Missouri Stories Spotlight with Shawn Mahan

Shawn Mahan has been running Art House Cinemas for 20s years and was selected as a 2022 Missouri Stories Fellow for his script St. Louis, which tells the true story of Felix Carvajal, a quiet and diminutive postman from Havana with no official athletic experience who made his way to the third Olympic Games in Saint Louis, Missouri and ended up shocking the field in the 1904 Olympic Marathon.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

SM: Like most writers, I look for stories in the subjects that interest me most. As the phrase goes – “write what you know”. For Saint Louis, I was inspired by my lifetime obsession in the history of the Olympic Games. I believe that the modern Olympic Games act as sort of a “bookmark” of history. It tells us where we are as a people at any moment in time. Mexico City tells where we were in 1968. Los Angeles tells us where we were in 1984. Berlin, 1936. And Saint Louis, definitely, tells us where we were in 1904.

Tell us about a screenwriter who inspires you and why.

SM: There are so many possible answers to this. However, my immediate thought goes to Albert Brooks. He has a way of highlighting the comic absurdity that exists in day to day reality. 

Tell us a little about your writing process.

SM: I will tell you my most successful writing process. When writing a first draft, I make a deal with one of my closest friends. 20 pages a week by the end of the day on Friday. If I don’t have it – I owe her $20. Over the years, I’ve only had to pay up three times, I think. Now, as with any first draft – a lot of these pages are fairly pedestrian. But, they exist. And, they give me the foundation for better work to come.

How do you connect with other writers?

SM: Mostly online, but I have to admit to being fairly solitary in my writing. I tried to be a part of a writing team at some point. It was not pretty.

How has being a Missouri Stories Fellow affected you?

SM: It has been a wonderful experience so far. I suppose that I had imagined that you would win and be happy with that and then move on. However, I am pleased to discover that this is a continuing process and the support from the Missouri Film Office is amazing.

What are you up to now?

SM: I am working on another Saint Louis draft. I am also working on taking two of my other screenplays and making short film versions. I am going to try to film 1 or 2 of these sometime in the next year.

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