Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Jordan Rockwell
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?
Jordan Rockwell’s the name! I was born on June 14th, 1977 in Philadelphia, PA (GO BIRDS!). I live in West LA with my amazing wife and children, who are my entire world.
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?
Our world has never been more divided in my lifetime, and I am completely convinced that we are being divided and conquered. This script, “Traitor,” began as a nightmare of mine; what if “my” side (redacted) in a future American civil war captured my best friend? This film (that I plan to film this year) is my sincere love letter to everyone I disagree with but care for deeply. Some of the feedback I’ve gotten from other festivals ask me why I never went into specifics of either side of the story’s conflict. I did that on purpose. I want the viewer to put themselves into the boots of the protagonist without any preconceived notions. It’s for all of us. This film will be a call for peace.
From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?
Sure. The story began in my head as I imagined (as I mentioned before) what if…what if…god forbid (the last two scenes in the script, you know the ones). From there, I reversed engineered the story. Then it was a question of when to set it (past, future, real, fiction?). The answer came pretty easy to me all things considered around the world today.
After that, I had a few friends read it and give me feedback. I let it sit for a few weeks and did a second draft making the protagonist a bit more likeable; instead of being a sadist from the get-go Sergio Leone-style, I decided to make him more grounded and angry, and war brought out his dark side that he ultimately hates.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?
When my late father took me to see the 70mm restoration of, “Lawrence of Arabia,” at the Senator Theater in Baltimore. Before the night, I only saw movies. But that night, at age 12, I discovered CINEMA.
And Dad, I will never stop making you proud of me. Love you, miss you.
Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?
Ridley Scott (use of zooms and visual storytelling), Robert Rodriguez (I TOTALLY stole a shot from, “From Dusk to Dawn,” in my (shameless plug, no time for shame in our business) award-winning short film, “Put Your F—king Phone Down), and Charlie Chaplin (smile, darn you, SMILE!).
Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?
Godfather, Part 2. I go over and over and over in my head what I would do in Michael’s shoes. Yes, he is essentially Satan by the end of that flick, but if you read, “Paradise Lost,” by John Milton, you’ll have sympathy for the devil.
What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?
That’s easy. “Play the Marseillaise. PLAY IT.”
I happened to be in the Culver Hotel right after the terrorist attacks in Nice. There, they were showing, “Casablanca,” on the wall (they often show black and white pictures, silent pictures, on the lobby wall, it’s a magical place for movie lovers) and as the freedom fighters drowned out the Nazis…not a dry eye in the house.
Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?
Ip Man, as played by Donnie Yen in, “Ip Man.” I wear a bracelet with that character’s name around my wrist every day for a reason; to remind me. Be like him; strong, yet kind and gentle. A true leader. One who doesn’t back down but also has compassion for his enemies.
If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?
President Lincoln. “How you holding up, buddy?”