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The Backstory

on Dan Lawrence

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I studied piano for 12 years – the last four at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music - and was in two youth orchestras where I played the double bass... even toured Australia in one of the orchestras. And yet, somewhere in that time, the filmmaking bug hit and it’s been film ever since. 

Graduated from the USC School of Cinema-Television and that was a grand time, film school was... We cut on film, people! Super-8! 16mm! Moviolas and Steenbecks! Made audio fades using chemicals to erase the mag track! How times change.

Above... a photo taken by my wonderful wife Lisa as we were on our honeymoon. Oh to be in an Istanbul cafe again, sipping Turkish coffee!

My first editorial work outside of school was as an assistant editor on low budget films that were birthed in complete obscurity and promptly took up permanent residence there.

I found myself editing a series of music videos for Motown records, and following that, began an association with a production company that specialized in low-budget science fiction films. The great thing about sci-fi films - be they big or low budget special effects films - is that you will learn an awful lot about post-production editing even one of 'em.

I edited four features for Green Communications, as well as directed second unit on one of ‘em. Below, fellow filmmaker Roy Unger (a terrific writer and director in his own right) lends a hand as the superior second unit DP (of a superior second unit crew), braving the ice weasels and asbestos dust devils of the Alabama Hills...

What? You'd rather see me sitting in an editing room? Seriously?

I do think every filmmaker should take a tour of duty making low budget films in the desert. It’s an absolute and literal blast!

My editorial career expanded to include a variety of different arenas, including video unit work, film promotion and EPKs (behind the scenes), and more recently, documentaries. Thus this website...

I am delighted that a collaboration begun with Amy Waddell (on whose debut feature BROTHEL I was editor) continued to with our work on the Annenberg Foundation’s Explore documentaries - where I have edited and she has served as writer/producer. Our first piece, SPIRITUAL INDIA: RIVER OF COMPASSION went from zero to complete in 20 days and was created out of 130 hours of footage because of her stellar sense of story.

One of the features where I was editing with the video unit - GODZILLA (1997) - gave me the financial freedom to direct my first short film, VIGILANCE. It debuted at the Chicago Alternative Film Festival, and went on to screen in over 20 film festivals nationwide. It is, by the way, exquisitely shot by Roy Unger (and Steven Quale - most recently famous for directing Final Destination V... go Steve!) and you should push to have a screening in a theater so you can see and hear it in all its glory.

In 2004, a screenplay that I had written, entitled THE GAZA GOLEM, received the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. One of 5 scripts out of 6,073 entrants, I’m proud to say that our year held the record for the highest number of entries in any Fellowship competition year... until they went to all electronic submissions, that is. Curse you, Internet! The Fellowship truly changed the course of my life, giving me unprecedented opportunity to engage the film community as a screenwriter and not just as an editor, as well as bringing me into a family of fellow writers who are really quite a special group of people.

You can check out more cool photos from the 2004 ceremony, starting at Filename: 30059_d065.jpg and below.

Curious to read the script? The Academy generously makes available all the Fellows’ scripts (for those Fellows who want to share), and I’m happy to oblige. Just click this link. But beware! Here be monsters...

It's funny, but the thing that only occurred to me in putting this page together came from digging up those photos from my sci-fi film days - because my Nicholl script is a genre-busting horror film set in the Middle East, and it started life as a straight B-movie. It turned into something else, but maybe part of its birth was a subconscious reaction to my time spent in the desert?

More things in heaven and earth, I s'pose...