2015 / David F.M. Vaughn
After three rounds of competition and from an original field of over
David F.M. Vaughn (pictured left) was announced as the overall
winner of the Screenwriting Challenge 2015. Check out the
screenplays he wrote for the competition below in addition to an
interview about his experience!
Subject: A coma
Character: A newspaper
Subject: Potable water
Character: A hotel maid
By the Book
Subject: An arranged wedding
Character: A photographer
Logline: When a woman
awakens from a three week coma, she prides herself on a rapid
recovery. But her husbands suspicious behavior drives her to
believe he may be hiding a secret.
Logline: When two ordinary
women compete on a new wilderness survival TV show, a map to
nowhere and a faulty radio make it clear something else is going
Logline: Two childhood
friends find themselves in court battling over a contract made
over 20 years ago.
David Vaughn (pictured above) was recognized at the NYC Midnight's
24 Hour Film Race
2015 Gala Screening & Awards in New York.
Congratulations on winning the 12th annual Screenwriting Challenge!
How long have you been competing in NYC Midnight competitions?
This is my first
time, actually. A friend of mine suggested I try it. As a
writer, I love a deadline, so I thought it would be fun to try it out.
What did you most enjoy about the
The thing I enjoyed
most about the Screenwriting Challenge is what I imagine the majority of
people like most, which is being forced out of your comfort zone.
I write almost exclusively comedy, so I really wanted someone to “make
me” write something else, in a space that was safe enough to where if I
failed, there would be minimal casualty. And, well, wouldn’t you
know it? My first round genre was mystery. MYSTERY.
Possibly my least-favorite genre of all time. I never watch
anything even closely related to mystery (there are no dick jokes!), so
I immediately watched everything I could to learn about the structure of
the genre, and some of it’s more common characteristics. It really
forced me to stretch myself, which is exactly what I wanted out of the
What is the most challenging aspect for
challenging aspect was to not go the “obvious route.” I knew I
would be competing with a lot of talented people using the same
characters and situations as I was. So, I would start every
brainstorming session with “what’s the most obvious use of these three
things in a story?” And I would promise myself NOT to do that in
How and when did you first get into
The same friend
that encouraged me to enter this contest is also a screenwriter.
I’ve been an actor for most of my life, but have always wanted to write.
He really inspired me to start taking writing more seriously by ACTUALLY
writing (weird, right?).
Do you have any features or ongoing
projects you are currently working on?
writing a new sitcom about the lives of professional mermaids which I’m
really excited about, and I’m also working on a feature comedy about an
underground escort service ring run by the elder ladies of a Baptist
church. So clearly, I write really high-brow stuff.
How many hours do you typically write
per week and how do you break it up throughout the day?
discipline is terrible and one of my goals this year is to work on that.
I fall into the trap of “I’ll write when I can,” and that NEVER works
out. For me, the best way to write is to be away somewhere.
Often it’s in my local library (which NO ONE ever uses). But I
frequently go out of town (usually Atlantic City or Vegas) and spend a
week locked in a hotel room writing. I’ll do an 8am-6pm day with
my only breaks for meals and then after 6pm, I’m allowed to gamble. But
it’s a great way to not be distracted. And to lose money at
When you really need to focus and churn
out pages, what works best for you?
Again, I will
usually go out of town and get a small hotel room and shut myself in
until I’m done. Another way is to call one of my close friends who
are also writers and tell them “I’m going to write 8 pages today and
kill a character. And if I don’t, I owe you $10,000. Please
check up on me.” I force myself into doing it, because I don’t
have $10,000. But it is a fun way to give yourself another person
to rely on to get it done. Sometimes, your brain starts to wander,
and you stop writing and start to wonder if you know how biscuit dough
is made, and then all of a sudden you get a text saying “you finish
those 8 pages yet?” and you’re back on the horse!
Do you have any advice for any writers
just getting into screenwriting?
I suggest finding
the scripts of the kind of movies you imagine you’d write. If you
think you’d write action-packed thrillers, pick your favorites and read
those scripts to death. After 20-30 screenplays, you’re going to
have learned a LOT about the craft. People tend to get bogged down
by the “rules” and formatting of screenplays, but rarely the actual
content. I’m much more apt to forgive some errors in sluglines or
grammar if the story is compelling and fascinating, then a perfect
screenplay that’s “fine.” I also think there’s an “it” factor
that goes into storytelling, and most of “it” is in your aesthetic on
F.M. Vaughn is an award-winning actor, writer, and
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