelo Pizzo. I’d say my quote-unquote brand is more thematic than genre-based, and mostly focuses on ambitious young men wrestling with their demons. Yeah, maybe I write more autobiographically than I care to admit.
HOW DO YOU CHARACTERIZE THE CURRENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMERGING WRITERS?
I’ve been super fortunate and am reluctant to comment on the industry at large, but I will say this: It’s never been easier to get your voice out there. I know I’m the zillionth person to say that, but it’s true! Emerging writers can shoot a web series or a short, or put their script up on the Black List, or apply to one of the fellowships and writers programs – the opportunities are endless. Hollywood will always need fresh voices, which isn’t to say it’s easy to break in, but it’s possible.
HOW DO YOU TRAIN AND IMPROVE YOUR WRITING CRAFT?
I write every day – well, almost every day – read a lot of scripts, and watch a buttload of movies and TV.
WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES OF SCRIPTS YOU READ THAT DON’T GET INDUSTRY INTEREST?
The idea isn’t hooky enough, the writer doesn’t have a distinct voice, and the execution is sloppy.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SCREENWRITERS WANTING TO MAKE NEXT YEAR’S YOUNG & HUNGRY LIST?
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
My number one movie pet peeve is a whistling tea kettle. Get that shit out of here. It hurts my ears. Also, I have the handsomest puppy in the world. His name is Carl. Shout-out to Carl if you’re reading this!