LISP 2nd Half 2021 Short Screenplay Winner, 'Weightless' by Louise Monaghan
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I live in East Sussex with my husband, Mike and we have two grown up sons. James is a Product Analytics Manager (he's very good at sums) and Will is an architect (he's very good at drawing.) We also have a dog - I prefer dogs to humans - so walking on the Downs is part of our routine. I joined a beginners running course five years ago and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. And for someone whose PE school report said - on more than one occasion - 'Louise must make an effort to try much harder,' that's quite a change of heart. Mike's parents were from County Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland so Irish culture has had a big influence on our lives. Going 'back home' is a real treat.
- When and how did you get into writing?
I started writing more than twenty years ago after my older sister, Jo, died of cancer aged 36 leaving three young children. When she was in hospital there were things I wanted to say to her that seemed trite and awkward so I wrote to her. I wrote the things I wanted to say but I also told her funny stories about my own children and she read them out to other patients who laughed - and that felt good - so she told me I should write. I wrote about the family's experience of losing her and TIME TO SAY GOODBYE was published with a foreword by the late Terry Wogan. The responses from readers inspired me to carry on and I started writing drama. I went on to win both the Papatango Award and a Bruntwood Judges' award and have had several full professional productions of my plays. I'm also a radio dramatist and have had three radio plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4. I co-wrote a five part television drama with playwright and screenwriter Francis Turnly and it was in development with Kudos for a year before the head of development changed and, despite some serious interest from other production companies it never got picked up but the experience taught me that screenwriting is something I'd really like to do more of. WEIGHTLESS is my first short film script and last October it also won best short script at the Women Over Fifty Film Festival 2021.
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I write every day in the early morning but I have to confess that when I'm actively working on a project I find it very difficult not to live and breathe it and have to make a conscious effort to allow real life in. My own life and current affairs are my inspiration for ideas. I think writers are a little bit like photographers, they see stories in everyday life.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Knowing someone has connected to your work - both intellectually and emotionally - is the reason I do this. Knowing that an audience are going to respond - particularly on an emotional level - is very important to me. Having my work recognised in a field I've never actually worked in before is fantastic. And having a story about an older woman recognised is even better. As an older, female writer I feel, very strongly, that we are grossly under represented in both the theatre and film industry and that's a shame. We have some great stories to tell.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay/Story?
For me, personally, with a background in theatre where everything's about the text, the real challenge is in thinking visually and just writing what you actually see. Like a lot of writers I like to show off a bit and remembering that it's not a literary form and people really don't want to read anymore than they have to is something I have to keep in mind when I'm writing for the screen.
But the best thing is when someone reads your script and says they can see it, they get it and they want to work with you. Long may that continue.
- 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 anorexic in my teens and early twenties and think it's a myth that it ever completely goes away, so this is a story that's very close to my own heart. I was working on a variety of ideas with local film maker, Sonali Fernando and when I suggested I'd like to write about an older woman with an eating disorder it really resonated with her. I wanted to write a piece set on one of our local beaches along the South Coast and the image of the rampion wind farm - like a row of crosses on the horizon - haunted me. Then when I visited Birling Gap, the majestic Seven Sisters rising up above the sea seemed significant and unlocked something in my mind. So, essentially my own experiences and those images were my initial inspiration. I wrote an outline first and that took a couple of days then I wrote the script in another day with a little more revision the following week.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay?
Write about something you feel passionate about. Something that makes you angry, or scared or sad. People need to connect to your story emotionally and if you don't already feel it, then they won't either. And you need to write something you enjoy writing. You're going to spend a lot of time doing it, so make sure it's something that you really want to do. The internet is great for research but talking to real people and visiting real places is better. Don't be afraid of approaching people for research, most people love talking about themselves!
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
The best thing about competitions is that someone 'gets' you and that's great. The publicity it generates is fantastic too. I'm not great at self promotion but marketing yourself and what you do is important. The most challenging thing about competitions is the competition. So many fantastically talented people out there. Let's hope that from time to time one or two of the prize winners are older women like me.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?
Absolutely! You have to be brave and get your work out there. No one can read what's inside your head.