Dawn Garcia is an accomplished screenwriter, magazine editor and journalist living in Los Angeles.
Dawn recently won Season 5 of the Filmmatic Drama Screenplay Awards with her gritty and socially aware TV pilot “The Confidence Men”. We sent Dawn a few questions after her win, and she was kind enough to respond, enjoy!:
1) How long have you been writing?
Gosh, I think since I was about 6?! But I didn't start writing screenplays until the year 2000 and it started with an adaptation of "The Picture of Dorian Gray". It took me years...and years...and way too many drafts (11!!). Now I write projects within weeks or months, try to perfect it in no more than three drafts. I'm a stickler for self-imposed deadlines and not going down the "but if I can just fix one more thing" wormhole because let's face it: When we go there, we never finish. And I refuse to have unfinished projects!
2) What screenwriting training have you received, are you self-taught?
I didn't study screenwriting in college. I actually just watched loads of movies, and started writing. I did however do makeup and special effects for major networks and studios. That trained me to break down scenes, lighting, characters, wardrobe, and inevitably, story.
I would also look at screenplays that have stood the test of time like "Casablanca", but in spite of the many film books I've purchased, I haven't actually used them as resources. I kind of shied away from the way most people do it. I probably would drive tons of project managers nuts because I rarely outline, I don't use the 40 notecard rule, and I've found that my favorite way to break a story if I'm stuck is to use the Storyclock Notebook (best $13 you will ever spend). That book and process is how my mind works. I like pie charts and visuals. I don't typically start writing page one until I really know the story and deeply feel like I know my characters, and then as long as my mind allows it, I'll just start writing. The most pages I've written in a single day is 56. So I suppose the simple answer to your original question is: No. And yes.
3) What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short or long shifts, in the mornings mainly, late at night...?
I write every day without fail. I started that habit in junior high. I would journal, write stream of consciousness, and eventually fiction and journalism before I delved into screenwriting. I used to go to crowded bars (when I was of age) and write so that I never had an excuse to wait on silence.
I have kids so I'm up early (I make my coffee early to enjoy the "me" time) and once they're off to school (I mean, when kids went to school) I start my day. Now I'm writing two features and a TV Series along with running two magazines, so words and deadlines are my norm and part of my routine. I do have a standing weekly Zoom call with the co-writer of one of my features (a twisted dark comedy) and he and I speak Thursdays at 8 a.m. my time, 4 p.m. his time. I look forward to that call every week because it's the first film I've asked another writer to do with me and he (Matt Dyson) is hysterical and brilliant. He gets my humor (p