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Spec Sale Spotlight: F. Scott Frazier

Up-and-coming screenwriter F. Scott Frazier talks about how he landed management and script sales in Hollywood’s tough spec market.
F. Scott Frazier

F. Scott Frazier

What’s the secret to making it in Hollywood? There aren’t any rules. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. That’s what aspiring screenwriter F. Scott Frazier did. The 27-year-old video game producer decided his screenwriting career needed a jumpstart. That’s when he quit his regular 40-hour-a-week day job and started writing full-time. He networked and talked to everyone he knew about his writing and before long, a friend gave his script to a manager at H2F Entertainment. They liked his writing and within a few months his script, The Numbers Station, got picked up with Ethan Hawke attached. Frazier doesn’t necessarily recommend you quit your day job to make it happen in Hollywood, but he did share with Script a few other secrets he discovered along the way.

SCRIPT: What gave you the idea for The Numbers Station?
F. SCOTT FRAZIER: It came from an NPR story I heard about five or six years ago. Basically, there are these people who go out in the desert and listen for these shortwave radio broadcasts from these number stations. It’s a conspiracy theory -- that the government is listening to us. I thought, “What if these stations existed and what would they be like?” They’re basically shortwave radio broadcasts. You can hear a woman’s voice saying a long continuous string of numbers. The conspiracy theorists are saying the government is spying on us. There is no concrete evidence of whether they exist, or if it’s something someone is broadcasting as a hoax.

SCRIPT: How did you get into screenwriting?
F. SCOTT FRAZIER: My dad was a TV writer from the 70s and 80s, and I have been a writer all my life. It’s been a hobby. Last March in 2009, I quit my full time job. I had just gotten engaged, and I knew I was about to start a family. If I didn’t take the chance to go out and try to be a screenwriter now, I wouldn’t have the opportunity again. I wrote full-time for eight or nine months. The Numbers Station was the first script I wrote. I did all the blind queries before I got hooked up with Chris Fenton at H2F. It’s been a whirlwind from there.

SCRIPT: How did you get it to your manager?
F. SCOTT FRAZIER: I want to be able to say that my query made it somewhere, and that I got looked at from that. But, that’s not how it worked. I have a friend who’s in the army and we speak periodically. Last Christmas, I told him I was trying to be a screenwriter. I told him I had a couple of scripts finished. He said, “My mom’s next door neighbor is a literary manager.” That was Chris Fenton. My friend’s mom sent Chris my script, and he liked it enough to sign me. It’s kind of one of those stories that’s almost too hard to believe. I can’t imagine what he was thinking when his neighbor asked him to read a script. Just that idea, that if I was in his position -- I’m sure he gets that all the time -- I don’t know what I would have done.

SCRIPT: Tell us a little bit about your process as a writer.
F. SCOTT FRAZIER: I write four or five hours a morning, take a lunch, take a walk and do another three to four hours in the afternoon. I try to do new stuff in the morning when I’m first up. After lunch, I go into rewriting. Rewriting things from the day before or that morning. For me the rough draft is so easy and quick to put down on the page, I tend to do it as fast as I possibly can and spend a lot of time to go over every single word, action beat and line of dialog. I start big and focus small until it’s where I want it. If you work in front of a computer all day long, your view tends to be the six inches between you and the screen. When I come up with my own issues and I’m rewriting, I find fixes on the walk or listening to music.

SCRIPT: What was it like when the script sold?
F. SCOTT FRAZIER:The Numbers Station was not the original script. It was the first one that I had. It was sitting in my catalog of scripts. I sent him Embassy. Chris was most interested in going out with that one. After I signed with Chris, he got a phone call from a production company for a small low budget action movie. The Numbers Station was written with that intent. He sent it over there, and it started getting heat around town. It happened organically. A couple of people read it, and then everybody was reading it. It went pretty quickly, as far as the process goes. It was a big rush of everything happening at once.

SCRIPT: Do have any advice for any aspiring screenwriters?
F. SCOTT FRAZIER: Telling people to quit their jobs isn’t the wisest thing to do. Luckily, my wife was supportive. The biggest advice I can give is to constantly be writing and write the stuff that speaks to you. If you try to chase after the movie of the moment, you won’t be happy with what you’re writing. In the time it takes you to write the script and get it out there, you’ll miss the boat. Writing the movie that you would want to go see if it opens this Friday. That’s what I’ve done, and I’ve had success with it.