Richard Levine, LISP Short Screenplay FINALIST
LISP Short Screenplay FINALIST, THE PETRIFIED FLORIST BY Richard Levine
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I have been married for 29 years and we have two great children. We live in North Carolina, just outside of Raleigh. I'm a professional photographer and a writer. I try to spend an equal amount of time on both every day, along with spending time with my family and riding my bike.
- When and how did you get into writing?
I started writing when I was a little kid and I have kept it up all these years. I had ideas that I believed would be fun to write down and that slowly evolved into writing screenplays. I wrote my first feature when I was 27 and it was eventually produced and released in 2004 under the title "Happy Hour". The screenplay won several awards and was also well-received at film festivals. The film won the PRISM Award in 2004 for Best Festival Feature for dealing realistically with alcoholism. Since then I have written several other feature screenplays, a sitcom pilot, and now my first short script, "The Petrified Florist".
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I write every day for at least an hour, but usually more if time allows. My routine is to write at night after I have finished editing photos. I find writing very relaxing and there are times when the hours slip away and I realize it's 1:00 a.m. and I've been writing for 3 hours. There is something about writing that keeps me focused and sharp. Usually, my thoughts are all over the place the rest of the time, but when I sit down to write the characters and the plot are the only things on my mind.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Honestly, it's a thrill to have people read one of my scripts and feel it deserves recognition. "The Petrified Florist" script has won three contests this year and it has been a finalist or semi-finalist in several others. I never think about awards when I'm working on a script. I just want to write a script that I feel has my best effort. Everything after that is a bonus.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay?
Getting through a first draft that I feel tells the story I want to tell is the best thing for me. As I wrote before, I put my best effort into every word and when I read through the first draft, even when I know I will be making changes, I'm happy to have completed the script. The most challenging part for me is coming up with new ways to tell stories that have probably been told any number of times, in different ways. It is also an enjoyable part of the process for me.
- How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
I was in Raleigh, on my way to photograph a concert. I was walking with a friend and we saw a building with some kind of vine growing over the front. He said, "I wonder why they don't cut that down." I replied that it didn't matter since nature always wins. Those three words, "nature always wins" stuck in my head and became the basis for the script. I actually started working on the script years ago but put it aside for other things. I came back to it in January of this year and committed myself to complete it.
I don't know if I am in a position to give tips about writing since my success level has been spotty at best. I would say the old advice of writing what you know is number one. Also, use the voices and personalities of people you know. A familiar voice helps me develop the character(s) and helps me find a rhythm to the dialogue.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
The Best: The feedback. I have received positive and negative feedback and it has been extremely helpful. I deleted an entire scene in this script and added a new one based on notes I had received from a reader. It was a great suggestion and helped me flesh out the main character.
The Most Challenging: Nothing. I am not competitive by nature. I want to do the best I can and if that means I win, place, or come in last, it's all fine. As long as I feel I made my best effort. And if that wasn't good enough, I'll try again tomorrow.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?
Definitely! This was a great experience and I thought the communication was excellent. This festival genuinely seems to care about the people entering the contest.