Award Winning screenwriter Shawn Corridan, hard at work.

Award brings isle
scriptwriter’s dream
closer to reality

By Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

In what was meant to be a coming-of-age story of self-discovery, "8 Track," the award-winning screenplay by Honolulu's Shawn Corridan, may lead to a revelation for its creator.

Last month, the 43-year-old writer beat out more than 2,500 entrants for top honors from screenplay formatting software Final Draft, whose prestigious "Big Break" script-writing competition is among the industry's most influential.

Corridan's bounty, a $10,000 award and a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to meet with prominent movie producers, could finally give him some understanding of a shadowy and virtually impenetrable business.

"Hollywood, in my opinion, is indecipherable," says Corridan, who has monitored the quirky workings of the script-selling process over the years. "If you don't have an agent, don't even bother sending one because it goes right in the trash, but the Catch-22 is, if you don't sell a screenplay, you don't get an agent."

Once, he was able to sit in on a pitch session at a producer's office with a successful screenwriter friend from California. "They walk you in to this guy who's heard pitches all day, and he's got his hands folded behind his head and he goes, 'OK, what'cha got?' And you've got basically five minutes to pitch your story. He'll shoot holes in all your ideas -- 'No, that's derivative' or 'We're making something like that right now' or 'No, that won't do.'"

Luckily for Corridan, "8 Track" will almost certainly get his foot in the door. While it may be some time before anyone outside of Hollywood gets to see his handiwork, Corridan is hopeful that if and when it goes public, the story will ring universal.

"Probably half of it's autobiographical," he says, "the good and the bad. Believe me, if you read the script, you're going to see a lot of you and a lot of your friends in it."

IN THE TALE, four boys take a road trip to Mexico against the wishes of their parents on the weekend before school starts up. What they discover during their journey changes their lives forever.

While no one could know how far his script would go, Corridan was confident "8 Track" could find new life after sitting idle for nearly 10 years. "I'd gone to movies and walked out so many times scratching my head saying, 'Who the hell decided to green-light this?'" he says with a chuckle.

"I looked at my script, and every time I read it, I'd get goose bumps where I was supposed to get goose bumps, I'd get a little choked up where I was supposed to get choked up, I laughed where I was supposed to laugh, and I thought, 'I don't understand how this couldn't be a winner,' because in my mind, it was."

Corridan never studied screen-writing formally but attributes his stint as an English major at the University of Hawaii for giving him an understanding of such crucial script-writing elements as plot, theme, structure and symbolism.

Raised in Florida, he enrolled at UH on a football scholarship and endured one week of practice before quitting the team.

"I realized I hated it," he says. "I was more motivated to surf than I was to play football." Corridan also dabbled in film and literature and kept in touch with a childhood friend and his brother -- both of whom Corridan prefers not to name -- who had sold scripts that became major motion pictures.

For those who would like to break into the business, Corridan recommends reading books like "Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide to Hollywood," by Syd Field, and "The Script-Selling Game," by Kathie Fong Yoneda. And computer programs like Final Draft make the technical aspect of committing one's words to the page much easier. "If you're afraid of the format, that program takes that fear right out of the equation," he says.

Of course, there are no guarantees in Hollywood, and winning the "Big Break" contest, he stresses, should be viewed with cautious optimism. "Getting an option (Hollywood talk for consideration and possible development of a script) is one thing; selling a script outright is another," Corridan says. "They buy scripts all day long, but the percentage that are made (into films) is so minuscule, it's amazing. Probably nine out of 10 that are bought are never made. I expect the worst and I'm hoping for the best."

If all goes well, Corridan, who recently left a pharmaceutical company to pursue his longtime dream, could conceivably land a six-figure deal.

He's giving himself a year, tentatively, to break through.

"If nothing comes of this, I'm going to just believe in me and just crank out more scripts until I hit the jackpot," he says. "Luckily, my wife's a hard worker."

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