Matt Pinsker ’09 spent most of his winter break last year watching reruns of “M.A.S.H.” This year, he decided to write a novel.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never seemed to have time for it,” he said. “This year over break most of my friends were away, and I wanted to do something besides vegetate in front of the television.”
Pinsker estimates that he spent about 10 hours a day writing to complete what turned out to be a 200-page novel that he later adapted to screenplay format. He is currently editing “Sergeant Cheerleader,” a semi-autobiographical screenplay, under the tutelage of theater professor M. Fonkijom Fusi as part of an independent study.
Fusi, who has written five screenplays himself and is currently overseeing a student production of a short film entitled “Morning,” said he liked the ideas presented in Pinsker’s writing and sees potential in his screenplay.
“I think it is a worthwhile project, especially for someone writing his first screenplay,” he said. “It passed many of my tests, one of which is the question of whether it can actually be produced.”
According to Fusi, approximately 80,000 to 100,000 screenplays are registered every year with the Academy of Motion Pictures.
Only two or three hundred of these will actually be made into films.
One of the biggest barriers to production is finances. But because Pinsker’s screenplay is set at the College it could be produced cheaply.
“It could easily be adapted and set anywhere, although the experiences are based on my time here,” Pinsker said.
Fusi encouraged Pinkser to cut the play from its original length in order to redefine characters and scenes and tighten the dialogues.
“I could tell he had never written a screenplay before, but I liked the simple message of his work,” Fusi said.
Adapting a novel to a screenplay can be a daunting task for any writer, but Pinsker said that the writing came naturally.
His original novel, which he called “Confessions of a Mad Male Cheerleader,” was based on his experiences at the College over the last two years, which have been defined primarily by his commitments to ROTC and the cheerleading squad.
“Once I got started, the writing just flowed. I had 12 chapter plans, and I just expanded on each chapter each day,” he said.
As a freshman Sharpe scholar and ROTC cadet, Pinsker said he was “guilted and bribed” into trying out for the cheerleading team, a notion that he himself acknowledges as humorous. He turned it into a source of comedy in his writing.
Like many novelists, Pinsker used real-life situations to inspire his writing.
“I am hesitant to say that my writing is based on real events,” he said. “But it is definitely inspired by them. It has some autobiographical elements, but it also has a lot of fictional elements.”
Though the screenplay and novel sum up a great deal of Pinsker’s personal experience, he finds that it’s a modest endeavor.
“I’m not trying to be really deep or shed my sense of light on the world,” Pinsker said. “Just looking back on my experience at William and Mary, there were so many entertaining events, I thought it would make a good story.”