By CRISTINA JANNEY
Although screenwriter Scotty Mullen said he felt out of place growing up in Hays, he credited the community with his early development as a writer.
Mullen shared some of his experiences making it in Hollywood during a talk at the Hays Arts Center Sunday night. He thanked his parents, who attended his talk, but said raising him must have been like ground hogs raising a peacock.
Mullen wrote “Sharknado 5 and 6,” and serves as casting director for The Asylum film studio.
Mullen was back in Hays this weekend for his 25th high school reunion.
“We have so many hidden resources in this town, or maybe not hidden, but I think people don’t take advantage of and know about,” he said. “We have a college. We have the Arts Center here, and really, really good teachers who care. You don’t get that in other places.”
Mullen said he was first inspired to write in the second grade when his teacher, Mrs. White, assigned the students to write stories. Every Friday the kids got to get up and read one of their stories to the class.
“I was just blown away,” he said. “I was probably the most excited kid in the class because I thought that was amazing. I thought it was so crazy that I could take things I only see in my head, I could write them down and I could tell them and other people could see it. That was just like magic to me.”
His first story was a parody of Superman called “Super Pooper.” He named the characters after his friends.
“The itch never left me,” he said of writing.
In his high school days, Mullen wrote thousands of pages. He said it was like laying down fertilizer for what he would do later.
“Writing professionally is much like being an athlete and training everyday,” he said. “And the biggest thing to train your brain is to write even when it is not fun, even when you get up and the muse is not there.”
Mullen has created a routine for himself.
“I have found my rhythm. I can write five pages of a script in an hour and a half, but if I write 10 pages, it takes me all day long,” he said.
Mullen entered the Hollywood realm working as publicist when he was in college at Georgia State. The college had a TV station. They told him if he was willing to put the time and effort in to do interviews, they would put them on the air.
Mullen remembered sitting on the couch at the TV station and the phone rang. It was a publicist that later would become Mullen’s boss.
“She said, ‘Do you want to come out here? We have this girl. You probably don’t know her. She’s Goldie Hawn’s daughter, Kate Hudson. It is her first movie. Why don’t you guys come out here, bring a camera and you can ask her any questions you want,'” Mullen said.
He starting interviewing stars when they came through Atlanta for press junkets. The interviews became so popular he was being flown to New York, Miami and Los Angeles to do publicity. He was so spoiled doing this work that he stretched his senior year at Georgia State to two and half years.
Mullen’s boss at the publicity firm finally told him he needed to go to LA and go write because he was never going to go anywhere if he stayed in Atlanta. She threatened to fire him. When he finally left for LA, he did so in such a hurry he didn’t apply for graduation. It wasn’t until 2013 that he reapplied to college and finally received the degree he completed in 2005.
Mullen worked in publicity as a publicity model and as an actor, but didn’t write for five years. He was flying back and forth to New York and had a lavish expense account but said he eventually realized he was not happy with that lifestyle.
“If you drink too much gravy, you get sick,” he said. “I was getting unhappy. I was, ‘Why am I not happy? I am good at this job. I am meeting some good people. I could do this for the rest of my life.’ I was getting very unhappy, and I was getting depressed.”
Mullen ran into a woman he went to middle school with who was now a life coach in LA. She gave him her card.
“I had that card for a year. I was walking down the street to my apartment one day, and it was like God grabbed me and jerked me and was like, ‘Stop!'” he said. “I remember walking and physically stopping. You want to go to Buenos Aires, but you are almost at Anchorage, Alaska. You are going completely the wrong way. You have got to stop and turn around. I had all of the momentum, but it was in the wrong direction.”
Mullen called the life coach and started seeing her on a weekly basis.
“I had shoved those dreams so far back that I didn’t know,” he said. “She had to dig it out.”
His life coach asked him who he would like to work with, and he said Jackie Collins. Three years later he would work with her when he cast her in “Sharknado 3.”
“You have to be very, very specific in what you want,” he said. “If you are too broad, nobody knows what to give you. I still work on that today.”
He said he was almost ashamed to admit it, but he told his life coach that he wanted to be a writer.
“It just seemed so impossible. It seemed very irresponsible. It seemed ‘How in the world are you going to do that?’ There is a lot of competition,” he said. “I realized I wanted to be a writer, but I had never really given it 115 percent of everything.”
He started writing a half hour each day while still working as a publicist. That slowly increased. Then he was having so much fun he would go to bed earlier so he could get up earlier and write.
He took some workshops and an online class from ScreenwritingU.com. The point of this course was to get a professional writing assignment. Most TV shows and movies are not that writer’s original idea. They are hired to write screenplays by someone else who has an idea and the money to produce it.
His adviser for the class urged him to write a screenplay called “Double D Island.” He based the script on his work with models during his publicity days. He said it was raunchy, but it showed his writing style and humor.
He took the idea to a pitch fest, which is like a combination of speed dating and a job interview. Asylum was impressed and picked him to do his first screenplay for “The Co-ed and the Zombie Stoner.” When he finally landed the gig, they gave him only two weeks to write the screenplay.
After that, Mullen said he learned to not be afraid of failing.
“You’ve just got to do it,” he said. “There is something that I have on my wall, ‘Don’t worry if this is going to be good enough. Just ask yourself, ‘Am I up to the challenge?’ Am I up to the challenge of writing the script in two weeks?”
Mullen said working with Asylum was like meeting his tribe.
The work on the zombie movie led to work on jokes for “Sharknado 3,” which was also made by Asylum.
Mullen’s employer was not happy that he was moonlighting as a writer and trying to also work his full-time job as a publicist, so they fired him. Asylum knew Mullen’s background, so they sought his help in casting “Sharknado 3.”
He helped Asylum land stars such as Ann Coulter, Jackie Collins and Mark Cuban for the movie.
When a spot opened up for a full-time casting director for Asylum, Mullen was tapped for the job. He went on to write and cast “Sharknado 5 and 6.” He continues to work with Asylum both casting and writing.
On the “Sharknado” movies, he also worked with Bret Michaels, Olivia Newton-John, Fabio, who played the Pope, Charo, Margaret Cho and Tony Hawk.
“I was part of the club and they respected me,” he said. “What I realized about all of these people was how nice they were and also how hard they worked. All of these people, they work really hard, and I had that in common with them. That felt very, very good.”
Mullen has also written “Zoombies,” “Sinbad and the War of the Furies,” “The Fast and the Fierce,” “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,” which is now showing on Showtime, and “Nazi Overlord,” which is in post production.
He said when his high school reunion was nearing, he realized how grateful he was to be from Hays. He said Hays has a charm with a lot of creative energy and rural rawness.
“I had this gratitude for this town I always thought I wanted to get away from,” he said. “I thought, ‘Thank God, I was born here. Thank God I was raised here.'”
And he continues to dream bigger and bigger.
Mullen, who as a youth dreamed of being a romance writer, is vying for an assignment to write a Hallmark movie. He said he is excited about the possibility of a new challenge.