Monte Albers de Leon

What inspired you to become a screenwriter, and what keeps you motivated to keep writing?

It all started with a late night heated discussion with my best friend last summer over the coming onset of AI in all aspects of our lives and what impact it would have on humanity’s concept of goodness. I defended humanity with an allegory and wrote it down on the Notes app on my phone and 10 weeks later, Good was written. Honestly the feeling I had bringing that story to life is not I can simply ignore, and I would gladly end a 22-year legal career to keep writing these stories.

Can you tell us about your writing process, from the initial idea to the final draft?

After adding to story on my phone for a couple of days, my friend suggested a more robust method of capturing the story. I asked if he meant Microsoft Word and he asked me if I had heard of Final Draft. I had not. I purchased the software and let the story just come out of me, from beginning to end. The last 90 pages took 2 weeks.

How do you approach creating characters, and what techniques do you use to develop them?

I wanted the main characters to represent the archetypes of human personality, so that the viewer would not only wonder which personality might be best suited to survive an apocalypse, but also witness every type of human find a way to choose to help each other even in the worst of circumstances, maybe even because of them.

Can you share with us a bit about your latest project and the story behind it?

A terror attack in the US causes its newly AI-controlled Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take synchronize and control all of the country’s military and civilian infrastructure AI in an apparent upgrade in security and efficiency. The AI mistakes a concurrent virulent Covid outbreak in Arizona as a bioweapons attack from China and, despite human orders not to attack, retaliates, setting off the apocalypse. This day is viewed mostly from the perspective of six employees in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, trapped in their regional headquarters, who become the unlikely potential saviors of the planet.

What do you think sets your writing apart from others in the industry, and how do you showcase your unique voice?

I wanted to accomplish two things in writing this:

1) I wanted the story to be believable. I researched every detail to confirm that what I wrote existed and was possible.

2) I wanted the story to have a message, but one hidden in enough entertainment that the audience wouldn’t think they were watching a message movie. I tried to accomplish that with the humor in the tone at times and the pace of the action.

How do you balance your personal creative vision with the needs of producers, directors, and other collaborators?

By not forgetting that this is entertainment, and that in order for the audience to benefit from the story, they must want to experience the story, so they must enjoy the story.

Can you talk about a particularly challenging moment you faced while working on a project and how you overcame it?

Sleep became an issue. I have my own legal practice and was writing this story knowing that my second child was due in a few months and would have no time afterwards for awhile, so I just kept writing some nights until morning. I occasionally took a night off.

How do you see the role of screenwriting in the film industry evolving, and how do you see yourself fitting into that future?

Ironically, AI might make a dent in it, so finding the uniquely human element in story telling, the empathic note that humanity shares in its lived experience I think will only increase in value. I hope to be able to give that.

Can you share any advice or tips for emerging screenwriters who are just starting out?

Find that voice that is uniquely yours, the one that speaks when it is just you having the conversation. That’s the voice your writing will find its authenticity. And authenticity is one of the last currencies left.

Finally, what are your long-term goals as a screenwriter, and what legacy do you hope to leave in the industry?

Frankly, being a screenwriter would be a great long-term goal for me. Sneaking some laughs and a little hope into people’s lives would be a fantastic bonus.