Greg Mania is a New York City-based writer and comedian. His work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, OUT Magazine, PAPER, BULLETT, Posture, and CREEM among others. He also garnered the top prize in Season 3 of the Filmmatic Screenplay Awards for his script Mania, an edgy and brazen comedic TV pilot. We asked Greg a few questions to see what makes him tick…
Q: How long have you been writing?
Greg Mania: For as long as I can remember. When I was about eight or nine, I started writing a novel about a girl whose neighbor was found murdered and — well, that’s as far as I got because I got distracted by the Go-Gurt my mom brought home from grocery shopping.
Q: What screenwriting training have you received, are you self-taught?
Greg Mania: Both. I didn’t take my first screenwriting class until my second year of grad school at The New School exactly three years ago. I had already written a pilot with my best friend and writing partner, Dean Dempsey, by then. A year later, we’d written and were gearing up to shoot our feature-length film, Deadman’s Barstool, which we’re currently submitting to festivals all over the world. So while I was learning some valuable lessons in class, I was also approaching the craft with instinct and intuition, hoping to yield projects that break the rules in all the right places (and wrong places, too; listen, I can’t cook but I can stir the pot).
For me, I think not fully committing myself to a full-time formal education and following the self-taught route helped me develop my voice. I wasn’t restrained by any axioms that may have been ingrained in my psyche from formal training that could have deterred me from taking risks. Although I learned the basics and a lot of a valuable information by taking classes, I grew most by just sitting down and writing and writing and writing.
Q: What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short or long shifts, in the mornings mainly, late at night…?
Greg Mania: I know I stand alone, but I can’t stay up writing until the wee hours of the morning. I do my best writing early in the morning while sipping the third cup of coffee I should not be drinking. My brain just tends to shut off by eight p.m.; hell, I can barely compose a tweet by then.
My process, if you can call it that, is just bursts of word vomit in between pacing. I usually walk back and forth — mind you I’m not in a public place; I work best alone because I’m too distracted by your G-Chat conversations when I try to work in a café — and talk out loud until I find something I can run with. Then I sit down and just hurl onto the page and revise and rework later for clarity. I don’t schedule chunks or anything; I write when I can. I do what feels good, when it feels good, and retain the discipline necessary to complete a project.
Q: What genres do you lean towards? All comedy, or?
Greg Mania: I only do comedy because it’s literally the only thing I’m good at. Seriously, I had to wikiHow how to make a grilled cheese once.
Q: What is your pilot, “Mania”, about?
Greg Mania: It’s about a snarky out-of-work retail employee who’s behind on bills and enters the New York City nightlife scene to make ends meet and it’s queer as hell.
Q: Where did the concept for “Mania” come from?
Greg Mania: MANIA is semi-autobiographical. The idea came to me when I was working at a high-end consignment boutique in Soho three years ago. I started writing the pilot there because the story essentially wrote itself, especially with the ridiculous interactions I’ve had with customers. And listen, I possess about as much grace as a drunk water buffalo, so me trying to be this composed and graceful employee and interact with highfalutin clientele and tourists was a spectacle.
But the impetus of the pilot, and the series on the whole, is the relationship between Greg (my character) and Toni (his best friend and roommate). Toni is this badass fourty-something punk lesbian who’s a tattoo artist and vinyl DJ. She shares a kind of bond with Greg that I’ve experienced in my friendships with women who are almost twice my age. My friendships with older women became the catalyst for this pilot, specifically my best friend that I used to work with at said consignment shop, the character Toni is based on. At the time, I was 23 and she was 46. We were both from New Jersey — we both share a set of memories associated with this one particular ice cream shop on the Jersey Shore and know the same bars and restaurants — and we loved the same type of music, had the same type of twisted sense of humor, and, at one point, both sported a slicked-back black mohawk with shaved sides. We used to drink beer and smoke cigarettes on the job and would straight up blast Billy Idol on the store’s Pandora account while some woman who probably had a silent letter in her name and retained a comprehensive knowledge of probiotics tried on a pair of second-hand Manolo Blahniks. I took moments like these and combined them with my real-life experiences in NYC nightlife (one experience being gogo dancing) and MANIA was born.
Q: What crazy things are you up to career-wise, outside of screenwriting?
Greg Mania: Right now I’m focusing on a book project. My amazing lit agent, Kathleen, and I have been working on revision after revision for the past year, and the process of shopping it around to publishers has officially commenced so my anxiety feels like 1,000 active beehives in my chest.
BUT, in the meantime, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be teaching a writing workshop starting this fall for Personal Disclosures alongside other guest faculty that include literary luminaries like Roxane Gay and Chloe Caldwell. I’ll be making a formal announcement soon, so if you’re interested head over to my Twitter or Insta!
Q: What are you writing now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Greg Mania: I cover books for PAPER and I have my satirical column over at OUT so I’m excited to interview some bombass amazing authors this fall and crank out some columns! I’m also working on some essays and plan to write a screenplay with my good friend in the not-too-distant future. But don’t let this fool you: I’m still overdrafting on shit like shampoo at CVS so if you’re an editor reading this PLEASE HIRE ME TO WRITE STUFF FOR YOU; IT WILL BE FUNNY AND I PROMISE TO KEEP THE FILTHY JOKES DOWN TO A SHOUT.
Q: Any advice for those about to dive into their first screenplay or pilot?
Greg Mania: The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to not disregard the first or even second thought we have. We immediately discard them because we think it’s stupid, or reductive, or not worth exploring. More times than not, if you mine those initial ideas enough, you can latch onto something to run with. But listen, that’s my long-winded way of saying just sit down and do the damn thing. Don’t worry if it’s good or bad, just write.
Congratulations once again to Greg Mania, the Filmmatic Screenplay Awards – Season 3 Overall Winner. All contact requests for Mr. Mania will be forwarded to his attention.