2012 Winners Interviews

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I’ve always been interested in storytelling.  When I was a kid, I used to wake up every morning at 5 and draw for a couple hours before I went to school.  I’d make up stories while illustrating the scenes on paper, so I like to think of these childhood drawings as my first storyboards.  After all, a screenplay is all about visual storytelling.  Unlike novels, screenplays don’t usually incorporate a character’s internal monologue.  So you have to convey all the character’s motivations and emotions strictly through his/her actions on the page.  The funny thing is that when I went to film school, my intention wasn’t to become a screenwriter.  I was more interested in directing.  But I quickly realized that with student films, nobody was going to give me a script to direct, so I’d have to come up with one myself.  One of my professors was very encouraging about the first script I wrote, and that’s when I realized I could actually do it.  (Though when I look back on that first script now, I cringe.)

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been writing on and off for almost a decade.  It takes a lot of time and work to develop your craft, and I’m much more confident now in my writing than I was even a few years ago.  I think the more you write, the more you gain an innate sense of what works and what doesn’t in a story.

Do you keep to a routine?

When I first graduated from film school, I was good about sticking to a routine.  And frankly, that’s probably the best way to stay disciplined.  But lately, because my daily schedule is so packed, I write whenever I can and whenever inspiration strikes.  If I’m inspired, I can crank out 12 pages in a day, but if I’m feeling uninspired, I can spend all day in front of the computer and barely eke out half a page (which I’ll probably trash the next day).

How do you find time to write?

I’ve learned that it’s really about making the time to write.  You’ve got to force yourself to make time regardless of your circumstances.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to make excuses not to do it.  When I got married 2 years ago, I thought it’d be harder to find time to write.  But it’s actually the opposite.  For me, being in a good, stable relationship actually helps me to focus more on the things that matter.

How many screenplays have you written?

Around 10 or so.  I have some scripts that I wrote up to about 70 pages– but then a movie came out that was almost exactly the same story so I’d just stop it altogether and move on to a new one.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

I like movies that transport you to another time or place, but that still delve into themes or subjects that are relevant to people today.  I wanted to write something within the confines of a classic genre, but put a new spin on it that flips it on its head.  It makes it more fun to write, and hopefully more interesting for the reader.

How long did it take to write?

It took about 3 months to write the first draft.  Then I set it aside for a while so I could come back and look at it with fresh eyes.  I then started polishing and rewriting it over the course of a few additional months.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

My favorite part about writing is when you’re deep into the 2nd Act and you’ve really got a rhythm and flow going.  It almost feels like you’re cruising through the screenplay and you’re so immersed in the story that you actually feel like you’re living in that world.  That’s when it’s most enjoyable.

What do you struggle with the most?

Page 1.  Getting started.  Even if I already know what the first scene is, for some reason, whenever I first sit down to start writing a new screenplay, everything moves at a constipated pace.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

There are definitely people in the industry who are actively looking for new voices, but probably not as many as most writers (and audiences) would like.  I think audiences are hungry for fresh ideas and stories.  In any industry, it seems that companies that embrace new voices and new ideas tend to thrive– an obvious example would be the tech industry, with companies like Apple, Google, etc.  Meanwhile, I think companies that get too comfortable doing the same old thing tend to decline over time.  Hopefully more people in the film industry will realize that the vitality of their business is dependent on being more open to new voices, rather than always turning to what they already know.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

I think it’s harder than ever for emerging writers to get ahead in this business.  Especially since the major studios are making less movies than before.  This has a trickle down effect on the rest of the film industry.  Fortunately, there are organizations like Shore that give writers a chance to get noticed.

How did it feel when your script was shortlisted, then becoming a finalist, and then one of the winners?

It was terrific, and very encouraging.  There are so many talented people out there who don’t get recognized for one reason or another, so I’m honored and humbled to be chosen by Shore and the judges.  It’s such a blessing because as a writer, once you finish a script and put it out there, it’s really out of your control as to how people will react.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I happened to read an article about the best screenplay competitions, and Shore was mentioned as one of them.  I saw the caliber of the judges, and felt compelled to enter because I wanted to know if my script stood a chance before a panel of veteran screenwriters, producers and directors who’ve made significant films.  With Shore, these filmmakers actually read and decide who the winners are.  And that’s huge, because with a lot of contests, you really don’t know who’s actually evaluating the scripts.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I try not to look too far ahead, but I do hope the script gets made into a movie with a quality cast and crew behind it.  And I hope I can have a career as long and fruitful as Shore’s judges.  But I try to just take things day by day and stay flexible to however life unfolds.

I want to thank the Shore Scripts team for organizing such a first class competition and for being such a great advocate for writers.

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I’ve always been a film geek. I studied film & media at university and worked in casting for years in LA & London, so I’ve been reading scripts for what feels like forever.

How long have you been writing for?

Seriously writing – a couple of years. Not-so-seriously – a little bit longer. It just took me a while to pluck up the courage to sit down and get started.

Do you keep to a routine when you’re writing?

I have two young kids so I have no routine when writing and try to squeeze hours in during weekends and evenings. It’s tough. Since I don’t write every day, I find that when I sit down at my computer I don’t mess around. Time is ridiculously precious so I work quickly. I’m disciplined because I have to be.

How do you find time to write?

It’s always a juggle but somehow I feel I’d achieve less if had more time. I have a very messy house. Seriously. If I ever get a quiet moment during the day while the baby naps, I jump on my computer and work rather than pick up toys. I have a very patient husband.

How many screenplays have you written?

The Man Who is my second script. I recently finished my third – also based on a true story, featuring another surprising, multi-layered female protagonist – a teenager from Luton who volunteers in a Romanian orphanage for the summer. It’s a modern epic /coming of age story. And I’ve started work on the next project. Another complicated, unique female lead character, based on a harrowing true story…

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

It’s not a very romantic tale. About seven years ago, I lived opposite a Jim Thompson restaurant for about nine months before my brilliant Aunt who is a Professor of History & Biographer visited our house – and I think my initial comment when she noticed the restaurant was ‘Duh. Kind of a stupid name for a Thai restaurant, isn’t it?’ She didn’t think so, having just returned from Bangkok, and so proceeded to tell me the amazing true story about Jim Thompson and his mysterious disappearance. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story for a long, long time. For around five years in fact. It was only after I watched Hope’s documentary that I felt I had everything I needed in order to develop an intelligent, powerful original screenplay.

How long did it take to write?

Script Factory invited me to join their writers development scheme in July 2011, but I was late to the table and only had a rough treatment instead of a completed first draft. My excellent script developer, Paul Bryan, helped me rework my treatment and guided me through a woeful first draft, and two further drafts within a five-month timeframe. I’ve spent a further five months reworking and improving at a slightly more sensible pace.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the feeling when you’ve found a good story and it stays with you all day long. You can’t stop thinking about it – Something I read recently likened it to falling in love – that you’ll be making a cup of coffee, running the bath and suddenly a fully formed scene pops into your head that you know you’ve got to write, and that it will work. I love that.

What do you struggle with the most?

Having to work in teeny tiny chunks of intermittent time. I know the rule is you’re supposed to write every day and for at least thirty minutes. Well. I don’t. Sometimes I’ll write for a couple of hours one day, but then won’t be able to review or edit my work for a further five days. By which time I’m in a completely different headspace and can barely remember what I was so hung up about in any particular scene. It then takes me an hour to re-engage the brain and familiarise. Urgh. I hate that.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing?

I took some of the first development exec courses to hit the UK a good decade ago… and I honestly think there are a lot more opportunities nowadays. Honestly. Social Media and online networking can only help things, and I think there are several brilliant organisations actively supporting new writers in the UK, so I think things are pretty good just now. I was gutted to see the end of the UK Film Council who supported my first short film via their Digital Shorts scheme, and I’d love to see more shorts schemes back on the slate.  I’m also an unashamed, off-the-scale optimist so perhaps you shouldn’t be asking me.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Erm. Ask me again in a few months. : )

How did it feel when your script was shortlisted, then becoming a finalist, and then one of the winners?

It felt amazing. I almost didn’t submit as I felt my script wasn’t ready. But the panel of judges was a complete dream team for me – writers and producers I adore, films that have inspired me to write. So when I made the final 50 I was thrilled. I didn’t even check if I’d made the top 20 as I was convinced I wouldn’t get any further. Then to make the top five…. Well. I’m still chuffed to bits. Above all, it’s brilliant to feel that other people can see the potential in your story. That’s all I’d hoped for. It gives you a massive boost.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

The fabulous Lucy @ Bang2write blogged about it – about how Shore was aiming to do something a bit different and get the winning scripts into the right people’s hands, not just award lovely prizes…

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

Although I’m fairly new to this writing lark, I’ve been in the industry for long enough to get an idea of how it works – so I’m realistic about how many knocks you have to take alongside the wins. I’d like to think this is just the first step on my way towards a long-lasting, robust writing career. More please!

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I came from theatre and playwriting.

How long have you been writing for?

Since elementary school.  Seriously.  Poetry mostly.

Do you have a routine that you stick to?

Drink tea, write, nap, clean house, write, nap, drink more tea, finish script, long nap.

How do you find time to write?

Easily.  It IS recreation.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

The terrible events that actually befell the protagonist in real life.

How long did it take to write?

A year to interview and research.  Four months to write.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Everything.

What do you struggle with the most?

I used to struggle with structure, now it’s second nature.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

No.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Yes.  The hoops one has to jump through!  Pitch… logline… one-sheet… synopsis… nevermind.

How did it feel when your script was shortlisted, then becoming a finalist, and then one of the winners?

Satisfied.  I knew it was a touchy subject and hoped Shore’s judges would see the humor.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I hope the script becomes a film so the true life protagonist can find some solace; he was very abused.

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I was always film mad as a kid. My Dad used to bring home videos for me and my brother, some of which we’d watch over and over. This combined with a naturally active imagination and creative mind led me to thinking up stories and characters. When the time to go to University came, there was only one thing I was interested in studying.

How long have you been writing for?

I began jotting down scenes and bits of dialogue when I was a teenager. I started writing properly (with structure) when I undertook a scriptwriting degree at University (aged 23), learning the basic principles of storytelling, scriptwriting and understanding how to put what was in my head on paper correctly.

Do you keep to a routine when you’re writing?

When i’m actually writing, yes. During the past five or so years, the bulk of my work has been done during intensive week long writing breaks abroad. These will involve solid 7-8 hours a day. Any work done at home is generally going over and re-writing what i’ve done abroad.

How do you find time to write?

I don’t! My job is very consuming and has made it very difficult to get in the zone before it’s back to the office. I realised some time ago that forcing myself to write when my head is full of ‘work’ only leads to me deleting most of it when I come to go through it as it’s not right. Once i’m focused on what i’m doing and away from distractions, I can write a screenplay in a matter of weeks.

How many screenplays have you written?

Kidstortion is my third feature length project. The first was for my final project at University and the second was an adaptation that I never quite finished (it turned out that the rights had already been bought by the BBC and was about to go into pre-production). Valuable lesson learned.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

The plot was inspired by real life characters and stories i’d heard. I also drew plenty of inspiration from other film makers, particularly the Coen Brothers. I love the way they take ordinary people and put them in extraordinary circumstances. Characters grow and evolve but they are always real everyday people. Real drama and real humour comes from familiarity. From characters and scenarios that audiences can relate to. Taking Frank (from Kidstortion) as an example. While he is the villian, I wanted to resist the temptation to create a larger than life gangster. The reality is that you could be stood next to him in a pub and you would never know. He’s nasty and wealthy but he will get flustered, angry and confused like the rest of us. I find such realism far more captivating and funny.

How long did it take to write?

I’d been planning and creating the story in my head for about 2 years before i properly started writing it. The actual writing part took me about 4 weeks (4 x 1 week bursts spread over 18 months).

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It’s a cliche’ but i enjoy the freedom and buzz that comes from creating characters and stories that grow and intensify as the develop. I also love the rush of energy you get when you know you’ve nailed a scene.

On a broader level, I like the fact that you can write anywhere at any time and that inspiration can come from anywhere. A song, a picture, a smell, a scene…

What do you struggle with the most?

Finding the time. This is something i’m hoping Shore can help with!

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

The truth is i’m not really close enough to know. I always believed that if a script was good enough it would force itself out there. However, once I started getting knockback after knockback from literary agents, none of which would even read Kidstortion, I grew to realise that this was a naive attitude and that it would take much more than a great script to get noticed. Again, I think what Shore are doing is fantastic; and not just because i’m one of the winners!

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Yes, extremely. It’s a classic catch 22 situation. Agents and production companies will only read solicited material. How are you supposed to get reccomended unless someone reads it in the first place? I think the more competitions like Shore the better. The industry needs more original stories and new voices in film, as opposed to an increasing number of big budget regurgitations. Truly inspiring films rarely cost ten’s of millions to make. Quite the opposite.

How did it feel when your script was shortlisted, then becoming a finalist, and then one of the winners?

Being shortlisted was a shock, mainly because i’d forgotten about it. I’ve learned to forget as soon as I submit anything because the likelihood is I won’t hear back. I can remember exactly where I was when the email came through (sat in a bar in Valencia getting ready to watch a Euro 2012 football match). Making it to the semi’s was very exciting. The lead up to the announcement of the winners was very tense. The day dragged on forever, and then I got a personal email from Shore and my hair stood on end. I think I went into shock.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

A friend and fellow writer told me about WithoutaBox. I uploaded Kidstortion and entered it into Shore Scripts Competition. I was actually in Spain working on my current project when I received the email telling me i’d made it into the quarter final.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I have two goals for Kidstortion. Firstly I want to sell it. This will enable me to write full time and get my current project finished very quickly. Secondly, I’d like to sell it to the right production company. This will go some way to ensure it’s made correctly and relatively low budget (how i’d have made it myself).

In terms of my immediate future, i’d like to get my next two projects written, sold and made. Beyond that, i’d like to get involved in directing. I hope to get on a set as soon as possible so I can absorb and learn.

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

RONNIE ROCKET. Let me explain: After I saw MULLHOLLAND DRIVE I became downright obsessed with everything David Lynch. I came across an unproduced screenplay of his entitled RONNIE ROCKET. Reading it transported me to a wonderful and bizarre world, I imagined it so vividly. Ultimately, it decoded the hidden mysteries of screenwriting for me, and now I strive to create the same amazing sensation in a reader that RONNIE ROCKET gave me.

How long have you been writing for?

I started late, around 19. Before that, I was never able to fathom the idea of writing an entire feature screenplay. Then I began to fear my own mortality. Nothing makes you write with a fixed sense of purpose more than the panic of vanishing from this earth and leaving nothing behind.

Do you have a routine that you stick to?

I write in the morning, I buy a large coffee from 7/11 and sit by my computer till around 6PM. It’s really quite sad, and I often feel like a monkey trapped in a cage, a monkey who also writes feature screenplays for a living.

How do you find time to write?

I make commercials for a software company, I don’t go into an office, and so I use my spare time between gigs to write.

How many screenplays have you written?

I have written five feature length screenplays. I have two new ones that are about to go out, they are all very distinct from one another.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

Los Angeles is a very perverted place. I know I’ve been tainted by it. Most movies set here take place high up in the Hollywood hills, but I wanted to write a film about Hollywood’s marginalized characters, the people who live at the bottom of the hill, the DAY OF THE LOCUST types: the little people.

How long did it take to write?

Three years total, because this was my first script. I actually wrote the very first draft in a week, but because I didn’t have a solid foundation, I needed to do extensive revisions.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy the element of surprise. I like to lull the reader into thinking they have a good sense of the genre I’m working in, then subvert their expectations, make them confront life’s paradoxes. What gives me the most pleasure is someone confessing that my story gave them nightmares, because then you’ve really gone beyond the page and infested the reader’s mind. It’s kind of like how I’d imagine for a comedian the highest honor would be making someone piss his pants.

What do you struggle with the most?

Self-loathing and self-doubt. Writing a screenplay is like climbing a mountain and starting the journey is always very tough. I’ve been trying to do this professionally for more than ten years now; the only thing that keeps me going is a conviction of belief in what I have to say.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

The way it seems from my, admittedly limited, position is that the film industry embraces anyone who is writing what they want. But if you are trying to do something new, it’s going to be harder to get people to rally behind you. I seek comfort in reading about my hero writer and directors, the ones who broke new ground, their paths were never simple, and they struggled through an upstream battle.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

At first I did, now I find it a bit easier, but getting something read is only a small part of the battle. Then you have to find a group of people who all love the material just as much as you.

How did it feel when your script was shortlisted, then becoming a finalist, and then one of the winners?

I felt good when it was shortlisted, better when it was a finalist, and then amazing when I won.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I heard about the judges. David Cronenberg’s CRASH is one of my all time favorite films. I felt I needed to get my script in the hands of Andras Hamori, one of the people that made that daring film, because I’ve often said to my friends, “how on earth did they ever make a film of CRASH?”

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I have lots of goals; here are some of them in no particular order:

–        Make something as culturally influential and as deeply terrifying as JAWS.

–        Reinvigorate independent film with a sense of danger and genuine surprise.

–        Win the Palme Do’r twice in one year.

–        Work with Louis CK in a dramatic role.

–        Adapt my favorite novel of all time.

–        Befriend my film hero’s.

And that’s all in this year…