Interview with screenwriter Jeffrey Morin

Short Bio of the Writer: UW Madison, Theater & Education, acting, directing and play writing. I was part of an elite Actor’s Training Program where through an audition process ten students were selected to be groomed as stage/film actors. I’ve produced my own original drama on stages in the Metro Milwaukee and Madison areas, with a video backdrop that took audiences on site with each performance. I know production, actors, lines, image, music and the proper mood to tell a story. Married with two children and two grandsons. I’ve written plays, volumes of poetry and switched to screenwriting in 2010 when my artistic life came back to me with both kids out on their own. I now have a number of scripts that have won international awards.

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I wrote outside of classwork was a play called “Morning Glory”, a love story that is placed at the end of the world. You see, a crack was discovered in the earth’s surface and from deep within chemicals that had been buried after WWI were now released into the atmosphere. A pandemic started and slowly all life began to die. In the final scene there was a countdown to the end, as the chemicals also infiltrated the systems that protected nuclear weapons from exploding. I was twelve, and for me, it was a blast to spend my summers writing plays.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

The movie that influenced me the most was “Doctor Zhivago” (1965). I saw it in the theater back in the day and was so moved by the story, the acting, and the photography and of course Lara. When I was thirteen I had the opportunity to go to Russia with a touring youth symphony orchestra. We toured Europe the summer before and placed second in international competition. The next year was Russia and I planned to make a quiet exit when the train stopped while traveling through countryside. I’d take my violin and a bag of clothes and just stay and live in the drama I knew from that film. Well my dad decided not to fund the trip for me, so I missed my chance.

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

“For an Unknown writer”… well that is me as I am virtually unknown living in a small town in the Midwest. Though I have been writing screenplays for 10 years now, and have won numerous awards from international competitions, I am still unknown. I have no representation, and not been produced by a reputable production company. I am waiting for these scripts to get in the right hands, and possibly open up some doors. I have to say making connections at film festivals is a good start. That and grabbing any free press you can get. I hope at the end of the road, I am not like Van Gogh, without representation or distribution when I pass. But either way, writing screenplays is my art so I just keep writing and sending them out.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

Family experiences have influenced my stories. The need of a father to protect, love and care for his children and give them freedom to discover a life on their own. Struggling artist experiences have helped me fight my way to be able to fully express my feelings within my story. I also have some experience with some addictive behavior, some abuse as a child, and the classic dysfunctional family of the 60’s influence the darker side of the stories I write.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

Character development for me is driven by the story, the plot, the theme and the message I want to leave behind feed me my characters. I find characters that say the words of these stories in the most believable way.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

No Bios. I write lines and lines and lines that work with the other characters. As the story grows, so too my characters grow and become whole.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

I am too emotionally involved with my characters. When I am done writing each story I am sad to see them go. This story, The Breathing Moon, came about just when COVID hit the US in March when my daughter became ill and then her youngest came down with a fever for 3 days. It threw me head first into this and how the world was dealing with the personal impact of family separation as a result of the virus. Their illness passed and I had a story on the other side of that experience. Bottom line, I felt this from the inside, then found my story, the characters and settings from global experiences. The images of the Italians on their balconies longing for freedom as the moon rose and set each night framed the story I was feeling from the connection I had to my characters.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

My thoughts on structure are based on the satisfaction I receive as a story teller. If at the end of the story, I feel I know everything I need to, to make the story complete, I am done. If there is more that I developed but does not fit in that particular story, I add twists of that to a new one.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

I do not outline. I jump right in with dialogue and keep writing lines and recite each over and over until they sound real to me, then I move on.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

To me, the most important aspect to building a great character is to have them connected to the universals in life, those elements of society that anyone and everyone can connect to, feel and understand no matter what culture or what time period they live in.