‘Boldly go’ with Mark Haskell Smith

Mark Haskell Smith, a prolific author and screenwriter, visited Oswego State this week to talk about his career and the writing process.

His diverse career already encompasses screenplays for films, including "Playing God" (1997) and "The Inheritance" (2001), scripts for episodes of television shows, including "Star Trek: Voyager" and the late ’90s mini-series "The Magnificent Seven," and even novels.

" My career has been this kind of A to B to C progression," Smith said. "I did all these things over a 20-year period…it’s been a journey about creative control."

He spoke of his time as a screenwriter, saying that the best way to break into the business was to write a great script. Smith said that scripts are passed around and read by a handful of people, so only the best ones have the a chance of getting produced.

"You can’t sleep your way to the top anymore," he added.

Smith spoke of the difficulty he had with bringing his creative vision to life without interference from producers.

"When you’re working really hard, you’re writing these scripts that you really want to see made the way you want them to be made. It can be really frustrating," he said.

He then transitioned to talking about his time writing for TV, explaining the formula for writing an episode of a show, which consists of a group of writers working together for 12 and 13 hours a day.

He then asked everyone at the lecture to help him write an episode of "Jersey Shore" to demonstrate the process.

Smith then moved on to the current phase of his career –writing novels, which he said allows for more creative freedom than film or television.

"I wanted to write stories where I could control the outcome," he said. "I had never written prose before really, but I was an avid reader and I just started writing."

Smith has written four novels, focusing on people with unusual jobs who find themselves caught up in outrageous situations. For example, "Baked," his latest book, is about a marijuana grower who wants revenge on the people who shot him.

Smith concluded the lecture by discussing his next project, "Heart of Dankness," a non-fiction book about the Cannabis Cup, a marijuana-growing tournament in Amsterdam.

"It’s quite exciting. It’s a lot different than writing fiction," he said.

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