Missouri Stories Spotlight with Peter Hanrahan

Peter Hanrahan is a screenwriting professor at Webster University, and was one of the very first Missouri Stories Fellows in 2014. His script, Cloister, follows a private detective who investigates the murder of a Carmelite nun and uncovers a conspiracy that leads to the Archdiocese.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

PH: I keep a running list of story ideas in the notes section of my phone. Those ideas can hit at any time and come from anywhere. But I typically let them sit there and simmer, doing prep work in my head or on paper, before finding my way back to them, often months or years later.

Tell us about a screenwriter who inspires you and why.

PH: It’s hard not to look at someone like Taylor Sheridan (creator/showrunner of Yellowstone) as an inspiration. He was a character actor first but hit a wall in the business and turned to writing. And once he caught fire, he’s never gone out, selling multiple spec scripts before leveling up to directing and showrunning. He’s had the dream career to this point and has built his own sort of screenwriting empire.

Tell us a little about your writing process.

PH: When I’m into a project, I like to adhere to as much of a routine as possible — and that means writing, hands on keys, for a few hours every day. But ideally, I’m always writing in my head so that when I sit down to the computer, I can take off running.

How do you connect with other writers?

PH: I’m friends with a lot of screenwriters, TV writers, playwrights and story analysts from my work in the film industry, and I typically connect to other writers through work projects, whether that’s providing story analysis for a script or taking part in advisory board meetings for ScriptHop (a great platform for writers). As Facilitator of the Scriptwriting Program at Webster University, it’s amazing to see classrooms full of aspiring writers find their voices — and to keep in touch with former students as they make their way into the film industry.

How has being a Missouri Stories Fellow affected you?

PH: The Missouri Stories Fellowship not only provided the initial opportunity to workshop a feature script I wrote but has also grown into a fantastic community of writers who are either Missouri-based or Missouri-originated. And this past summer, I was able to write/produce the short film “Assumption” via the Missouri Stories Production Lab, shooting on location in St. Louis with a largely Missouri-based cast and crew. As someone who’s typically very much behind the scenes as a writer, it let me get my hands dirty in production, and it was a massive amount of work, and a lot of fun!

What are you up to now?

PH: We’re putting finishing touches on “Assumption,” which just finished audio mixing, and now has an amazing original score in place. And I’m plotting/scheming with the film’s director, Alfredo de Villa, to develop a follow-up short or even a feature to be shot in Missouri.

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