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Life & Work with Michael Ouzas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Ouzas.

Hi Michael, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Growing up in Australia, I never felt that being a screenwriter was a viable career option. I knew that I liked to write, but the idea of actually writing for a living was unfathomable. So, and I know this sounds ridiculous, I took what felt like the easy path and became a lawyer.

But the law felt like more of a chore than a challenge. I wasn’t satisfied with making rich companies richer. On the other hand, creating things has always given me energy. As a kid, I was always drawing or painting or writing mediocre songs and singing them even more mediocrely.

Even throughout my career as a lawyer, I would rush home from work brimming with ideas, eager to get them down on the page. So, when the opportunity came along to follow my screenwriting dream in the US, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t take the plunge.

One reason I’m drawn to writing is that I get bored easily. The moment I know I can do something for sure, it’s no longer interesting to me. It’s probably a symptom of a deeper disorder that will come out in my writing at some point. Writing is like a puzzle that rearranges itself with every new story.

Something that works in one story won’t necessarily work in the next one, so you have to constantly adapt to what each story requires. The possibilities are endless.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When you start out, it can feel like you have to wait for someone else’s approval. To make it worse, it can feel like it’s entirely up to chance whether the right sample gets into the hands of the right gatekeeper at the right time.

I tried to force myself to focus on the things I could control – improving my craft, polishing my samples, learning different aspects of the industry by working on friend’s projects – and trust that those would hold me in good stead when an opportunity arose.

I’ve been rejected more times than I can count. In one particularly rough patch, I applied to a ridiculous number of jobs and only heard back from one. I got my hopes up… and then the person ghosted me. At that point, you just have to laugh. If there was anything else in the world I could see myself doing, I might have been tempted to explore it then.

Having said all that, it’s been a remarkably smooth road given how difficult this industry can be. I’ve been very fortunate with the wonderful mentors I’ve had and the opportunities that have presented themselves.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I write drama TV and feature films. I’m drawn to stories about institutions that ask us not to be human, as well as the sacrifices we make to preserve our humanity. I strive, through my work, to illuminate our shared humanity and move people in the direction of love.

I’m currently working on AMC/Spectrum Originals’ upcoming TV series Beacon 23 with a truly legendary group of writers. It’s an absolute privilege to share the writers’ room with them and learn from them every day.

The show is a sci-fi thriller based on the book by Hugh Howey and we have an all-star cast led by Lena Headey and Stephan James. I can’t wait for people to see the show because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

I’m also developing a number of film and TV projects which I’m excited to share soon!

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
As a writer, it definitely helps to have a sense of humor. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to tell stories for a living, but there will inevitably be difficult moments.

There are times when you spend months developing a story, only for a show or movie with an identical premise to be announced and essentially render your story obsolete. In those moments, there’s nothing you can do but grieve your now useless story, then laugh and move on to the next story.

It’s also essential to learn to live with rejection. If you can, learn to revel in rejection. Easier said than done, but it’s part of life as a writer. Even the most successful writers deal with constant rejection. When I was starting out, I kept a running tally of my rejections.

It got to the point where I was actually proud of how many rejections I had. By the time I heard about my dream job, I was shooting out job application emails at record speed. But this was the first job I’d applied to that I was genuinely passionate about, and I was lucky enough to land the gig.

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Akil Rashad Anderson

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