Today we’re thrilled to spotlight screenwriters Colin Dalvit and Andrew Lahmann, who were recently named winners of the 2016 ScreenCraft Action & Thriller Screenplay Contest with their script The Timbermen.
Colin and Andrew are writers, directors, and producers from Washington state, and together they founded film production company P-51 Pictures. The company’s first major film project was the award-winning feature documentary Out of Nothing, produced along with actor Ryan Stiles. The film is about a ragtag team of motorcycle builders determined to crush land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The film played in film festivals around the world and was picked up for distribution by ESPN and Studio Canal.
We spoke with Colin and Andrew recently to find out more about how they teamed up, what their path has looked like, and where they’re headed next.
ScreenCraft: Where and when did your storytelling roots begin?
Andrew Lahmann: My passion for storytelling and film started when I was a young boy. I was fascinated by movies. Growing up, we spent many weekends and summers at our family’s beach cabin in Long Beach, WA. The small town had a tiny, 2-screen theater where we’d watch movies on rainy days. Since that type of weather is rather common up here, we many times found ourselves going back to watch the same movies over and over again. My interest in how they were made and attention to detail began to grow in these repeat viewings, and the theater owners became quite familiar with us. They’d allow us up into the projection room, and offered me all the movie posters I wanted once the film left the theater. I’m sure I was born with some type of storytelling passion in my bones, but instances such as this only stoked the fire. Since I preferred to be in control of a creative product, I knew directing would be the ultimate goal. Writing and producing came about as a means of creating our own opportunities to do something amazing.
Colin Dalvit: I grew up with a very strong foundation in being told great stories; my parents would read to me every night as a young child. I vividly remember my father reading “The Hobbit” to me and my brother and doing all the characters in different voices. My siblings and I grew up without cable television – on the weekends my mom would bring home a VCR/TV combo, and we would watch classic films. I was also a big reader growing up, and my tastes were (and still are) very broad. I read everything I could get my hands on, from Twain to Tintin. When you’ve heard great stories, it makes it easier to tell your own.
SC: When did you begin working together and how did you meet?
AL: We met sophomore year in college. We lived directly across the hall from each other in our dorm, and turns out we had the exact same aspirations. Out of all the students at the university, our friendship and dreams could not have lined up more perfectly. We were meant to meet when we did. We’re much stronger at everything we do when we’re working together.
CD: Andy and I met in college by accident. I was filming a comedy short in our dorm and Andy happened to stumble upon our shoot. He immediately started offering advice and assistance. We got to talking and it turned out that he lived across the hall from me. From there, he and I worked on a short documentary for our college about Civil War Re-enactors. During this time, we both really bonded, and we eventually co-founded our production company, P-51 Pictures.
SC: How has your writing process evolved over time?
CD: I think that my scriptwriting has improved vastly since my college days. Mainly due to forced maturity and life experiences; I’ve seen more, so I have more to say. Working with Andy I have learned the value of revising and polishing our stories. Andy is also extremely aware of the end goal, and how an audience might receive a piece. I can’t understate the importance of that, and how lucky I am to have a creative partner.
AL: I always had a knack for creative writing growing up. But I’m also very long-winded, and tend to focus much more on the details of a story or scene’s final polish/presentation. Colin has a much stronger ability to see the foundation of a story, and is far more adept at creating the skeleton necessary for a story to be structurally sound in the beginning. After working with Colin, I have developed a new respect for designing a story’s blueprints from the ground up… but he’s still much better at this.
SC: What do you think of screenwriting competitions and conferences? Have they helped your career?
CD: I haven’t been to any screenwriting conferences, but our experience with screenwriting competitions has been nothing but rewarding. Even when we didn’t win competitions, we gained extremely valuable insight in the form of script evaluations. We have learned to value any feedback we receive, and ScreenCraft offers excellent feedback. If you listen, and apply the notes you receive, it will help your script.
SC: What craft or business lesson has made the biggest impact or was the hardest won?
AL: One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a production manager on the first Iron Man who is now a successful studio VP: He said if you want to be successful in this business, you’d better learn what your audience wants to see. As great as it is to create a story that means a lot to me, I’ve learned to always be mindful of what I’m spending my time on, and whether or not this can truly lead to the next big thing. Essentially, will people get behind this, audiences and executives? We’ve learned that it is our job to create something so good that it can’t be ignored.
CD: I’ve been doing professional animation and motion graphics for seven years now, and I have learned much from all my various projects that I have been able to apply to screenwriting. Probably the most valuable lesson I learned is to dispel the notion that writing is something to channel, that it can only happen when you’re inspired and feeling creative. Animation, like writing, is a creative endeavor, and sometimes I would find myself reading a script and looking at a blank computer screen, wondering how I was going to fill it with animation that would fulfill the client’s expectations. Since I was getting paid, I would have no choice but to work – to just start trying. And through this work, inspiration would always sprout. Sometimes it would happen in the first fifteen minutes, sometimes it would come at night after a whole day of trying… but it would always happen eventually because of just sitting down and putting in the hours. And the same is true for me with writing.
SC: What advice do you have for aspiring screenwriters?
CD: I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice. All I can say is what works for me: try to learn from those who’ve done it well. I like to find a movie that I love, then learn everything I can about it. I find the script and read it and break it down. It’s fascinating hearing other voices, and seeing how a screenwriter’s style can be translated into a movie.
AL: Since we have yet to truly be established in this industry, my advice to others would be the advice I’ve been given that I feel has really helped us push through difficult times. First, be aware of whether or not there is a market for what you are spending your time on. If there isn’t, someone else somewhere else is going to pass you by, because they are focused on that. Second, be a good collaborator. Surround yourself with good people. There is absolutely no way I would be where I am now without the working relationship I have with Colin, as well as with many others who have been incredibly supportive along the way.
SC: And what’s next for you two, career- and project-wise?
AL: We are currently developing several new high-concept screenplays… ones that will hopefully lead to our ability to produce and direct. Our recent feature doc, Out of Nothing, hits theaters in the U.S. this May, and has already been released internationally. Due to the success of that film, we’re joining with our amazing production team once more to produce another feature doc while we continue writing.
Our thanks and congratulations to Colin and Andrew! ScreenCraft is proud to be part of your journey.
Find out more about their projects at P-51 Pictures.