Interview with screenwriter Sawyer Inserra

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

When I was really really little, I wrote a lot of short stories, but the first “real” story that I can remember writing was called Project Message. The story was about a young girl who was in search of inspiration for
a film she wanted to make. It was very loosely based on myself and my aspirations to make such a film. The story turned into a one-act play that I also directed at my high school when I was a sophomore.

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

In the eighth grade, I watched a Polish film called Suicide Room and it opened my eyes. I’d never seen a movie touch on any topic related to mental health whatsoever. When I watched this film, I don’t know
exactly what it was that made me realize this, but I realized that I could write a movie of my own. I’ve always wanted to be an advocate for mental health, but I never knew how to get my message out there until I watched this film.

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

Submit your script to as many contests as you can and don’t be discouraged if you get rejected.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

Almost all of my characters are influenced by my struggles with mental health.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

A lot of my stories actually start with a character. If I have a relative idea for a story, I’ll then start with the main character. I don’t have a specific process really, I usually just start writing and my character will gradually come to life.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

Yes, I usually write bios for my character before I start writing. I like to give them a life before I put them into my stories. I often find that I give my characters too much of a backstory, one that could be made into a whole story in itself.

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

I am very emotionally involved with my characters because every single one of my protagonists has a part of me in them. Most of my stories are personal and the struggles that my characters go through are
personal so I often feel connected to my characters in one way or another.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

Personally, structure helps me especially with longer stories/scripts because it keeps me somewhat organized so I know what should happen and when.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

I usually like to outline or at least somewhat outline my stories before writing. I like to know where my story is going even though it may not end up where I had originally planned.

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

I think it’s really important to give a character a life and a backstory. I find it helpful to sort of know who the character is, where they’ve been, and where they want to go. I also think it’s important for them to be real. A great character, to me, is one that has flaws, wants, and feelings. A great character is imperfect.