Have you ever heard of Sealand? Hollywood writer and producer Sean Sorensen sure has! Sean chats with us this week about what other great ideas he has up his sleeve and his advice for making it in Hollywood.
Tell us about your background. Where are you from, and what did you want to do when you grew up?
I grew up in Orange County, California. I wanted to be an astronaut until I realized how much math was involved.
What was your first job in Hollywood and how did you get it?
I optioned the life rights to the family that founded Sealand, the smallest country in the world. I sold the story to Warner Bros. in 2003, wrote the script, and was hired as executive producer. That movie never got made, but I learned a ton from that experience.
What advice do you have for the next generation of young adults who want to break into the business?
I would tell them they have better luck breaking into a bank. But so what – if you are passionate about it, make it happen. Napoleon said, “If you commence to take Vienna, take Vienna.” I think getting ahead in this business requires an absolute narrow-mindedness. Throw away Plan B. Turn thought into action. Become the mantra, “this is going to happen,” and do everything it takes to realize your dreams.
Can you give us some insight into the creative process? What is the most difficult part of your job?
A surprising and frustrating percentage of my day is reminding other people to do what they said they were going to do, but I am pretty sure that is true with every business. Everyone’s creative process is different; just find out what works for you and assume that’s the right way to do it.
What does a typical work day look like?
I am super light-sensitive, so I get up around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. and immediately read a script and answer e-mails. So by the time I am in the office, I have already got a good head start on my day. The rest of the day is calls, meetings, e-mails, writing treatments, and, of course, reminding people to do what they said they were going to do.
How did you become involved with The Exchange? What are your thoughts about the program? Do you have a most memorable moment?
I met Rick Loverd during a lunch with writer Max Borenstein at Comic-Con 2012 and The Exchange has quickly become one of my favorite things of the year! My favorite moment has to be brainstorming ideas with Dr. Todd Coleman and Dr. Ricardo Gil de Costa for this television series we sold a few months ago. Todd and Ricardo are so genial, brilliant, and just downright cool … not to mention they made significant contributions to the scientific integrity of our show.
Other highlights of The Exchange include touring the nuclear submarine USS Albuquerque and the missile destroyer USS Stockdale with the U.S. Navy in San Diego, as well as visiting the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Dr. Coleman and Dr. De Costa’s laboratories at Salk Institute.
There has also been meetings with 4-star generals, panels with astronauts … basically, anything The Exchange does is super awesome and I feel lucky to be included.
What memory or experience stands out as a turning point early in your career?
Obviously, selling my first project was a big deal because suddenly, I was not just dreaming anymore. But segueing a few years later from screenwriter to executive was a major turning point. The writing process is typically so isolated and sedentary whereas producing allows me to showcase some of my natural abilities … like weeping, shouting, and begging.
What were your favorite movies and television shows when you were growing up?
I saw Star Wars when I was five years old and remember leaving the theater wanting to be Han Solo. Shortly thereafter, my mother married a religious zealot and, for the most part, radio, television, and movies became forbidden. Of course, that only made me want them more and here we are.
Is there anything that we should have asked, but did not? Anything else you would like to add?
Years ago, my beloved grandfather cut down a holly tree on his property. As a woodworking hobbyist, he intended to carve the holly wood into a set of chess pieces. The gnarled twisted stump laid in his front yard as he regaled me with his vivid dreams for this amazing chess set. He saw this chess set so clearly in his mind. For more than a dozen years, he made measurements, sketches, and plans, but never got around to carving the chess pieces. Eventually, he passed away and one of my first actions upon his death was to heft that stump into the garbage.
Thought is nothing. Action is everything.