Meet Jack Sekowski
“I have written for companies as diverse as Universal Pictures and Disney Feature Animation. I’m a proud member of WGAw. I co-wrote the comedy BEFORE BILLY which sold to Larry Gordon Productions. And co-wrote the teen comedy WHO’S YOUR DADDY which was directed by Andy Fickman. The film that launched his career before he moved on to “She’s the Man,” “You Again,” and “Parental Guidance.”
Let me tell you a story…
I come from a family of engineers. I don’t think they wanted me to become a writer. Let alone a screenwriter. In fact, I know so. But such is life.
I was born in Poland. My parents were shaped by their life experiences. First Nazis. Then Socialists. Until they in their great wisdom decided to leave…taking me with them.
I’m forever grateful!
I came to America when I was nearly 8 years old. Learned to speak English in 3 months.
I had a fascination with typewriters. I don’t know why. The only logical reason I can think of is that there were no video games at the time.
But they were so cool. I press a key and it creates an impression of a letter on paper. Put those letters together and they become words. I didn’t know how to read or write but there was something truly cool about that.
My family didn’t own a typewriter. But my parents felt confident that they could take me to an adult party and put me in a backroom with a typewriter and I could entertain myself for hours.
I have no recollection of what I was creating. But just the process of my stabbing keys with my little fingers was satisfying enough.
I wrote my first story using ink and paper when I was 9, I think. One page. One long paragraph. A riff on the first episode of “Lost in Space.” I still have it…somewhere.
I wrote more as I learned how to write. Fantastical stories. Derivative stories…
But then I discovered photography. Got good at it. And then I blended my two interests in one. Tell stories…using a camera.
Got a Nikon R10. A pretty cool Super-8 camera. And started making short films. Didn’t know that I was a cliché at the time. But capturing images. Splicing them together. Making movies. It created an uncanny satisfaction.
Not going to college was not an option. Ohio State was close. And they had a film department. Wrote and made funny films. Made sensitive introspective films. Made pretentious art films. Driven to explore and experiment.
Passion For Movies…
And I watched a ton of films. But was never that film geek working in a video store type of wannabe. Okay, I have to come clean. I was a geek. And I did work in a video store. But those two realms never meshed.
My passion for movies stretched through the full spectrum of film history. Everything from silent classics by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chase, and Harold Lloyd. To Laurel and Hardy and Lewis and Martin. To classic Hollywood from Citizen Kane to Singing in the Rain. To foreign wonders from Mr. Hulot’s Holiday to The Bicycle Thief to Ashes and Diamonds.
Over the years my tastes evolved and at the moment these are the film that had most impact on my cinematic sensibilities…
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Toy Story 3
- Cinema Paradiso
- About a Boy
- Three Colours: Red
- Love Actually
- About Time
- Annie Hall
- Seven Chances
- Finding Nemo
- Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
- Something About Mary
- Men In Black
- Saving Private Ryan
- Social Network
There was no question that my destiny was not in Columbus, Ohio. Graduate school was a way to go. Not crazy about NYC. The idea of living in the shadows of skyscrapers did not appeal to me.
I did a trip to LA with my girlfriend, Maria, at the time. We explored the city. It was the last week of August. Right before Labor Day. Augusts suck in Ohio. Between the heat and the humidity, life was less than ideal. Not to mention the white skies and allergies. And LA was beautiful. Something about the strangeness that it’s 90 degrees and I’m not sweating. And the skies. Beautiful and blue…with feathery cirrus clouds. It was a stunning experience. It determined my future.
And so we moved to LA in the last days of the year. I was on USC’s waiting list. But they said “no.” The following year, I applied to AFI’s screenwriting program. And they said “yes.” A momentous day. Opening that envelope from Jean Firstenberg. And discovering that they would like me to attend. Sooooooooooo cool!
AFI was a blend of amazing and annoying. A studio system in miniature. Brilliance, ego, and ineptness blended together. But it was productive. Lost my pretentious artsy edge. Wanted to tell stories that people might want to actually pay to see.
I also worked as a story analyst. Getting paid to get an education. Got to see what created an impact…or didn’t.
My first script, SHOOTING STAR, won 2nd place in the FOCUS screenwriting competition (Films of College and University Students). A big thing at the time. In the days when screenwriting competitions weren’t a dime a dozen. I couldn’t help but feel that I had arrived. That’s how it worked, right? You get recognized. And people beat a path to your door. But no one did! Shocking! A rude awakening.
Started collaborating with my girlfriend, Maria. Our work lead to representation by one agent, then another, then a third. Various opportunities that did not translate to $$$ followed. Until…
We…as in Maria and myself…found ourselves around friends who were at that age of having kids or not having kids. It made us think and imagine. Too many friends became proper and mature, losing touch with the child within. While others never grew up…and you just wanted to slap them and tell them to knock it off. Where was the balance?
We finished a script based on these themes and met with executives in the biz who liked our work. We asked them for referrals to agents. Names repeated. A list formed. We contacted the agents saying the following people thought we would be good match. We ended up sending BEFORE BILLY to 25 agents.
17 said “no” with rationals like “I don’t like it.” “I don’t get it.” “I have a client who wrote something similar but couldn’t sell it.” Etc!
6 didn’t get back to us with any response no matter how much we “followed up.”
But 2 said yesssssss!
We went with Caren Borhman (RIP). And she sold it to Lawrence Gordon at Universal a week later. Why was she able to see BEFORE BILLY’s potential when others didn’t? It’s an awesome script. Filled with strong emotions, relevant themes, compelling action, and engaging characters. Surely even if wasn’t their exact cup of tea, they could hopefully see some $$$. But it’s really true what William Goldman wrote. “No one knows anything.”
We Arrived…Or So We Believed…
Life became easier…for a time. And it created those memorable stories that make me smile whenever I think of them. Here’s my favorite:
When Maria and I first came out to LA, we took a tour of the Universal lot, traveling in those tourist trams. And I couldn’t help but wonder who were those people who ventured in and out of those back-lot bungalows? How did they get those jobs? How I could be one of them? When we sold BEFORE BILLY to Universal we ended up having story meetings in one of those bungalows.
Then one day, as we were leaving a meeting and heading to our car, sliding on our cool shades in the bright January sun, a tram stopped right in front of us and everyone was looking at us, surely wondering if we were anyone famous. We couldn’t help but smile, realizing that just 10 years earlier we were on the tram gazing at people like us and wondering how we could be one of them.
Adventures in the Screen Trade…
BEFORE BILLY did not get made…as of this writing. But we went on to work on other projects, including a couple stints at Disney Feature Animation…and selling a pitch that got turned into WHO’S YOUR DADDY…Andy Fickman’s directorial debut before he went on to make films like “She’s the Man,” “You Again,” and “Parental Guidance.”
With time, sadly, my personal and business relationship with Maria dissolved. And it was time to find my own voice outside of our partnership.
I experimented with other collaborators and with various genres. And over time, I slowly discovered the forces deep inside me that inspired me to write, drove me to put those words together to create an impact, filled me with passion and meaning. Answers bubbled to the surface. What I wanted to do is…
“…blend comedy, action, and fantasy, striving to tell emotional Pixar-type stories, both live-action or animated, that positively impact people, entertaining, inspiring, and reassuring them that they’re not as alone in the world as they may have thought.”
Ultimately, stories pull us together by sharing moments of people’s lives that help us to understand the world and our place in it just a little bit better, helping us to cope with the challenges, giving us hope to discover solutions while finding joy one way or another. And let’s not forget about forgetting our troubles for a little while by being entertained by flickering images on a screen that leave us a little rejuvenated.
Some of my scripts touched upon these concepts. Others didn’t. But moving forward, this is what inspires me. It’s what drives me. Life is short. Give it meaning by creating an impact in whatever way you can!
So What Am I Doing Now?
Last year I completed a supernatural, action, thriller entitled SHADOW WORLD for Ocean of Love Entertainment which is currently gearing up for production.
Currently, I’m writing a sci-fi, action, comedy…emphasis on comedy…about love, alien abductions, loyalty, and what makes us human entitled LITTLE GREEN MEN. Stay tuned!
This leads to the obvious question of what I can do for you. The answer is quite simple: