Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Matt McHugh

Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire

By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.

Who are you and where are you from? 

Matt McHugh, from Los Angeles; via Mumbai, India; originally from Pittsburgh, PA. If I had money, I’d live in all three places.

Where and when did you come up with the idea for your screenplay?

The idea for Scottstale came from my half-Persian friend who, at the time, lived with his parents, and I had recently been beaten up by my girlfriend’s separated husband. (Separated because he’d cheated, so…frankly, a bit unwarranted…)

Actually, the ideas for both Scottsdale and Faithful Nannies were motivated by an assignment I had in a writing class, to come up with five ideas for sitcom premises. After the instructor discouraged me from pursuing the nanny idea by saying it might offend women, I ended up writing the first 10 pages of Scottstale (at that time called Gossip Sag, as the original idea was for the main character to start a gossip magazine at the retirement home).

I told Amelia about the rejection of the nanny idea, a little offended that he had called my idea offensive, and Amelia was supportive, and later suggested we write it together, as she was an actual nanny at the time.

Can you take us through your screenwriting process? 

I used to write only upon inspiration, as long as it would hold. Or sit down to write and push through until I was sure no inspiration was coming – very little prewriting or structuring. Now, I’m working more on both of those latter two, though I’m honestly not sure if it’s helping.

What made you want to become a screenwriter?

Not sure, but I always loved the Oscars’ presentation of Best Screenplay (original and even adapted), and any short segment they’d do along with it.

Who are your biggest filmmaking influences? 

I like Charlie Kaufman, and Jeffrey Boam/Tom Stoppard’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of my favorite movies. The way it combines a great plot with great character development and dialogue, as well as tasks that hinge upon knowledge earlier gained and/or shown to be possessed by Indy. Tom Stoppard did a rewrite on it, so both he and Jeffrey contributed. (Also, Stoppard’s short play, clever Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a favorite of mine.) And Charlie Kaufman’s quirky examination of character and psychology has on multiple accounts encouraged me.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? 

Maybe The Loop, the 2005-06 Fox Comedy about a young executive at an airline. Or The Life & Times of Tim. Or Jake and Amir.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? 

I don’t know. Kept trying to come up with this one. Never succeeded. I appreciate your interest, though.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? 

Probably the Mole from the South Park movie – he’s the ultimate practical pessimist, an existential nihilist, who despises God, but nonetheless finds the will to fight for La Resistance.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

Anyone from any field of endeavor? I know it’s been detailed in books, but I always think I’d like to talk to Albert Einstein and ask him to take me through his thought process on…anything physics-related.

As a second choice, I guess it’d be Jesus, and ask him if he expected to become as big as he has. Or if he’d have anything to say to help persuade people to stop fighting.


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