Steve Trautmann

A few years ago I was asked to write a monologue for a 20-year-old actor. I thought back to what was going on in my life when I was that age, which was serving overseas in the Air Force. What were my fears? What were my fantasies? What emotions were driving me, or at least dominating my thoughts?

I chose a combination of a fear and a fantasy. And an hour later I put the finishing touches on a one minute monologue that I still really like. Unfortunately, it didn't work for the actor. It didn't fit him. Even though he was 20, he looked 16, so believing him as an Airman 1st Class, well, just didn't work.

Fast forward to a couple of years later. While having lunch with my friend and playwright, Mark Harvey Levine, I was kvetching about the things that TV writers always kvetch about, and he was patiently listening. Ultimately, he said: "It sounds like you're in a rut. Why don't you write a couple 10 minute plays and enter them in competitions or submit them for production?" It was good advice; I was stuck.

And then I thought of that monologue.

Before and during most of my college years, I considered myself a playwright. Though I knew I wanted to be a sitcom writer eventually, I wrote more plays than anything else. So, true to habit, following my lunch with Mark I wrote four short plays over the next couple of months.

It was fun to flex my theater muscles again. I ended up submitting one of the four to a competition, and thankfully, it won and was given a production. It was a dark comedy about a newbie hitman. And essentially, it was the climax scene from a feature idea that I'd had a while ago, but never got around to writing.

The play that evolved from that monologue is still my favorite of that batch. Like many short plays, it's about two people in one room with a lot of emotion. And shortly after I wrote those plays, I got busy with other projects and kind of forgot about them.

Fast forward again. Not long ago I was talking with a friend who is also a producer. He was looking for new material and I was looking to do some more directing. He asked if I had any low budget scripts, especially scripts that only have a couple locations. I didn't have any completed contained features, but the next day I realized I could take the short play based on the monologue and expand it out. I figured it would work great as a contained romantic comedy. So that's what I'm working on now, with enthusiasm. 

I went from feeling stuck to feeling hopeful by flipping the script. Try it sometime.

Categories: Writing Tips, The Biz

About The Author

Steve, a member of the WGA with film & sitcom credits, is the producer & co-host of "3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast," as well as the producer & co-host of VPF's "Hollywood Insight." He's a graduate of UCLA, and a member of Veterans in Film & Television (VFT).

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