Travis Beacham on Breaking Into Hollywood
by Scott Essman
When prompted how he launched his career as a screenwriter, Travis Beacham humbly stated, “I don’t really know.” Surely, with Pacific Rim in theaters in 2013, and Clash of the Titans a major international hit in 2010, Beacham is already near the top of a very short list of reliable genre writers, his uncertain beginnings notwithstanding. Of note, his entry into the field would have been hard for anyone, screenwriter or otherwise, to predict. “I was in film school either in my last or next to last year,” he remembered. “I was writing a screenplay not with a mind to sell it, just for the fun of it. I liked the world and characters. It was the script where I learned to write screenplays: A Killing on Carnival Row.”
Creative Screenwriting also interviewed Travis Beacham on the writing of his (and Guillermo del Toro’s) screenplay for Pacific Rim. To read the interview click here.
Coincidentally, a classmate who had graduated the year before him was in California, interning for Kopelson Entertainment. “He asked if I was interested in sending it,” Beacham recalled. “I don’t think I thought anything of it at the time. Without even spell-checking it, I sent it in, and a month later, he called and was sort of hushed, but he said, ‘You will start getting phone calls.’ My life was never really quite the same ever again.”
Not taking the opportunity lightly, Beacham followed his friend to Southern California and joked that he “had an agent before I had pulled off the off-ramp.” That first spec script was soon optioned and sold to New Line. Looking back now, Beacham is fully aware of his good fortune with that acrimonious initial endeavor. “It was the absolutely best-case scenario of breaking into the business,” he said. “When it happens, this is sort of how it happens. There is going to be a door unlocked somewhere. For me, it happened to be the first one.”
In offering advice to other new writers, Beacham is hesitant to position any one particular avenue towards gaining a foothold in the industry. “There’s no formula you can apply without error,” he said. “Any way you can think of to put your material in front of someone—if it’s material that you are passionate about, and that you are sure about and have loved into existence. That’s all you can really do process-wise.”
At first, Beacham had little context for his remarkable early success. “For somebody fresh out of film school, it takes some getting used to,” he commented. “That whole incident [with Carnival Row], it never really came to anything. You don’t necessarily have to have your movie made to have success. Maybe it will be made, and maybe it won’t. I was stunned how casually things happen. I think that’s reassuring for people on the outside trying to get in. Any way that you can figure out to have people invested in your idea—any of it could lead to success.”
Given Pacific Rim’s premiering this summer season, Beacham has taken many meetings of late. “Broadly, I’m looking to go into television at AMC—a science-fiction crime series,” he said. “It takes place in a city on a generation starship. Television has always been an appealing medium for writers to work in.”
Depending upon Pacific Rim’s final performance, Beacham is also considering the direction he would take with Pacific Rim 2 and would like to write another original feature film. “I would love to have more original material developed,” he stated. “Pacific Rim has made that slightly more possible.”
In the past five years, Beacham has also written drafts of screenplays for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Black Hole; while the former project is set up at Scott Free, the latter is set up at Disney with director Joe Kosinsky [Oblivion] attached.
[Editor’s Note: To learn a lot more about the writing of Travis Beacham’s screenplay for Pacific Rim, click here.]
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