Writer on Writer | Q&A with Swila Lead Mau Luz


Follow Mau on Instagram: @wake.up.mau

Check out Mau's Swila Screenplays!


Fun facts about Mau:

  • Survived a major car crash uninjured. 
  • Once I beat The Simpsons arcade game in front of a huge audience. 
  • I started taking pictures to overcome my shyness, it kinda worked! 

Q: What is your favorite screenplay you’ve written? Or what are a few of your favorites? And why? 

My favorite screenplay has to be the one that gave me my first victories in filmmaking. It’s called HALCYON and I first used it to win a pitch in college, in front of a lot of people! The coolest thing was that I wasn’t able to finish the presentation because I was too nervous, yet the judges praised my concept and chose it for production. People also approached me afterwards to congratulate me. It was the best experience! This concept and story has become a huge influence in my writing. 

Q: Are there any characters that you developed in exercises that you have continued to write in other screenplays/personal projects? 

No, I haven’t but I did write “My Heart Will Go On” to win my first exercise and then continued the story in “The False Messiah” series. Then, I rewrote the first story into Alcyone for the draft, which as of now is my favorite script I’ve written for SWILA. 

Q: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

I guess it was a slow realization for me. When I was at school I had an inclination for arts, yet I always had issues with teachers because I didn’t like to follow the rules of assignments. This gave me a strange feeling about self-expression, like it was somehow wrong to follow your heart. Later, a language teacher read a story from me and encouraged me to compete in a contest, so I did! It was later that a friend told me he was studying cinema and I got curious about it. At that time I was studying psychology. So, I decided to change my career path to filmmaking. A year later I bumped into an old friend from school and told her about this. What she said made me realize I had made the right choice. She said “I thought you were gonna do something like that, you were always inventing stories and stuff when we were kids”. 

Q: What is your earliest memory of writing being a means of expression for you? 

I remember once I read a story a friend of my brother had written for an assignment, I was like 8 years old or something. It was a story about a bully that meets a beast, who had previously assaulted the bully’s little brother, under a bridge and starts fighting like forever, because both are inclined to fight! The story was called “The Bully and the Beast” and I liked it so much! I waited impatiently for two years to get that assignment (that dude and my brother are two years older than me). So, I wrote a similar story for my assignment and enjoyed it so much! I guess I can call that a means of expression! 

Q: What novel’s/novelists have inspired your writing throughout your life? 

By far the most important novelist for me is Hermann Hesse, particularly because of Demian which is my favorite novel of all time. But I also really like novels by Richard Bach, like Illusions or Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I also consider Catcher in the Rye by Salinger and The Stranger by Camus a must read for everyone. But in all honestyThe Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Paradise Lost are the most epic stories ever!

Q: What films/filmmakers have inspired your writing throughout your life? 

I always struggle with this question! All in all, I can say that considering the body of work, Steven Spielberg is my favorite director/filmmaker of all time. The first movie that impacted me was Jurassic Park, but it was mostly because I have good family memories with it. Independence Day is also important to me because of childhood friends and ugghAliens! Full Metal Jacket by Kubrick was the first time I watched a movie and thought about the power of filmmaking, same with 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, there are two movies that when watching I ended up with this feeling of “man I wish I had come up with this idea”. One is A Ghost Story and the other is called John Dies at the End. I guess overall the movies that have impacted me the most are the ones I got to share with important people in my life. 

Q: What are your personal writing goals? 

To be the best writer of all times! I want to be there with Hermann, with Salinger, Bradbury, but also with Charlie Kaufman and Sorkin, maybe even better than themWhy not?! It’s not something about ego by the way, it’s about looking ahead and not finding the horizon, to never finish the struggle until the very end cause to me writing has a duty side. When I read Demian of The Illustrated Man, when I watched Silver Linings Playbook or Fight Club, my life changed somehow for the better. I was lost and found myself, I was in pain or sad and got better. Movies can do that, stories can do that, and I want to save others as others have saved me. 

Q: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

World peace, seriouslyalso ending animal suffering and finding a way for all of us to live without having to hate/eat one another. But in all honesty, I would love to be able to jump as high as I want without being harmed, like jumping super high and then having those vertigo feelings as you go down to earth once again, but without breaking your legs! 

Q: What would you do if you knew you would fail? And what is worth it to you anyways? 

Same answer! I mean maybe not the jumping stuff. Most things are worth doing just because of the journey, I get that. I just wish I had all the time in the world to embark on different adventures without having this feeling of wasting time. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I truly believe that not following your heart, especially when it’s screaming at you, is the worst decision you can ever make, no matter if you can’t see the end of things. 

Q: What is your idea generating process? Do you like to have designated time to generate ideas or do you go about your life and have moments of transcendent inspiration, ideas for stories you HAVE to write? 

I like this question! So first I focus on a premise, a designing principle and a theme line. My first task is to get them on paper. Once I have them I kinda know what the story is about, so for the next few days I research about it, watch some movies, and read a lot. By this time, I’m completely obsessed with the idea and the rest of the world kinda disappears until I can finish the story! I used to have moments of inspiration, yet now I try to have a bit more control over them. It's a process of putting information in your head and starting making connections according to what you want to write about, so it’s really important for me to figure out what I want to write about first.

Q: Do you outline before you write? If so, do you use treatment style, screenplay format, long hand, something else entirely? 

Yes, I do! I outline a lot! Maybe three or four times before doing anything else. It’s really important for me to only write the script once I have the complete sequence of events written. This is a commitment I did with myself that has prevented me from leaving stories half written, which is the worst! My style is to write “Now, tell me the story” on the top of the page and then answer the question as many times as I need until the story is written completely. The first time I may only vaguely write about a complex sequence or some stuff I’m not sure about, but I highlight this and so on the second draft I already know where to improve. 

Q: What is your dream environment for writing (disregarding cost or any other prohibitors)? 

A void space, like a vacuum or outer space! But with constant fresh air, as I kinda hate the air in enclosed spaces. Also, with lots of water and constant supply of tasty food! (a.k.a. french fries!). 

Q: How do you feel you have grown as a writer since your first exercise submission? 

A lot actually! When I arrived I posted a simple story about a dude in the middle of the sea, people really liked it! This gave me such encouragement and so I have kept writing almost nonstop since then. I’ve received a lot of awesome advice that has shaped my style into what it is right now. So yeah, to say I’ve grown a lot because of SWILA is almost an understatement because I really feel so privileged to have experienced all the amazing things the forum has given me. Note aside, I’m kinda always expecting that weekly Kole’s call into action, I feel it almost like a bat sign! Like, time to kick some writing ass people! 

Q: In what ways do you want to continue to improve as a writer? 

Right now, I’m focused on character’s development. I feel more confident about the plot structure in my head so I can go about the way I imagine my characters in different ways than what I used to do. My hope is to be able to write about different people, maybe characters I don’t even understand or like, but to gain this ability is my current objective. After that I want to try and find an original way to structure a story and finally to improve on my dialogues! 

Q: What are you proudest of in your writing achievements? 

In 2016 I was asked to write the bible for a TV series to try and win a local funding contest for production. I had six or so months and I was already working and studying a screenwriting specialization. It was the longest six months of my life! Yet despite many problems and people leaving the project, I managed to write it fully and the team did an excellent job with the designs of characters and overall production value (it’s an animation!) and so we managed to win the first prize! Not only that, but we also went on to win another more important prize that allowed us to be broadcasted on national TV and abroad. Watching my name as a writer on the screen filled me with pride and happiness! 

Q: What do you want people to take away from your writing? 

First of all, I want them to be entertained and so I try to come up with interesting ideas and concepts that can achieve this. Having done that, my goal is to dive into storytelling in the hopes of finding just what the hell is going on in our lives! Finding these answers is a must for me, a way to shed some light in the path for others, reflecting on my own struggles and fears, but also interests and the constant search for happiness and wellbeing. I guess I want people to feel those same feelings I had when reading a great book or watching an amazing movie, inspiration and awecatharsis!

Follow Hannah on Instagram: @hannahwagner3932

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Always be writing.

Dream big. 

Tell better stories.

Never give up.


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