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MICHAEL SIEVE - 10 Questions

WATCH Interview with the Writer
10 Questions from the January 2014 Feature Screenplay Winner. "Rum House"

1. Why should your script be made into a film?

Rum House is the story of Sydney, a romantic soul lost to an overbearing sexual culture and his inability to adjust to it. It should be on screen because it tells an important story, allows some balance to the stories of thousands who find themselves trapped by their personal failures, unable to fit in, unable to pull away or find the strength to become that better person they know they can be. Our culture can, at times, be too judgmental, too condescending, too unforgiving. Apply a little compassion and you would likely be amazed at the stories and lives that would freely, willingly unfold before you. This is a story of rehabilitation and second chances but, mostly, one man's hope that he just might be heard and understood.

2. How long have you been writing screenplays?

One year. This was the first screenplay I ever wrote.

3. What film have you seen the most in your life?

The Fisher King is my favorite. I have seen it too many times to count. That such a smart and dramatic story came from someone who made me laugh so damn hard when I was a kid always astounds me. Terry Gilliam is a genius.

4. What artists in the film industry would you love to work with?

Well, Terry Gilliam, obviously. Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Bruno Delbonnel. Robin Williams. Zooey Deschanel fascinates me, her music especially. Brit Marling is a real talent. JJ Abrams for what he did with Lost. That was mind-blowing. Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof. My dead panel would have to include Audrey Hepburn, Orson Welles.

5. How many screenplays have you written?

Five features, five shorts. One t-v pilot that, believe it or not, goes into production on the west coast in about 3 weeks. Also have two novels in the works, pounding away at those pages pretty diligently.

6. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

Curacao is a Dutch Island in the south Caribbean. It is south of the hurricane zone. Primary language is English. Ideally, I would be there, sitting under a grove of palm trees with a notebook, writing my butt off, hitting the send button every day to get my pages to an agent, begging against deadline after deadline, sipping my rum. But I don't live in an ideal world. So, we shall see.

7. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

I work out every morning. I think staying healthy helps keep the story-telling mind sharp. I write for 4 or 5 hours every afternoon. I sleep with a notebook on my nightstand because story ideas and character arcs and dialogue are constantly raining down on me and I make sure, even at night, that I have a way to write it all down as it comes to me. You never know where a story is going to take you. Some might not take you anywhere at all but the point is to always be available to it, to always let it come to you, to always be prepared to receive it.

8. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Palm trees. Weird, I know, but I have this sort of 'tropical fever'. I am five hours from the nearest coast but I have a dozen palm trees in my backyard (planted each myself). Also, I work with an animal rescue group. I like music, all kinds, from blues to jazz to the early days of college rock. Music takes me to all the places I want to go. My preference is for it to be quite loud, much to the chagrin of my neighbors. 19th Century English and Russian Literature (some French, thanks to Victor Hugo). Love the old story-tellers and how they used to craft their prose. Its an art form that, sadly, is no longer embraced. But they're called 'classics' for a reason, people!

9. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?

Funny story, that. I entered via withoutabox. I liked the fact that there was an extensive review as part of the fee. I needed that. I submitted an early draft of another screenplay that wasn't accepted but loved the feedback. So, I submitted (or tried to) a short that I had also just completed. Well, I had a few more glasses of wine than night than need be. Hit the wrong button. Sent in my first script, Rum House, by mistake. I didn't notice it until the feedback arrived by email. That's when I realized I submitted the wrong script. What an excellent mistake that turned out to be. The feedback was significant and really helped me iron out a concern of mine as it regarded the structure. All of the sudden, thanks to a specific line in the feedback, a light bulb went off and I knew the fix. And I applied it. And I re-entered. And here we are.

10. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?

Read. Reading is the fuel. If you are stuck, have writer's block, whatever, just step away. And read. If you read enough, the words will come out of you without hesitation. Reading is the answer to all of your writing problems. Every story is an inspiration. Every book is a blueprint as to how its done.. As long as you have books, as long as you read, as long as you embrace the stories and storytellers who paved the way for you, you will always be writing. And don't listen to the industry pros who say it has to be done this way or that way. Yes, there is a point to what they are trying to say but, first and foremost, follow your heart. Beat your own path, embrace your own style. Writing is and always will be about what's in you, not what someone says should be in you.