ED- The Eerie Digest is going to do something new by introducing someone breaking into the screenwriting field. We would like to introduce John Meyer, a former police officer who has exchanged his badge for a pen. John, tell us about your former work in Law enforcement.
JM- Thanks so much for having me Joe. “Can I get a water please?…..*John takes a drink…it goes down the wrong pipe. He coughs and spits water on Joe’s nice jacket. “Ahhhck!…I’m sorry Joe.” They get a towel brought out….recover….and move on….
I basically “Stuck My Nose” in the world of law enforcement around March of 1985, at the very “Green” age of twenty. I remember running across an old ARCO test booklet for “Detective” at my local library. I was so enthrawled by the first couple of pages, that I couldn’t wait to get it home before completing the practice tests inside. I planted myself at a table and remained there until I was pretty much kicked out by the librarian at closing. By the month of August of that year, I had graduated from the police academy, and moved with my Wife Laura down to Blythe California (city of 12,000 on the Ca. / Az. Border) where I started an adventure that lasted for just under twenty years.
During my tenure as a police officer, I was fortunate enough to experience a wide range of assignments; From Patrol Officer, to Jail Deputy, to Field Training Officer, to Undercover Special Enforcement Detective, to D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Officer, to High Risk Entry Team member, and finally General Crimes Detective, including Death Investigations. I was also lucky enough to receive specialized training as a Crisis Negotiator and CVSA (Computer Voice Stress Analysis (advanced Polygraph) Examiner.
ED- John, how will your previous work influence your work in your new field?
JM- I wrote “Stories” during every shift that I worked. Only instead of being in “Screenplay” form, they were in “Police Report” form. There is a standardized format writers utilize for writing screenplays, just like there is an accepted format officers utilize for police reports. The only differences between the two are;
1. Police reports must always be “Factual”…. Screenplays, on the flip side, can be “Fictional” (Which is my favorite difference, because it allows me to express my wacky end.) and…..
2. The audience for police reports? The DA, Defense Counsel, Jurors, and News Media. The audience for Screenplays? It all depends….one day it can be Females Age 18-35. The next day it can be 13 year-old Males who find a way to unblock HBO….next week it will be couples battling with Midlife Crisis, and a TV program or film is their only common ground……you get the picture. The whole point is…..a story is a story in either field. When training new officers in the area of writing reports, I’d merely ask them to….”Tell Me A Story.”
ED- What was your first endeavor in writing?
JM- From Law Enforcement….as a D.A.R.E. instructor in schools, my audience ranged from Kindergarten to Middle School kids. I had to write presentations that ranged from ten minutes to over an hour in length.
In the Entertainment area….let’s see…Around two years ago, our Son Grant (Actor / Filmmaker / Man About Town) was in his first semester of community college film courses. He needed assistance with the formation of a comedy short. We sat down and wrote “Slo-Motion Steve”, which is similar to an SNL type re-occurring character. He produced the short film and received very good feedback. After feeling the “Endorphine Rush” I received from seeing my words / story on film, I never looked back. On advice from Grant, I downloaded a free copy of a screenwriting program and once again…”Stuck My Nose” in the field.
JM- Picture in your mind…”The Shield” colliding with “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The Office” all in the world of “Entourage.” A “Dramody” pilot for TV about a Mildly Disturbed and Socially Dwarfed Cop, who’s mind floats in and out of reality on a minute to minute basis. He wants OUT of Law Enforcement and IN to Hollywood as a writer, however there are huge obstacles he will encounter along the way, (Most he places there by himself through his own stupidity.) He also wants “Love”, and his viewers will have the best “Watercooler Conversations” about how big of an ass he makes of himself and who they believe he should end up with. This story is not as much about Procedural Cop Work as it is about EXTREME CHARACTERS and their relationships. You’ll laugh, then cry, then get pissed, then laugh again. All designed to make your gut sore the next day.
ED- With a number of law enforcement shows on Television today, especially the very popular ‘Law and Order’ series, would you consider doing more serious work along these lines?
JM- Of course! David Shore, (whom I’ve met at WGAw) had the opportunity to write for high-end shows like Law and Order when he was first starting out. David was a LAWYER for five years before leaving the Eastern Seaboard for LA to break into show business. He, like me, had aspirations of being a COMEDY writer. On advice, he decided to write a Drama, Procedural, Spec Script, and the rest is history. We know him today to be the Creator and Show Runner of the Award Winning Series “HOUSE”.
ED- Would you consider lending your former expertise towards this series if asked to do so?
JM- Absolutely. It would be an honor just to sit in a writer’s room, keep my mouth shut and learn until it is my turn to contribute. Then….look out. I can get as dark, disturbing, and awkward with real life stories as needed.
ED- What are your aspirations for your writing in the future?
JM- To keep LEARNING. No matter where I’m at on the ladder of Hollyweird, I will continue to attend training and interact with other folks in the field. I’ve found another world that I naturally belong in that allows me to express myself…(In other words, a place where I can get ATTENTION)…LOL. Seriously, you just know when you know that you belong somewhere. Probably similar to how you just KNEW when you finished your first work. Thank you so very much for the work that you do Joe…we are all lucky to have you as a PIONEER friend in the business. I’ll eat beans around a campfire with you any day pal! *John farts* Very awkward for Joe….so he gracefully ends the interview…..
ED- John, with new shows on the horizon, and the possibilities of extensions of present shows in progress, we wish you the best of luck. Many of our student readers would be interested in your progress in light of their own aspirations, so please let us know of all the future developments in your career.