Feature Screenplay Winner, 'Nod' by John Palfery-Smith
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I'm John, I'm actually a working line producer in film, but I've always aspired to write for a living. I'm lucky enough to be exposed to many different scripts by excellent writers as part of my day job, but finding the time and mental space (and having the funds) to step back from a very stressful job, in order to actually write, is very challenging. Every script I write is inspired by the places and people around me, and ends up being written over several years in fits and starts.
- When and how did you get into writing?
I've always written as a hobby. From very simple stories and poetry as a kid, to many attempts at novels and screenplays through the years. I'm now in my thirties and I'm only recently starting to feel that I'm getting a grasp of it! I received my first placement in a writing contest about 6 years ago for a short film, but have been lucky enough to win several awards and mentions since then. The next step is hopefully getting something produced!
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I don't write nearly enough, or as much as I would like to. If I had my way I'd write every day, but the words don't always flow, even if I like taking inspiration from everything around me. The trick is to write anyway, even if what's going down on paper won't make the final draft. Pushing through, in the moments you have available, is the only way to get them finished. You can always edit later.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It's a huge honour to be recognised for the work you've done. Awards such as LISP are a massive boost to a writer's confidence. You never know, when you're staring at the page, if anyone else will think it's any good, or understand what you're trying to do. So, competitions like this are invaluable in working out a piece of writing's place in the world.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay?
The best thing and most challenging thing are the same thing: finishing it.
- 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?
NOD is a strange one. It started life as an idea when I was only 15 years old, and I've struggled to put it to paper since. The setting has never been quite right: the bleakness and anger that people feel in this very stark look at London, the isolation suffered by many, it's never been quite believable as a setting until now. It was never supposed to be as dark as it's turned out - it was intended to be an optimistic story - but sometimes you have to follow the script where it leads you.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay?
The best advice is to find your own technique. What works for Stephen King doesn't work for me, and it took me years to understand that only I could figure out how to complete it. So try different things, and don't stop writing.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
Competitions are tricky. The most important thing is to research them and make sure you're picking the right ones. This requires a fairly objective view of your own work. A rose-tinted opinion about your own writing gets you nowhere in competitions: you've got to be aware of your work's limitations and its flaws, and where they are likely to get what you're trying to say. Coverage is an excellent way to learn this if you're starting out, as is reading past winners. So stay realistic and put it in the right places, and be prepared for rejection.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?
Competitions like LISP are invaluable in discovering and propagating new work from new voices, and for helping writers find their groove. Wins can lead to amazing things. I highly recommend it.