Mark is just your average weirdo born in the land of “F*ck around and find out” (That’s Philadelphia PA, if you don’t know), he is a father of five, a lover of good food and music who just happens to be a writer with a focus is taking varying genres and infusing them with comedy across different mediums. His main goal as a writer is to pay forward all the excitement and thrills of a lifetime’s worth of entertainment. The all-consuming “creative debt” that we owe, as he puts it. Most known for his Horror/Comedy feature script “Hate To Say I Told You So”.
Mark sat down with us to give us some insight about his works in progress and what drew him to screenwriting.
What story, film or novel has left an indelible impact on you as a writer?
Comic Books had to have the biggest impact overall. X-Men to be specific. The Story arcs that came out during the '80 and ’90s had a huge influence. You can probably thank the Claremont run from the late ’80s. It broadened my scope of how far you could expand a universe from the simple idea of “Five Teens with fantastic mutant powers fighting to save the world from Magneto” to really far out there stuff involving time travel, and interstellar beings with “Days of Future Past” and the “Dark Phoenix Saga”. Not to mention the legion of God-Tier villains that were spawned during that era. (As stated before, children of the ’80s were absolutely spoiled rotten by what we were given to be entertained by) The sheer depth of what they did with the X-Men and X-Men related material then was a prime example in just how far you could take one idea, and that is one incredible lesson to learn early on.
What is your favorite script you have written thus far and why is it your favorite?
I adore "Hate To Say I Told You So" more than any other script I’ve done up until this point. It was one of those rare instances as a writer where an idea forms in your brain and you're able to just get it out of you. A couple of weeks with no fuss, no huge hurdles- The first draft kinda just fell into place, aligning like some interstellar anomaly. Not only that, but it's been a joy working with the lead characters (Kendra and Sheena). Being a part of their evolution, building their backstories off the page, creating their bigger world. Sometimes we finish a script and it's just like "OK- Break's over. Back to the takeover." Here, there's more fun to be had. I imagine all sorts of little adventures for them, scenarios, music video montages- It’s absolute fun. You can't create characters like these and just be done with them. It’s practically impossible and I can’t tell you the kind of creative power and energy that can give you sometimes.
What is your favorite genre to write?
My first love is and always will be Comedy. Not only is it great as a complete stand alone, but Comedy combines with all genres. Learning how to embrace humor is a fantastic gateway into almost anything. Horror, Action, Sci-Fi, Romance, Drama, Musicals? All of them fit in tight with Comedy somewhere within the realm of Film and Television. So, I guess what I’m saying is that if genres were food items, Comedy would be butter. It simply goes with everything. Now drama to me is more like a Mustard. It’s good, but I gotta be in the mood for it. From a creative standpoint, Drama is a place I haven’t really ventured into, and I’d like to try to get my feet wet there some time in the future. Humor being a defense mechanism of mine, I feel it would be a challenge to go full tilt dramatic piece. Some of my friends are really talented in that area, and I feel like it’s something I feel I would need to work at.
Tell us about the moment you realized that you wanted to be a writer.
That’s a funny question, because I could never isolate it down to one solitary moment. It was more or less just a realization born of seeing lots of incredible stuff on screen and wanting to be able to be responsible for making someone else feel that way. And believe me when I say that being a child of the 80’s- We were spoiled AF when it comes to wondrous sources of inspiration. The shock and amazement at watching Stay Puft strut through Manhattan in Ghostbusters and watching the T-100 Endoskeleton walking out of that flaming wreckage in Terminator forged the same kind of excitement in my head. Looking back on that plethora of visionary directors, writers, and producers; all who gave so much to my creative mindset that it’s almost impossible (and a little insulting) to narrow it down to one singular thing.
Tell us about a WIP that is in your favorite genre.
One of my WIP’s is a pilot loosely based on my days in EMS, called “MED HEADS”. It’s probably the ONLY piece I’ve written in the last three years that is firmly planted in reality. It’s centered around characters Malcolm and Wendy and their day-to-day life working for a fledgling Ambulance transport service in the Greater Philadelphia area. I spent a little over ten years in the field and that gave me plenty of wild, bizarre and off the wall experiences. It’s fun to revisit them when I’m working on the script. It’s truly hilarious and terrifying that I’ve had to partake in psychiatric transfers, active premature labor transports during snowstorms, and all sorts of other medical situations with some former co-workers, whom I wouldn’t trust to apply a band-aid.
If you could give any tips to an upcoming writer on how you handle multiple story ideas, what would you tell them?
Keep a space for new ideas, so you can write them down. Notepads by the bed, having a notes app in a good spot on your phone are a big help. Memory can be fleeting, and while sometimes your brain is kind enough to remember whatever amazeballs idea that you had the other day- Mine can be a ball of mush on any given day, only remembering to log in for work and to do menial household stuff. So, I would strongly advocate for keeping something ready to capture ideas.
Another tip: When working with multiple projects, it’s good to know when an idea isn’t quite ready to sing for you yet. When there’s a pool of ideas and stories at your disposal; it’s important to not burn yourself out over one that’s not formed enough for you to see yourself through to the finish.
Besides writing what other skills would you think a screenwriter should have?
Resiliency is an absolute MUST. You must remember that a “No” in response to getting your script made is always going to be more plentiful than a “No” in response to getting more fire sauce at a Taco Bell drive-thru. Rough notes, a rejection, a script not placing or underperforming? This is going to happen. A lot. So, you must be able to bounce back. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. Also, learn to give yourself a sense of grace when you falter. On top of that, try to carry a sense of humility, self-awareness, with a willingness to learn, concede, and compromise.