“Permission to Get Weird” Rebecca Flinn-White and Zak White on ‘The Prank’


I started out in the acting world,” says Rebecca Flinn-White. “Acting, directing, theater. And that’s how Zak and I met actually. We were friends in college, didn’t date back then, but we’re married now,” she adds, about her writing partner, Zak White. 

Zak adds, “This is the only thing I ever wanted to do. I grew up in a small midwest town. I was a movie fanatic, but I didn’t know people actually got paid to do it. I thought you had to be born in a magical world that doesn’t exist.

The duo both wore many hats until they realized how much they enjoyed the writing, specifically writing together. “Writing is the story creation,” says Zak. “It’s where I feel unbridled creativity.

We started working together in college,” says Rebecca. “Zak actually cast me in my first horror movie. I had so much fun doing it and I loved collaborating with him.” 

When we started living together, you just sort of bounce ideas off of each other,” says Zak. “Then there’s a couple things that click. You think, ‘I get this the way you get this, and—

Suddenly you’re pregnant,” jokes Rebecca.  Pregnant with a script,” Zak clarifies.

Acknowledging All Ideas

Aside from being married, the duo say they would tell all writing partnerships that you learn as you go. “Make sure the other person feels heard, whether or not you agree with them. You don’t have to get defensive. They may let go of that idea easier if you’re open to the idea and just are curious about it.” This gentle approach allows for the best idea to win. 

I tend to shut Zak down sometimes or feel shut down, and while that wasn’t my intention, I’m a verbal processor and he’s an internal processor.” Zak adds, “Sometimes you have a crystal clear vision in your mind, but it’s about being flexible, going down that road a little bit, because sometimes it takes time to realize what’s better.

If you stop an idea, like the rules of improv, it will never get to a more interesting place. It may come full circle in a way that gives you more depth. Sometimes you have to let it marinate. Know which hills to die on.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine

Rebecca Flynn-White & Zak White. Photo by Dave Jacobsen

As an actress and acting coach, Rebecca is very aware of giving positive feedback. “It’s not that there is something wrong. You try hard not to criticize someone else’s idea so they feel neglected. There aren’t better or worse ideas, just ideas.

Logistically, Rebecca is the big idea person and Zak considers himself the work horse. He clarifies, “I build the building and she decorates it.

Writing Characters

When it comes to crafting characters, Rebecca’s background inspires her to think, “What would be a tour de force for the actor to play? I like a boneyard of moments and ideas. ‘I want to see this.’” Meanwhile, Zak works on tone and pacing, so one approach always compliments another.

My brain is anarchy. There’s no structure. Zak is very grounding in that way. His brain loves to figure it out. He’s very logical. His clothes are organized in rainbow colors. DVDs are alphabetized.” He adds, “Love a good note card. Love a good cork board.”

As actors, we are studiers of people. That’s our special interest. I’m obsessed with people. I want to know everything about them and how they work. So if [the writer] gives me a little detail or juicy moment, that gives me so much information about my state of being. We are little FBI agents. We can make a meal out of a little clue.

It’s constant give-and-take,” adds Zak. “A script is supposed to be something a best boy can look at and know what they have to do or an executive can look at it and get an idea for marketing. You have to think about that while also throwing poetry into it.

With this tightrope walk in mind, the two say they do provide different prompts based on who is reading the script at the time. “If there’s something on screen that you are trying to describe and it’s only in your head, you do have to be that trusty hand to walk the reader through what you’re trying to say. That’s where there can be missteps.

Zak adds, “If you’re sending it to an xxecutive where they’re reading over ten scripts a day, you can’t be as subtle as if you were getting notes from another writer or sending it to a competition. You kind of have to hammer them over the head a little harder. Later, you can trim it down, but know what the reader is looking for.”

I love a needle drop moment in my script. I may say, ‘She’s listening to Lucinda Williams,’ but I’ll take that out if I’m sending it to a producer and they’ll kill me because that’s very expensive.

The Idea for The Prank

It’s been several years since the duo wrote The Prank. “It was written as a satire, but now it feels like reality. We turned in the draft four years ago. Around the time the world shut down, we were meeting with a producer,” they say of the pandemic. This creativity led to their latest project, The Prank. 

The Prank stars Ben (Connor Kalopsis) and his slacker friend, Tanner (Ramona Young) who play a prank on their high school physics professor (Rita Moreno).

It’s not so much about revenge as throwing a prank that goes so out of hand and spirals out of control. It’s eventually about media literacy. Two high school students frame their teacher for murder, and while it sounds dark, they do such a bad job they expect everyone to know it’s fake.

Everybody can relate to that moment when they were so anxious or embarrassed by an authority figure who is scary. You would do anything to make that not true.” This and a love for pranks in general led to this original idea. 

Much like the main character,” says Zak, “Is that I have this superpower of guilt. If anything goes wrong, I think of the worst case scenario. This is basically my own personal nightmare.

Through this character is also how viewers are meant to see the antagonist, played by Rita Moreno. “In the beginning, she’s pure monster, one note, a dragon to be defeated. And then, the more this runaway train goes out of control, you dump more and more humanizing elements to amplify his guilt.

The Road to Production

Because of the pandemic, the timeline shifted heavily from 2020. “It’s amazing it got made. They made it at a time where COVID restrictions ate up most of the budget. It shot in 2021 so things were still very locked up.

Every single one of our cast and crew were heroes for doing this. We needed these dumb-dumb laughs more than anything at that time. There were so many unknowns and they were living in this world of isolation and misinformation.

It was a crash course in patience. You can be told one thing and the universe has other plans in mind. There were so many things that would delay it for six months to a year, so you have to be working on the next thing.”

As for advice for writers, Rebecca says, “After this, I wanted to do something more me than ever. It really propelled me to keeping my voice in a script and exploring my weirdness and awkward cringe-ness. I think that’s really my brand. I think this gave me permission to get really weird.

This interview has been condensed. Listen to the full audio interview here. 


Brock Swinson

Contributing Writer

Freelance writer and author Brock Swinson hosts the podcast and YouTube series, Creative Principles, which features audio interviews from screenwriters, actors, and directors. Swinson has curated the combined advice from 200+ interviews for his debut non-fiction book 'Ink by the Barrel' which provides advice for those seeking a career as a prolific writer.

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