Michael Angel Johnson, LISP 2022 Feature Screenplay Official Selection by 'Water Touching The Rock'
When and how did you get into writing?
When I was very young, I thought that I would be a poet, and there was often dialogue in my poems. People would comment on how strong the dialogue was. Finally, a teacher told me that I was really a playwright. When I wrote my first play, I felt that I had come home. My instructor suggested that I go to The Yale School of drama where for three years I was emersed in every aspect of theatre. At one point, screenwriting became part of my studies; my love of the visual (I used to paint) joined with my love of storytelling, and I discovered another kind of joy in writing screenplays.
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I go through different stages in relation to my writing, depending on the season. I try to do something every day that connects me to writing. I teach at a college, so when I am teaching, I do not always physically write every day. However, I can read poetry, go to the theatre, or to the movies and all of these activities inspire me. My students also inspire me with their eagerness to learn and to take chances with their writing. In addition, I go to museums and galleries to be inspired by the past and the present. During the summer, I try to write every day. I now divide my time between Manhattan and a village in Southern Italy. When in my Italian village, I am able to spend my days working on my writing.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Recognition feeds me in a very special way. It lets me know that I have communicated with others as a writer, which in the end is the real goal of a writer. Of course, on one level, I write for myself, but I want that communication to touch others. Therefore, recognition of - a publication, a production, a reading, winning a competition - is like a pat on the back, saying that what I am doing is the right thing.
-What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay? The best thing about writing a screenplay is that one is not limited by location. Often in plays (which I also write), it is not beneficial to have too many locations, which can mean many scene changes, black outs, or unnecessary movement on the stage, which can all take away from the flow of the story. The most challenging part of writing a screenplay for me, as a playwright, is making the story flow with a visual narrative. The visual narrative is often what keeps the audience glued to the screen.
-How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it? My screenplay was inspired by the life of Mary Edmonia Wildfire Lewis (1844 -1907) who is the first woman of African-American and Native American (Ojibwe ) heritage to earn an international reputation as a visual artist (sculptor). She went to Rome around1865 and died in London around 1907. My screenplay focuses on a small part of her rich and extensive life.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions? The best thing about competitions is that it forces writers to put their work out into the world. The most challenging part is that the work will not - cannot be accepted to every competition, forcing the writer to deal with rejection. But then, the writer must not let the rejection defeat the writer and must come back to the joy of the writing itself.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their screenplays to LISP? I definitely recommend that writers submit their work to LISP because they are interested in a variety of stories, which means that different types of writers have a chance in the competition. Also, LISP is interested in supporting and encouraging writers and their stories. I am honored that my screenplay is a part of the LISP mission.