LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Short Screenplay, 'Will Kill for Food' by Alex Schopp
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I’m 35 years old, married to my best friend in the world, Kate, and we have two headstrong little girls, Lucy and Molly. I work in marketing for a management consultant company, and my wife is a nurse practitioner. Our family moved to Reno, NV four years ago, and we enjoy the area for its proximity to Lake Tahoe and the Bay area. Prior to Nevada, I’ve also lived in Arizona, Montana, and Illinois. Some of my favorite hobbies include writing and watching movies (of course), rooting for my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, crossword puzzles, playing chess and backgammon, and reading/theorizing about space exploration and the future of the human civilization. And of course doing any and all of those things with my family whenever possible.
When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I really started enjoying writing in college. I had a great professor my sophomore year who encouraged my writing, and I’ve never stopped. In my 20’s, whether it be a screenplay or television pilot, writing skits for the television show or radio show that my friends and I created, or writing for a movie blog that I oversaw for many years, I was always looking to write something. Sometimes that meant fleshing out entire drafts, other times just noting scenes or characters; but I feel that writing has been engrained in my daily thinking ever since. Nowadays, with a busy family life, writing doesn’t come quite as habitually, but I’m still always on the lookout for the next great idea!
How does it feel to have your work recognized?
Being recognized for my writing is amazing on a variety of levels, but most simply, it validates the work and effort I’ve put in. Not that recognition should be a reason for the work – it’s still ultimately the process and the joy of completion that makes the process worth it – but the busier life gets, and the harder it is to carve out time to write; it’s nice knowing that it was always for something. It gives you just the tiniest bit more motivation to keep at it and keep pushing. Beyond that, simply being a part of any festival among peers is rewarding itself. At that point, being recognized is just the cherry on top.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Screenplay?
The best thing about writing a screenplay is seeing the characters and scenes that are so visible in your head come to life on the page. Getting to craft every element exactly how you see it so that others can experience that same story is really incredible. It amazes me even still how powerful groupings of letters, words, and phrases can be when you put them in the right order. The hardest thing is seeing through the elements of the story that you’re not set on or that aren’t as prominent in your mind. I can give you a storyboard that shows the key points to any story I come up with and feel incredibly enthused about it; but then you have to get from scene to scene, build out additional characters and motives, and give everything a cohesive meaning. Sometimes a lot of that comes naturally as you’re putting it together, but sometimes it can be a struggle getting from point-A to point-B when all I can see in my head are those two points.
How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected screenplay? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
The original idea for WILL KILL FOR FOOD came nearly a decade ago, first conceived between me and my brother, Andy, and one of our very good friends, Ben. I would consider all three of us students of the horror genre, and this was just one of an almost endless supply of ideas we discussed as we hung out. Many a concept has been lost over the years due to crashed hard drives, misplaced notebooks, or forgotten conversations at the pub, but this was one that always felt important enough to hang onto. For years I continued to tinker with pieces of it, but could never seem to get the script where I wanted. However, over the last year or two a couple things changed. One was the social context that was built into the story that we didn’t realize 10 years ago – but that now seemed quite impactful. I wanted to get that story out as a bit of commentary on the world in which it was set. The second was realizing that this was a short story, not a feature-length script. For a few years I’d had 80 or so pages that I was really happy with, but no matter how I tried to fill it out from there, I was never quite content with the remaining 40 pages. Once I realized a short script was the way to go, it was about reducing it and filtering it down to its most impactful elements. Once I started subtracting instead of trying to add, the story really came alive.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay?
I’ve now written a few short screenplays, and while I would never assume to be in a position where one would value my advice, the most notable thing I’d contribute is: don’t “try” to write a short screenplay. Write the story that’s in your head, continue to flesh it out as ideas come to you (whether that be over days, weeks, months, or years), and then figure out what it is. Once I was in the position where I’d put everything into the story that I had, reducing it down became so much more powerful than trying to fulfill a certain number of pages. Enjoy the process of telling your story and fleshing out every detail you have, then decide which format is best.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about festivals/competitions?
The best thing is simply being in a space with people you consider your peers and receiving feedback from individuals and professionals whom you most respect. Obviously, the festival circuit has changed quite dramatically over the last year due to COVID-19, but it’s still been enjoyable just to be a part of that world and interact with like-minded people. I’ll always value the festival experience itself more than any awards or recognition. And to misquote Tom Petty, the hardest part is the waiting. You labor over your idea for what feels like eternity, only to then enter festivals that are months and months out from announcing winners. Not only do you desperately want feedback on a project which you’ve spent so much time working, but the waiting also gives too much time to fear that your work won’t be accepted or valued. The idea of waiting so long for rejection is a hard pill to swallow. But when it does prove to be valued, there’s nothing better.
Lastly, do you recommend writers to give it a go LISP?
Absolutely I would recommend LISP to any writers or filmmakers. I thought their concept was clear and executed wonderfully, and the communication afterwards was exceptional. This really was a worldwide festival, and it was fun to see how my writing stacked up against others from different parts of the globe. I value the integrity and legitimacy that LISP always demonstrated.