2015 / David F.M. Vaughn


After three rounds of competition and from an original field of over 1,000 writers, 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!








        1st Round
Genre: Mystery
Subject: A coma
Character: A newspaper delivery person
2nd Round
Dry Tide
Genre: Mystery
Subject: Potable water
Character: A hotel maid
3rd Round
By the Book
Genre: Open
Subject: An arranged wedding
Character: A photographer
  12 pages
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.
8 pages
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 on.
5 pages
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 Screenwriting Challenge?

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 competition.


What is the most challenging aspect for you?

The most 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 my screenplay.


How and when did you first get into screenwriting?

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?

Currently I’m 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?

My writing 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 roulette. 


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 what’s interesting.





David F.M. Vaughn is an award-winning actor, writer, and director.  Follow him on Twitter and learn more at his website: davidfmvaughn.com



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