Marilyn Anderson: The Scientist Turned Screenwriter

Marilyn Anderson

She is an author, speaker, and award-winning film and television writer. Marilyn Anderson co-wrote and Executive Produced the family feature, How to Beat a Bully. On TV, she has written for Murphy BrownFAMEFriday the 13th – the Series, and Carol & Company.

She didn’t start out in entertainment though. Her educational background is actually science-based, having earned degrees in biology and physiology. She worked as a scientist until one day she said “I don’t want to do this anymore, I want to be a star!” And with that Anderson quit her job, sold her car, packed her things, dumped her boyfriend, moved to New York and quickly found herself in a Broadway play.

A One Way Trip to La La Land

Soon thereafter she took a vacation out to Los Angeles and never went back. She came out originally thinking she wanted to be an actress but once in Los Angeles, she decided she wanted to write a script based on an idea she had. Anderson bought a screenplay writing book and followed its formula. “Everyone told me, ‘Oh you’ll never get an agent or anyone to read it!’ and I had a lot of interest in it from the get-go and although it didn’t get made at the time, I got an agent right away,” she notes, “Basically I got into the industry because I wrote a spec script and realized that was my calling.”

Anderson then started writing some spec sitcoms, got a temp job on a show and ended up being asked to stay. From that job, she ended up landing her first two writing jobs, working on half hour sitcoms. While she was writing half hour scripts, she continued writing features on the side because that is where her real passion is, as a self proclaimed storyteller.

Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990) – source: Paramount Home Entertainment

“It was so totally out of my wheelhouse but I totally loved doing it. It was really fun to write,” she says of her experience writing for the short lived Friday the 13th television series. The show had a cult following in its day (1987 – 1990). Anderson wrote three episodes and she was interviewed for the book on the series that just recently came out entitled “Curious Goods: Behind The Scenes of Friday The 13th: The Series”

Patience and Persistence Pays Off

Sometimes in Hollywood, scripts sit on shelves for many years before anything, if anything, is ever done with them. The very first script Anderson wrote is finally being sold twenty years after it was written. And her most recent film, How To Beat a Bully was optioned eight times before it was produced and eventually made.

“Finally, I decided ‘no more options’ because they would option it, hang on to it and never come through. And as soon as I decided that, things started to happen. I found an investor and teamed up with a production company, they brought in another investor and within six months we were cast and in production,” says Anderson.

She says she’s really happy that she decided to take it upon herself instead of waiting for other people to make her movie come to life, “I kept at it in all the ways that, when you’re in this business, you have to pursue.”

How To Beat A Bully

“When I was a kid I was bullied,” she confesses and notes that she and her writing partner, who had also been bullied, wanted to write a family comedy movie with this theme at the heart of it.  “We came up with the idea of a kid who moved to a new town and was bullied and what could happen with that. But the big twist was that he comes up with this outrageous lie that protects him which causes other repercussions for his father and the town,” she says.

Aware of the fact that a lot of films with the theme of bullying tend to be rather distressing and depressing, they wanted to carry the theme of “it’s better to be friends than bullies” but not be a downer; making for a much lighter storyline and tone through the film with lots of smiles and laughter. The Huffington Post described it as a “Home Alone type comedy”.

How To Beat A Bully (2015) – source: Indie Rights

“When you’re casting and you have the actors come in and they just nail it or have something special they just bring to the part and make it more unique than we wrote it, I think that’s really wonderful”, Anderson remarks on what it’s like to see her characters brought to life. Noting that writers often don’t have much say once the script is written, “being a producer gave me a little more control”, she says “not all the control that I wanted but a little more control which is good because there have been times as a writer, you see what they do to your work and they’ve changed it drastically. But in this case we were able to make most of the changes that were necessary  ”

One of the stars in the family-comedy, Pearce Joza (Kirk), also stars in the new Disney series, Mech-X4, as Spyder.

A Word Of Advice

Her advice to budding and aspiring writers is “Never give up. If you believe in something, keep doing it!” Again commenting on the fact that a really great script might take twenty years to sell. “Never give up,” she says with encouragement and motivation in her voice.

Up next Marilyn Anderson has a romantic comedy that goes into production early next year entitled Cold Feet, A Wedding Tale, as well as the release of her upcoming book, “How To Live Like A Millionaire When You’re A Million Short” in the beginning of the new year. But in the meantime you can watch How To Beat A Bully on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and on DVD.

Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.
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Director/Writer/Producer at Starseed Pictures and host of the Miss Vision podcast, Jacqui Blue is a Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker with a background in writing and theater. www.jacquiblue.net