What’s Happening In The World Of Writer/ Director Ted Campbell?
The career trajectory of every screenwriter is non-linear to put it politely. Accomplishments rarely pan out as originally hoped or planned so it can be difficult to plan a screenwriting career given that so many elements are beyond a screenwriter’s control. The uncertainty is the only certainty in this business.
Creative Screenwriting Magazine spoke with writer/ director Ted Campbell back in 2019 when his screenplay Underground was gaining traction with a string of contest placements, including the ISA’s Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch, and John Boorman slated to direct. We caught up with him again to check on whether his career has followed his original plan.
What’s the current status of Underground?
A lot has changed. If you recalled, legendary filmmaker John Boorman was attached to direct. John has since left the project. I am now attached as director. I’ve always aspired to direct this script, but entered the development phase knowing full well convincing financiers to agree to a first time feature director at this budget was a difficult sell. Lucky for me, executive producers Ellen Wander and Jordan Dykstra at Film Bridge have fully supported me as director.
John is still a part of the project. We now share co-writing credit on the present draft of the script. John really brought a lot to the script in terms of deepening some of the supporting characters and adding a detective character that ups the tension overall.
Though Film Bridge’s relationships, there are already a number of distributors interested in the project. The next step is casting. We have a bunch of interest, but the pandemic has made locking actors in a slow process. We’re hoping to go into pre-production middle of this year.
It takes a village to build a screenwriter. How have the ISA and other screenwriting organizations guided your career?
ISA has been incredibly supportive over the years. I was named to the ISA’s Top Screenwriters to Watch in 2018. I’ve been on the ISA Development Slate as well. When you’re an unproduced screenwriter, you need advocates for your work. ISA’s support gives you that little extra credibility that gives reader a moment to consider whether or not to read your script.
My most supportive advocate has been Lee Jessup. I’ve known Lee since her days at Script Shark. Lee is a career coach who works exclusively with screenwriters. Her knowledge and support whether it’s helping create a writing schedule or making industry connections, is invaluable. She’s also the shoulder to cry on when things (shockingly?!) aren’t easy. If she had a nickel for every frustrated client she’s had to talk off the ledge… Yeah. Lee is our rock.
What is the biggest benefit of having the ISA’s backing and support in your career trajectory?
ISA’s script notes are incredible. The earliest draft of Underground was placing in a number of contests. Clearly the script was well regarded. And at that early stage where you’re just trying to get reads, I could’ve rode it out with the draft I had. But after getting ISA’s Development Notes, there was no question I had an opportunity to strengthen the script with another pass.
What has changed in your career in the last year and a half?
I’m currently writing and directing my first feature for MarVista Entertainment. I won the Grand Prize in the Your Script Produced contest, which guarantees the winning script gets produced.
How are you measuring your career milestones and successes?
I attempt to make a significant forward step with each script. Whether it’s working on an aspect of the screenwriting craft or working on my process. Screenwriting is ever evolving. A screenwriter is not only expected to be creative, but create quickly. So the melding of craft and process I’m always working on.
How are you staying grounded and inspired given the uncertainty of the industry?
Everything is remote these days. Face to face meeting aren’t happening as often. But we adapt. I’m in production now and that’s a whole ‘nother discussion of challenges!
How do you handle career setbacks?
Setbacks are inevitable. It’s part of the job. You keep writing. You keep promoting yourself, keep networking. You knock on the next door and soldier on.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing and directing a feature for MarVista Entertainemnt. Once we wrap, I’ll be writing a second feature to direct for MVE.
How does this fit into your overall career plan?
My career plan has always been to write and direct. I believe I’ve proven my abilities as a screenwriter. I now have the opportunity to show my skill set in directing. It really depends how the film is received. I’m proud of the work me and my collaborators have done!
What’s the next career milestone that will take you to the next level?
Write and direct with a bigger budget! All this talk of budgets and money, what it really boils down to for me as a filmmaker is time. It takes time to make a good film. That’s not to say you can’t make a good film with a small budget. But it’s incredibly difficult. A smaller budget has to accept more compromises. With more time, the details get more attention. But it’s forever true… time = money.