Living The Dream: An Award Winning Screenwriter's Hollywood Story

CH: Tell us a little about yourself & your journey as a filmmaker

CCM: When I was still living in Philly (my hometown), I went on a Tinder date with this guy. He was a rapper, so he shared some of his art with me. Now, when it came time for me to talk about my work, I led with how much I love writing about Black women. This young man (also Black, by the way) cautioned me not to "write the same thing over and over again." We never went out again, and I never stopped writing Black women. Because-- and I didn't realize this was such a shock to so many people-- we, too, run the gamut of the human experience! That's been my particular lens since I was fourteen.

I started out writing for the stage with Philadelphia Young Playwrights-- which I attended all the way through high school. I had a staged reading at the Wilma when I was a junior and the mayor came. That experience, more or less solidified writing as a viable career path for me. I got a scholarship to Drexel University, which has a fabulous Cinema & Television department. I majored in Screenwriting and interned in Los Angeles for a summer. From that point on, nothing could keep me from pursuing the business.

I've had some contest success (Urbanworld, Emerging Screenwriters, etc.) and made a couple lists like The Bitch List and The Young & Hungry List. I'm also one of ISA's Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2019. People respond well to my scripts, but there's been some stopping and starting as far as getting my work produced. I'm fortunate enough to have attached producers and a director to Charcuterie, a gentrification horror-comedy set in Philly. It's a lot of fun. I actually almost vomited while writing the climax, which is kind of the pinnacle of my pride. I'm producing along with Sandra Leviton and Rachel Liu, a dynamite team who just wrapped a really cool film called Student Body. We have the incomparable Reagan Gomez set to direct and I'm so, so excited to collaborate with her. She is just phenomenal.

CH: What films and/or artists have inspired you?

CCM: Ava DuVernay is a huge inspiration for me. The way that she handles character with such care and specificity really moves me. There's also Shonda (Rhimes), the EMPRESS of television. She has one of the most recognizable creative voices in the industry. I'm also a huge fan of James Wan and Leigh Whannell. The stuff they've done together and separately. They revived American horror at a time when it was content to spit out lackluster remakes of Japanese films. Then, of course, there is Jordan Peele. Words can't even sum up the amount of respect I have for what he's been doing, from craft to social impact.

CH: In the long twisting journey of living and working in L.A. as a freelance screenwriter, what has been the most challenging element?

CCM: Money! Building a career in this business is expensive. I've spent $50 roundtrip Lyfting to a single meeting. Application fees for programs, tickets to networking events, membership fees for networking sites, paying for your own website. And we all know the business isn't exactly throwing cash at us emerging writers. You gotta do what you gotta do, though.

CH: Tell us about the inspiration behind your award winning script PALE HORSE.

CCM: Pale Horse came from a place of loneliness, really. At the time, I'd just lost my apartment in Los Angeles and had to move in with my father down south. Despite the feeling of failure, I really loved spending time with my dad. But he worked full-time so most of the week, I was very lonely. I didn't know anyone else in town. So, I had this image of this isolated young woman in my head and I spun her out into Naia. The characters took on lives of their own and I just really had to nail the structure at that point.

CH: What advice would you give to young artists thinking about making their first film or writing their first script?

CCM: Marketability matters, but make sure you're writing something that you're gonna enjoy living with. You have to want to see it finished more than anybody else. So even if it's not about you, find a way to make it personal.

CH: How can we follow you and your work?

CCM: You can find me on twitter @DaRealChrisCo, on Instagram @chriscourtneymartin and at my personal website

"You can also find me on the Afro Horror podcast with my co-host fellow screenwriter, Sade Sellers, where we discuss contemporary horror through the lens of two black millennial women. Available wherever you listen to podcasts."