Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Andrea Zastrow
Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire
By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.
What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?
I’m Andrea Zastrow, a native Iowan who currently resides in Wausau, Wisconsin. I was born in Monticello, Iowa and raised in both Monticello and Mount Vernon, Iowa. I’ve lived in the Heartland of America most of my life, and all of my scripts are set in the Midwest. (Locations are flexible.) I like to write, hike, ride my bike, bake and read.
Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?
Echoes of Broken Promises stems from complicated emotions that get stirred up every year as Father’s Day approaches. It’s a day I spent many years dreading. This story is very different than mine, but the protagonist’s disappointing relationship with his father hits close to home. Writing has always been very cathartic to me. I wrote the draft entered into your contest in a little over three months.
From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?
After an idea ruminates for a while, and I find I can’t get it out of my mind, that’s when I know I’m ready to write. It can take months of thinking about different scenes before I feel ready, but when that time comes, most of the characters’ names have already been chosen and they feel “real.” (My first feature, a comedy, was written over 12 years after I came up with the concept, but that’s another story… )
Many of my best ideas for characters and scenes come to me while exercising and showering. Once I feel ready to write, I like to map out different scene ideas on actual index cards—not on the Final Draft version. I like the tactile process of arranging and re-arranging scenes to find what works best. It also helps me determine if I have enough material. I rewrite as I write.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?
I’ve always liked to write. The comedy idea I mentioned above was originally going to be a book; however, my visions for the scenes were so vibrant, it felt like it should be a film. I’m a Communication Studies graduate of The University of Iowa and had never taken a course on screenwriting or film. I had to teach myself the craft by reading countless books, blogs, online articles, etc. I’ve also taken an online workshop and joined a few writers’ forums. It’s been a delightful journey, and I’m still learning daily.
Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?
I like many Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron movies. I’m drawn to dramas, comedies and dramedies. I don’t think my writing style is like his, but I took Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass and thought it was phenomenal. I picked up a few nuggets from him.
- Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why? I don’t know if obsessed is the right word, but my absolute favorite movie is Something to Talk About from 1995. I like grounded, character-driven movies with heart that explore complicated family dynamics. It’s something all of my scripts have in common.
As for TV shows, I loved The Office and Schitt’s Creek. My husband and I still refer to jokes from both shows years later, so that says something.
What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?
“I’ll have what she’s having.”
~ When Harry Met Sally (Did I really need to add that?)
I love that this iconic line wasn’t from a main character, but Director Rob Reiner’s mother. Listening to Billy Crystal explain the story behind it makes it even more hilarious.
Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?
It’s hard to pick just one, but Atticus Finch and Ferris Bueller rank up there. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and Ferris Bueller is such a unique character.
If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I have so many questions for Jesus. I’d also like to talk to my ancestors. My maternal grandpa was unconventional and fun—quite the character, himself—and a huge influence in my life. I never met his father and one of his sisters. I’m sure they’d have entertaining stories!