Making It As A Screenwriter | Brendan Beachman

By: Sarah Chaisson-Warner

A writer and director of films and commercials, Brendan Beachman – a longtime punk drummer, outdoor enthusiast, sandwich lover, but most importantly, a new member of the Dad Club – has seen much success in his filmmaking career. As the second-place winner of the 2022 Shore Scripts Short Film Fund, his prize-winning script has been submitted to over 50 film festivals.

Brendan originally entered a very different version of the script to the Short Film Fund in 2018, and it made it to the finalist round. “It gave me a boost of validation that I did in fact have something potentially interesting,” he said.

Although Brendan didn’t have the resources at the time to shoot the script, the story and characters were consistently on his mind. “They never left.”

The film poster for A WEDDING DAY

As many writers do, Brendan revisited his script a few years later. His new revisions included drastically changing the characters and subtextual backstories, working through a much darker and more dramatic lens.

He re-submitted this new version of his script to the Short Film Fund “months before deciding to just bite the bullet and film it no matter what.” They went into production in late April, and “Surprise, surprise,” he said, “The production ended up being much costlier than anticipated!”

The award money from the Short Film Fund helped to pay for the film’s critical post-production needs, including the composer and his musician, colorist, sound designer and VFX artist.

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Filmed on Chamberlain Ranch in Los Olivos, writing and then shooting A WEDDING DAY for over four days brought several opportunities and learning moments for Brendan as a writer and director. Brendan encourages writers to be open to the “little miracles” that happen during production that at first seem to be deviations from your vision. For Brendan, that came in the form of character visioning and development – one of his main characters, Jess White.
“I originally pictured an older, wiry, hyperactive backwoods character… almost cartoonish in his demeanor. When I cast Hugo Armstrong and he showed up on set as a younger, decidedly burlier 6’6″ guy, I had to completely reframe who this character was in my mind. He also brought much more humanity to the character with his performance and the film is 1,000% better for it.”

Hugo Armstrong as Jess White in A WEDDING DAY

He also encourages writers and filmmakers to keep logistics and budgets in mind when writing and shooting. “Be willing to throw away all your preconceived notions of your film during production and fully embrace those little miracles. And don’t be like me and exhaust yourself to the point of delirium,” he said.

Case in point – after they wrapped day 3 of 4, Brendan stayed behind and dug a grave that they needed for the last day of the shoot. It was all shale rock, and he had to use a pick ax in order to dig down about 4 or 5 feet. It took 6 hours of non-stop digging, and then he woke up 2 hours late for their last shoot day!

What other advice does he have for aspiring screenwriters? First, write what you know – dig into your own experiences and write (see our recent article about how you can write a story only you can tell!) Write at least a few hours every day – this will keep you moving in the right direction and stay focused on your goals. And last, and most of all – read! Reading other people’s scripts will help to improve your craft. 

On the set of A WEDDING DAY

Since finishing A WEDDING DAY and submitting it to various film festivals, Brendan has been been working on several other projects as well.

He is currently pitching a feature thriller/horror film he wrote with Justin Boyes called THE LOOKOUT which was the horror genre winner last year in the Shore Scripts Feature Competition. THE LOOKOUT tells the story of a young woman, who, in the shadow of a looming global threat, attempts to escape modern society by taking a job at a remote fire lookout tower. In her newfound solitude, chilling events force her to question her own sanity and reality itself.

He is also writing a coming-of-age adventure/thriller feature. The story takes place in 2001 in his own tiny hometown of Craig, Colorado, and follows a group of kids who sneak away for a week-long rafting trip to search for treasure that Butch Cassidy hid in the canyon walls of the green river.

Want to learn more about A WEDDING DAY? Watch the two-minute teaser below and read our post-shoot Q&A with Brendan here.

Brendan Beachman is a graduate of Montana State University, where he studied film/photography, with an emphasis on screenwriting/directing and production design. His senior thesis film “Stasis” (2008) played at festivals worldwide. In 2009, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. He cut his teeth writing/directing/producing/ editing/sound designing, hundreds of advertisements & is now a full-time commercial director with worldwide representation. He has also written and directed many award-winning short films, including the semi-biographical dark comedy, “Intersection”. He has several feature film projects in varying stages of development. Brendan resides in Santa Monica, CA. with his wife, Angelyn, and son, Finn.

After 15 years of working in state and national politics, Sarah Chaisson-Warner is moving into the entertainment industry. As the former Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Athena Magazine for Girls, Sarah is now focusing her passion for creative arts through screenwriting. Many of her feature-length scripts focus on the often unseen experiences of gay women throughout American History, and she is also currently writing a sci-fi TV series and a family Christmas script. Her script, Serafina Stavinovna, was placed in “The Next 100” in the 2021 Nicholl Fellowship Competition, was a quarterfinalist in the 2022 WeScreenplay Competition, and a semi-finalist in the Outstanding Screenplays Competition.

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