Interview: Michael Werwie (2012 Nicholl Winner, 2012 Black List) — Part 3

January 9th, 2013 by

Michael Werwie’s original screenplay “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” not only won the young screenwriter a 2012 Nicholl fellowship, it also landed on the 2012 Black List, garnering 31 votes, the 7th highest total of any script on the list this year.

Michael was kind enough to agree to an interview and recently we had a wide-ranging hour-long conversation in which we covered a lot of territory related to screenwriting. I will be posting the whole interview over the course of this week, definitely a Q&A you will want to read in its entirety as Michael offers some terrific insight into the craft.

Today in Part 3, we learn about Michael’s experience in winning the Nicholl Fellowship and landing on the Black List.

Scott:  Let’s get into some of the fun moments here. What were the circumstances when you learned you won the Nicholl?

Michael:  I was actually out getting coffee trying to distract myself from thinking about it, and as I was walking home, a friend called me from Germany asking about the status of the Nicholl. I told her I didn’t know and that’s when I got a call on the other line which I recognized as the Academy number. I clicked over and it was Greg Beal calling to tell me I won. I was in shock. I didn’t really know what to say and it took a little time for it to set in. After entering for ten years, I got a little emotional.

Scott:  How soon did the emails and phone calls start happening for you?

Michael:  [laughs] Well, it had already been in full force the whole month leading up to that phone call. Really everything started happening after the finalist announcement went out. It was about a month between the finalist announcement and the Fellow announcement, and I was already taking meetings nonstop.  The meetings only became higher profile once that call came through.

Scott:  One thing I was struck by in talking with some of the Nicholl winners this year is there’s almost a sense of camaraderie amongst you. It’s like everybody seems to have gotten along very well in meeting each other and supporting each other. Is that a pretty accurate assessment?

Michael:  Absolutely. I think all of us were honored and humbled to be in this position, and seven of the writers were from out of town. We had a whole week of events and bonded through it all because it’s something very few people get to share.

Scott:  You have a script requirement as part of the deal with the Nicholl. Do you have something planned for that already in mind?

Michael:  I have a couple ideas. We had to briefly pitch them in a letter to the Nicholl committee prior to the Fellow announcement.  I’m currently breaking the stories for each.

Scott:  You signed with UTA and Evolution Entertainment. Is that right?

Michael:  I had already been with Evolution for about two years in kind of a hip pocket arrangement. My (now) manager had read an earlier script of mine that was a semifinalist in a previous Nicholl, loved the voice, and made himself available to me along the way. Once the Nicholl madness began, it became more of an official relationship, we added a second manager, and went from talking every few months to talking multiple times a day.

Scott:  And UTA?

Michael:  I signed with UTA after the finalist announcement but before the Fellow announcement. I met with a few agencies, solicited a lot of opinions, and ultimately went with who I felt would be the best fit.  I have an awesome team.

Scott:  So you’ve been going around whirlwind of meetings. How has that experience been for you, and do you feel like you’ve been prepared for that, sitting in those rooms and talking story with people in Hollywood?

Michael:  Working for as many years as I have to get to this point, I feel comfortable talking about story in any kind of situation. As far as the generals, you sit in a room, drink free water, and receive praise for your work. It’s great. I think where the learning curve’s going to occur will be in the pitch meetings. Going in the room and selling a take on an idea is a whole other skill that I’m looking forward to developing.

Scott:  Let’s talk about another piece of happy news for you when you found out you made the 2012 Black List.

Michael:  The Black List has always been a dream of mine just like the Nicholl, and there was a really good feeling among my reps and me in the weeks leading up to it because the reception of the script was just so phenomenal. We had so many calls coming in that we were in the fortunate position of being selective of the meetings because there just weren’t enough hours in the day. At that point we felt good about the Black List, but the big question was where it would land. I was on the phone with one of my managers as it was being announced on Twitter and we were both in suspense. It was all very exciting.

Tomorrow in Part 4, Michael shares his take on some key aspects of the screenwriting craft.

Please stop by comments to thank Michael for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have.

Michael is repped by UTA and Evolution Entertainment.

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