Friday, January 23, 2015

From the Shore Scripts Website: On the screenplay "Niki Sweet Talk Moves"

Note: This is an old post from The Shore Scripts Competition website, which accepts new entries on March 1st; if you have a screenplay to submit, I recommend you check out the website.  
What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I wrote an unpublished YA novel that I saw cinematically unfold in my head. I researched how to write a screenplay, and I adapted the story; it was my first unskilled attempt at screenwriting. About a year after that, I took classes via UCLA’s Professional Programs in Screenwriting Online.
How long have you been writing for?
Since I was four; my mother still has my first poem–something about a cat, I think, for Halloween, though I recall more of the snowmen poem I wrote for Christmas that year.
Do you keep to a routine?
I used to, especially in grad school a few years ago. I’d wake at 4:00 a.m. and write for two hours daily; then I’d take care of getting my kids off to school or ready for homeschool lessons, and finally I’d tackle my other homework and try to weave in a bit more writing time. I’ve been out of my writing routine for the past two years due to a prolonged illness; now I write whenever I can.
How do you find time to write?
I schedule it into my to-do list, or else snatch the time when I can. When my kids were young, it was the wee hours of the night. My daughter awoke at 3 a.m. for years; I’d get us each a snack and we’d head to my office where she “worked” on her coloring and I wrote. She’d fall asleep on the cot I kept there, and I’d get a couple great quiet hours to write.
How many screenplays have you written?
I’ve written almost 20 feature scripts, teleplays for a couple dramas, a handful of sitcoms, and more than 20 short screenplays. I’ve also written numerous industrials for companies and nonprofit organizations.
What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I’d been hired by our local planetarium, which is now known as the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, to write a 45-minute screenplay about global climate change for a junior high audience. I interviewed numerous scientists and ended up with heaps of notes. Some of my extra notes have seeped into two different screenplays, including this one.
How long did it take to write?
As my thesis project for my MFA in Creative Writing/Screenwriting at Goddard College, I wrote the first two drafts over the course of a semester, staged a reading and critique at residency, and revised the drafts, ultimately turning in about the fifth to seventh draft of the screenplay to graduate a semester later. That draft was stage read before an audience at the University of New Hampshire, where I am an adjunct professor. Afterward, the script went through a few more revisions before I submitted the current version to Shoreline Scripts.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Meeting new characters and inventing new worlds, then getting to know my characters on a deeply personal level as their stories unfold. I’m never lonely when I’m alone writing.
What do you struggle with the most?
Currently, due to my long illness, I cannot concentrate as long as I used to, though with therapy, holistic treatments, prescriptions, and a new diet and daily regimen that includes yoga and now Qigong, I am regaining my strength and cognition skills. I’ve actually recently written another BBC-style sit com episode for a series I developed with a team, and am ready to dive into a feature project that a friend and colleague has asked me to consider co-writing with him.
Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
The film industry is in a state of flux. If you’re referring to the old Hollywood system, I’d say no way, or at least on a very limited basis. However, with new technologies for both creation and distribution, there are a wealth of opportunities for new writers in the growing indy market. The one obstacle though is funding. Not everyone can find the necessary funding through traditional channels. Supportive audience members can help fund many projects via the crowd-funding sites, but not all of the projects that are out there will find the necessary funds.
Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Yes and no. I’ve found different outlets that have been helpful, and I’ve run into obstacles such as friends of friends who are too polite to tell me they don’t care for my writing…and then a couple years later I find out from their former assistant who becomes an agent. In that instance she loved my writing and eagerly repped me, though we had little success as a team. I had one big-budget script optioned, only to see it fall apart when the financiers backed out. That was a sad day for all of us; even the costumer had begun designing the pirate costumes.
How did it feel when your script was shortlisted, then becoming a finalist, and then one of the winners?
It felt good. It’s always nice to be validated. I like my writing, but I’m too close to it to be objective, so it was thrilling when my screenplay made it all the way to the Top Five. The experience has actually opened up a new screenplay that I am beginning to outline; I hope to submit it to next year’s Shoreline Scripts competition.
How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
Probably on Withoutabox, though I’m not certain where I first heard of it two years ago. Last year another script I wrote, “My Father’s Dairy,” made it to the next-to-last round. I was determined to make it to the Top Five this year.
What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
I’d love to see this script filmed, but realistically, I’m not sure it will happen since it’s a bigger budget, especially if it’s filmed in Nunavut, Canada, where the majority of it is set. Otherwise, I hope that this level of success will help me in chatting with producers who may like my writing style and want me to pen something in collaboration with them, or want to see something else I’ve written. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and working with my university students and with the teens I mentor; one of my teens and I wrote a historical comedy stage play that we’re hoping to see produced locally next February on the 100th anniversary of the historical figure’s death. Eventually, if I get well enough, I’d like to produce my own feature film; I’ve produced short films, and that would be the logical next step in my career.
Thank you!