Young & Hungry

August 1, 2022

Aaron Sala is a Northern California native who has been writing and directing since high school. His work had received such praise as “good lord, that’s disgusting,” and “not as bad as we expected” until his spec script The Beast landed him representation and potentially a future without crushing debt. That horror/thriller is currently moving up through development at H Collective.

How young and how hungry do you need to be to win a place on the Young & Hungry list?

If you eat a full pizza in one sitting without realizing and then look around for where the rest went because you’re still hungry. That’s a good start. It also helps to be very young. Toddlers have an advantage.

Describe your unique personal and professional background and the specific project that attracted industry interest?

I moved to LA almost right out of college. I interned at a couple of places while working nights/weekends. Then I managed to land a job as an office PA for a sitcom and got a crash course in production through that. I would spend a lot of my spare time writing (which is easy to do when you’re in a new city where you don’t know anyone and are generally bad at socializing to begin with.)

One of the screenplays I wrote out here – a horror/thriller called The Beast – ended up attracting interest from the people who are now my agents and managers. Through a series of incredibly luckily-timed events that script sold shortly after I signed with my team at Madhouse.

What personal qualities do screenwriters need to make it?

A sense of humor and a willing liver.

Why did you decide to become a screenwriter above all other careers?

I was bad at most of the other things I tried, so I picked screenwriting in the world’s stupidest hail Mary. And then I got very stupid lucky.

How do you become agent/manager bait? 

“Bait” is a . . . choice descriptor. It’s all about the material. If you write good scripts, and then you get really, really lucky and get that script onto an agent/ manager’s desk.  And then that agent/manager reads your script – on a good day.  And then they reach out and you haven’t given up the idea of working in this industry yet. I guess that’s how.

You have to write something that they want to sell, or something that makes them feel like they just have to be a part of whatever it is you’re doing. And once you’ve signed with a manager, a lot of it comes down to how willing you are to workshop your ideas with them.

It’s a learning process; you figure out how to take notes, how to push back against notes you don’t agree with while still respecting everyone’s point of view, how to admit when you’re wrong about something and how to make your point, loud and clear, when you know you’re right. Without being a dick about it.

Where do you get your creative inspiration?

I watch a lot, I read a lot, and I stare at that weird discolored spot on my wall a lot. Sometimes I get lucky and one of those things gives me an idea I can work with.

How do you decide which ideas are worthy of pursuing?

If I can’t stop thinking about it, and if it feels like every scene just kind of flows into the next one, that’s usually a good sign that I’m onto something. And when I’m not that lucky, it comes down to how much I want to live with the characters that spring out of that idea, and if I’m going to have fun writing them.

Do you have a writing brand in terms of interests you gravitate towards?

I lean towards horror (particularly body horror), but I try not to close myself off from any genre. If the lead character is flawed, messy, screwed-up, and compelling? I don’t give a damn what genre they’re in.

How do you train and improve your writing craft?

I write, I read, and then I write some more.

What are the qualities of scripts you read that don’t get industry interest?

They tend to be deeply, flagrantly weird, the kind of weird that scares marketing departments into thinking that no one will go see that movie (I for one think they’re wrong, because I will go see them, and I am the sole arbiter of all audiences everywhere.) A lot of them also have protagonists that you could describe as “unlikeable.” I think that’s a good thing. Screw likability – give me someone compelling (and I think audiences prove, over and over again, that they agree with me there).

What advice do you have for screenwriters wanting to make next year’s Young & Hungry list?

I really can’t stress the pizza and toddlers enough.

What is something that few people know about you?

My trash goblin of a cat probably types more on my keyboard each day than I do.