Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Alex Surowitz
Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire
By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Alex Surowitz. I’m a filmmaker originally from Williamsburg, VA but currently live in Grand Rapids, MI.
Where and when did you come up with the idea for your screenplay?
I came up with the original idea as a freshman at the Savannah College of Art and Design 13 years ago. Our first project was a film noir that I wrote the script for. The response was overwhelmingly positive. In 2020 I decided, after reading a lot of Chandler and Hammett and watching classic noir films, that I needed to revisit the idea and smooth it out.
Can you take us through your screenwriting process?
I usually start with a lot of research. Reading books, studying artwork, studying people. From there, I come up with an ending and try to work backwards. Ideas are written down in notebooks and on sticky pads to see what works. Then I sit down and write. From there I try and get a second or third or sometimes ninth opinion to see what people think.
What made you want to become a screenwriter?
I did a lot of creative writing in high school. I wanted to make sure people understood it and could see what I was seeing in my head. The number one comment I got was “Your stuff reads like a movie.” As a senior in high school I made a short film for a class project. After we finished showing it, somebody shouted “I want to make a movie with him!” and I was convinced that this is what I wanted to do.
Who are your biggest filmmaking influences?
Creative influences come from all over, from filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Mel Brooks, Clint Eastwood, Monty Python and Alfred Hitchcock to authors like Agatha Christie, R.A. Salvatore, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Even actors like William Powell, Myrna Loy, Humphrey Bogart, Chris Evans, Henry Cavill and Mark Hamill influence me with what they do. Even my family influences my creativity.
Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one?
There are almost too many to list! Movies have always been an obsession. Star Wars, Labyrinth, Ladyhawke, the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Thin Man, Mannequin, The Princess Bride, Harry Potter…and TV shows go even further. Supernatural, The Expanse, Hercules, Upstart Crow, The Alienist, Downton Abbey, Defiance, Suits, Firefly, Legend of the Seeker…the list goes on and on.
What’s your favorite moment in cinema history?
There are so many great ones. When I was younger, the big reveal in “The Empire Strikes Back” was a huge deal. I also like the reveal of Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Most recently, though, has been the establishment of the MCU. It really proves what careful planning and great characters can accomplish.
Who’s your favorite character in cinema history?
Another list of so many. Nick and Nora Charles, James Bond, Malcolm Reynolds, Phillipe Gaston from “Ladyhawke,” Jareth the Goblin King from “Labyrinth” and Luke Skywalker are just a few of my favorites.
If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would pick David Bowie. The man did it all and I would ask him how he maintained the balance.