Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Diego Balasquid & Myles Hewette)

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

My name is Diego Balasquide. I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and I currently live in Seffner, Florida. My hobbies include watching movies, reviewing them online with friends, and of course, writing short and feature-length screenplays.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed you as a Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

The concept for the world of Scales of the West came from my love of dinosaur adventure movies as a kid, as well as murder mystery movies as an adult. I wanted to appeal to the kid in us, as well as to a more adult audience. Some of the influences for this story include Disney’s Dinosaur from 1999 and Jurassic Park, as well as murder mysteries like Knives Out and Sleepy Hollow.

As for the story itself, it took me about two months to write the first draft, and then four more to adjust it according to the proper screenplay format.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

Sometimes the concept comes to me first, but I never try to develop the screenplay story structure until I don’t come up with an idea for character development. Characters are always the center of every narrative, so I always start developing a script by telling it from within their journeys. What do they want and why? What’s stopping them from getting that thing, internally as well as externally?

Once I have those things for all my main characters, I hardly ever have to force anything. If the elements work well together, the story often tells itself. Afterward, re-reading it multiple times and listening to notes from my friends, I tweak whatever flaws it has until it’s ready.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

As a kid, I was always drawing little comic books with stories starring myself and all my friends. Those comic books would always be scene-for-scene copies of movies I had watched and loved. So in a way, I was trying to remake those movies by putting me and my friends in them. Eventually, I started branching out and coming up with my own ideas for stories.

One day in high school, I forgot I was supposed to turn in a five-page essay for my Advanced English class, and it was due that day and I hadn’t written a single word yet. So, I sprinted to the school library and did the whole thing in one sitting. It must have taken me only thirty minutes to write five pages because I found the assignment to be easy and fun. I ended up getting an A+ for it, too. That’s when I knew I was a writer.

It was my love for movies and of writing stories of my own that eventually led me to go to attend the best screenwriting schools.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

My biggest filmmaking influence is Steven Spielberg. As a director, he has a way of injecting a sense of child-like wonder into his stories. I always try to capture that feeling through my writing. Other directors I look up to are Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and David Fincher.

Some screenwriters I look up to are Aaron Sorkin, for his exquisite use of dialogue; Christopher Nolan, for his imaginative settings like those of Inception and Interstellar; and Quentin Tarantino, for being unapologetic, authentic and true to himself with every script.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Yes, absolutely! Peter Jackson’s King Kong will always be one of my favorite movies. The story, acting, direction, scriptwriting format and production design were so well done, that every time I watch it, I feel like I’ve been pulled into the jungles of Skull Island. I must have watched this movie a hundred times, if not more!

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

I don’t know if it’s my absolute favorite, but one moment I love is at the climax of Aliens, when Ripley steps out in that big mech and says “Get away from her, you b*tch!”

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Currently, my favorite character is Hannibal Lecter. I love that he’s not what you’d normally expect from a serial killer in a movie. Everything about him surprises you. And of course, Anthony Hopkins is the best.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

I never got a chance to meet Stan Lee, but if I had a chance, I’d ask him what his secrets were for creating so many great characters and how to write a film script like him.

Myles Hewette

What’s your name? Where were you born? And where do you live?

I am Myles Hewette. I’m originally from Pahoa, Hawaii but currently live in New York City.

What’s your hobby?

Until I’m able to make a living by writing, it’s the only hobby I care to have.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed you as the finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

It started as a 4-page sketch I wrote for a Clip Show, a monthly live show I was a writer for in 2018. When I took a pilot-writing workshop at UCB in 2019, I pitched the basic premise of that sketch as the premise for a pilot, and over the course of 8 weeks expanded it into the first draft of Middle Age, the screenplay that placed in this contest. In fact, parts of that sketch have managed to survive in the cold open of this pilot.  

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

I honestly wish that I could, because I would probably be a much better screenwriter. Having written for sketches for years, I have a habit of jotting down pitches on my phone and when I sit down to write the screenplay story structure I usually check my various notes apps to find these ideas. I’ll usually start trying to write a couple of pages based on my favorites and see if anything I’m throwing at the wall is sticking. If I’m going to try to write something longer, at this point I start writing outlines, pages, notes, character sheets, basically anything as long as I’m writing. 

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

I have no memory of any moment in particular but knowing myself I’m fairly certain it was because of The Simpsons.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

See above. I’m a huge fan of the writing style of 90’s Simpsons episodes, which have a solid fundamental A/B story structure but are still willing to stop everything and make time for a purely silly joke.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Okay, I can’t just answer “The Simpsons” to every question. But honestly, when I think of being obsessed with a tv show I think of Lost. My roommates and I watched Lost DVDs on repeat, read the message boards, really spent a whole lot of time and energy thinking about Lost. It was a great show. I remember feeling legitimately sad when it ended, less because of the actual finale (which was fine, I guess) but more because the shared experience was over.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

This is going to seem like a joke, but I swear I am 100% serious: When Billy Madison lurches into Veronica Vaughn’s home and finds his recurring hallucination, a giant penguin, is standing on the stairs holding a drink. It is silly and dumb and serves to move the plot forward by demonstrating that Billy’s tendency toward self-sabotage makes him his own worst enemy. I think we can all identify with that. Plus, it’s a giant imaginary penguin and he raises his glass-like “oh hey, welcome! We were just having a nightcap!” It’s hilarious.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

The Penguin from Billy Madison. Just kidding. Sort of.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

The Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu. I would ask him to explain how the Pyramids were built, and why. I’d love to get that whole thing solved once and for all, so we can move on as a society.