1984, Santa Cruz: My friend Jeff and I rewrote “Shoes,” a romantic comedy short-film script Dan K. wrote about a house painter who get mistaken for a fine arts painter. Both of us were huge Samurai film fans at the time, so we changed the setting from American suburbia to Japan during the Tokugawa era. It was called “Hakimono.” It was a cute little story.
1990, College Screenwriting Class: wrote the first act or two of a feature. It was so atrocious, I think I blotted out all memory of it. Seriously, I still feel bad for the instructor, who had to read it.
2001: the FX channel starts stripping “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” two episodes a day. I catch up on the entire series in less than two months. In a dazed epiphany, I write up a spec. (Or was it a just a fan-fic in courier with industry indentations?) Either way, out of my addled mind came “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead,” a "BtVS" episode told from a Tom Stoppard-like outside perspective. I liked it a lot, and so did every one else who read it. I was encouraged to enter it into competition so I entered it in the Scriptapalooza TV contest, along with “Three Little Fishies,” another spec in which Buffy and the gang mentally time-traveled to Sunnydale during World War II. “Rosencrantz” quarter-finaled in the One-Hour category, and was the best "BtVS" spec script showing that year.
2004: I partner up with John Harden on a short-film script, “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” It was a rewrite, but it came out as a very funny little story with a nice button on the end. He entered it in (I think) several places, but we hit in Britain: it semi-finaled in the British Short Screenplay Competition.
2007: Wrote a 10-pager called “Arrangements,” about a dying man who has an affair with his cute undertaker. I entered in the Cinemar Short Screenplay Competition in Santa Cruz, and my script won. They produced it later that year with the talented Chip Street directing, and it premiered at the Santa Cruz Film festival.
NOW: The creative synergy with John was good (we have the exact same birthday: the shared existential perspective is a big help), so we decided to try to write a feature. I came up with an idea (that's the hard part, believe me) while I was watching Lingerie Football during Super bowl halftime, and pitched The Sensitivity Program to John to co-write.
Many drafts later, it was finally ready. I hesitated consenting to send it to any competitions. It was a prodigious effort, and it needed to be polished to a gleam before it could be put out. (John is a short-film maker, and as such is fearless when it comes to film festivals.)
When it was good and ready we put it into one, and only one, competition: the 2009 Austin Film Festival, widely considered the finest screenwriter’s festival in the US.
The Sensitivity Program semi-finaled in the Sci-Fi category.
This is big.
For a little perspective, here's an excerpt from John’s press release (italics mine):
As semi-finalists, Harden and Christopherson's work has survived two rounds of eliminations and joins a group that represents the top 1% of approximately 4,000 screenplays submitted to the competition this year.
The annual competition receives approximately 4,000 entrees and only the top 10 to 12 percent move on to the second round of the competition. Fifty entrants qualify for the semi-finalist round, 20 will become finalists and six will qualify for a final award.
Needless to say, I’m goin' to Austin! We’re all booked in. So expect some cool behind-the-scenes, insider reportage at the end of October from the 2009 Austin Film Festival.