Jillian Beck 2017-03-29 14:35:15
Reel Life An Austin attorney balances a career in the law and on the screen. The budding Ohio State law student was perusing pages at a local book sale when he came across a script that changed his life: Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. “I’ll tell this one to my great grandkids when I’m 80,” reflects Hanz Wasserburger, now an assistant attorney general specializing in fraud cases in the Office of the Texas Attorney General. He bought it, took it home, and read the beloved screenplay about Austin slackers over and over. “It absolutely fascinated me,” he said. “The characters, the form, the story, imagining the writing process that created it.” That’s all the inspiration the then-23-year-old needed to try his hand at his own first script. Two decades and many sleepless nights later, Wasserburger has seen 14 of his scripts turned to films and TV movies while he also forged a legal career. Last summer, Wasserburger’s first feature-length independent film, Second Impression, which was shot in Austin, premiered and received the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the San Antonio Film Festival. Two of his latest projects are in production now—a baseball-themed romantic comedy for the Hallmark Channel slated to air before summer and a biopic, whose subject he’s keeping tightly under wraps. “I’m especially excited about it,” he said. “It has been a difficult secret to keep.” Is there a genre you enjoy making or watching most? I love Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs, Peaky Blinders, Office Space, Better Call Saul, and Tropic Thunder, so my tastes are pretty varied. I also like Quentin Tarantino. His movies are really clever. My own writing is all over the place genre-wise—everything from G-rated family films to the very not G-rated Second Impression, which I co-produced here in Austin. Purely as a viewer, my wife, Nina, gets into my TV stuff a lot more than I do—especially the Hallmark movies. So I have a built-in fan base at home, which is cool. What is your favorite film of yours and why? As far as my TV projects, I really liked A Novel Romance and Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story—very different movies, but both turned out really well. Of course, I also have a soft spot for Second Impression since I helped build it from the ground up with my Circle C friends John Cook, Wallace Weatherspoon, and Oddett Garza-Weatherspoon. What is your favorite film other than yours and why? Jaws. And not because I’m a lawyer. It has everything I look for in a great movie: tension, smart and timely comic moments, interesting characters, and originality. If I stumble upon it while flipping stations, I stop and watch every time. I’ll still never swim in the ocean because of it, and it gives me great pause in lakes and rivers too. Is there a particular part of screenwriting you find most challenging? The late nights and tight deadlines can be tough, but I’ve found ways to make it work. It really helps that my bosses at the AG, Cynthia and Ray, have been in my corner from the beginning. Still, it’s a balancing act that wouldn’t be possible without Nina being so understanding and supportive. My lads, Wes and Mason, have been great as well. Where do you get your inspiration? Mostly from everyday life. A lot of my characters are based on people I know or have known. Obviously, a lot springs from my imagination, but a large percentage of my writing is based on things I’m familiar with. It’s my comfort zone. There’s a good reason I’m not doing 17th century period pieces on the Thirty Years’ War. A lot of screenwriters see themselves as tortured artists in search of life’s answers. But I think of myself as an entertainer, and my writing reflects this. How do you balance your job at the attorney general’s office with your love of film? It’s really just part of a larger exercise in time management— something I’m not innately good at doing. I’m a recovering procrastinator, so I’ve had to learn to carve out chunks of time for various aspects of my life and really stick to them. Obviously, my day job comes first. But there’s still time left over for screenwriting, my kids, and Nina. The short answer is that sleep gets short shrift. Do you have any future goals for your film career? I’d love to sell one of my original feature film scripts and have it end up in theaters. This is a tricky prospect because I’m not a writer-director and I also don’t have A-list movie star friends to attach to my scripts. But long odds have never stopped me before. I’ll take care of the things I can control and let the chips fall where they may.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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