Cinema alum discusses Hollywood screenwriting career with students

Anthony Peckham speaks to students during a Q&A session put together by the SF State's Cinema Department in Coppola Theater, Thursday, Nov. 7th, 2013. Peckham is an SF State alumni, who has been a screenwriter on films such as Invictus and Sherlock Holmes.

Anthony Peckham speaks to students during a Q&A session put together by the SF State’s Cinema Department in Coppola Theater, Thursday, Nov. 7th, 2013. Peckham is an SF State alumni, who has been a screenwriter on films such as Invictus and Sherlock Holmes.

Before his career as a Hollywood screenwriter, there was once a time when SF State alumnus Anthony Peckham’s most interesting job was to refile an entire room at the Pacific Stock Exchange.

“The previous clerk had not believed in the tyranny of the alphabet,” Peckham said.

After some refiling and a little patience, Peckham would go on to write scripts for big name studios like Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros.

“I sold a script to a professor here and I thought, ‘Well that’s not so hard,’ and then I didn’t sell another thing for seven years,” Peckham said. “But I kept writing and I kept working. I did temp work, I did construction work. You’ve got your whole life and you will get better. That’s the beauty of writing.”

Peckham visited the campus to speak to students and guests interested at the Coppola Theater Nov. 7.

“If you write a great script, someone will eventually see it,” Peckham said. “Writing is hard and creating is hard. To do a really excellent piece of work, you will get noticed.”

Alumnus Ernest Houk, 23, said Peckham was invited by Delta Kappa Alpha, a coed fraternity that focuses on cinema, so they could hear from someone that works in the Hollywood industry. Houk added that they were able to get Peckham because the mother of one of the fraternity’s members worked with him on Syfy channel’s 2004 miniseries, “5ive Days to Midnight.”

At the event, Peckham talked about his journey from SF State student to Hollywood screenwriter. Peckham helped write the script for the 2009 action-mystery film, “Sherlock Holmes,” starring Robert Downey Jr. Peckham also wrote the screenplay for the 2009 sports drama film, “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

“It was amazing, but very amusing,” Peckham said about actor Clint Eastwood directing his “Invictus” screenplay. “He’s notorious for not changing scripts at all. The studio wanted to make some changes which I agreed with. He listened to my pitch and he said to me, ‘Well Tony, those are some very good ideas, I’ll get back to you.’ I’m still waiting.”

Peckham also gave the audience advice about working in the Hollywood industry.

“The people you’re pitching to, at least in Hollywood, never have enough time,” Peckham said. “They’re always under pressure, they’re always scared, which means they’ll take it out on you. You’ve really got 10 minutes to sell something.”

Nick Alfieri, 18, cinema major, said it was great for him to hear Peckham speak to students.

“I liked how positive he talked. He seemed like he would be a really cool teacher,” Alfieri said. “He really inspired me to go out and write more.”

Peckham said it was the first time he visited the campus since he graduated in 1987. He added that he hopes he can show students that anyone can be successful as a screenwriter as long as they are persistent.

“They were me,” Peckham said about the students. “It’s cool to just look at that and show people that you can make it from here.”

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