- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life? I'm a screenwriter, novelist and freelance journalist, who specializes in cinema and culture. I live in the North-East of Scotland, one of the colder parts of the country, so between our current quarantine climate and the weather, I manage to keep myself locked indoors writing for a good portion of my days. I like to keep busy, when I'm not entertaining my daughter.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life! I've always written, but it was only around the age of 15 or 16 that I started to take it seriously. I had aspirations to be a film maker, so once I'd completed my secondary schooling I headed to Film School in Newcastle. After gaining my honours degree (in screenwriting) i started working in and out of the industry (in any capacity I could: a trainee editor, a photographer, even an actor) but it was only really after my first novel PEER PRESSURE was published that I started to gain attention from local film makers in my area. I wrote a handful of scripts and script treatments (of which only one ever went into production, a short film called MANIFEST) and then slowly I started to get work as a film reviewer and journalist for a handful of different publications, including Film Inquiry and Total Film Magazine. I am currently in pre-production on three short films, of which BRUISE, my entry to your competition that you were good enough to make a finalist, is one. My other big project at the moment is a feature screenplay called FOLLOW UP, which has already won a handful of awards and laurels at festivals and competitions and I am seeking producers and directors who might be interested in getting it made. - How did you feel when you learned that you are a Finalist on The London Independent Story Prize? It was a wonderful surprise. I've heard about the prize, but hadn't considered entering until I had a piece of work that I felt ready to go out into the world. Considering the incredible array of writers and work that you had this year, I consider it an honour to have been acknowledged amongst the top tier. Above all else, it's encouragement. Encouragement to work harder, to write better and above all else keep going. - What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Screenplay? The best thing is completing that first draft. There is no natural high more exhilarating than that feeling when you know you're near the end and you almost can't sit still, you're just so excited to type 'The End.' Unfortunately that feeling lasts exactly 16 seconds (I've timed it) before you realise that now you need to start re-writing your work, which is, by far, the hardest part. All those wonderful moments you crafted reveal themselves to be nothing more than artifice, and easily expendable, and before you know it, that elegant house of cards that you made begins to collapse and it leaves you an emotional wreck. - How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected script? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it? The idea for BRUISE came to me from a deep concern over the constant power struggle between men and women, particularly within the arts, and I was looking for a way to make a statement about these concerns, but without dialogue. The idea of contributing to the conversation without saying a word has a nice, poetic resonance for me and to illustrate ideas (which is something cinema can be so good at) through the use of the artform whose politics I'm questioning appealed to my inner-rebel. With every project I work on, I have to have a reason to spend my time on it. With my novel, I wanted to see if I could write a story about two generations of women, to see if I could write with a female voice. With BRUISE, I wanted to try and tell a story on a cinematic canvas, but without the aid of conversation. Film is a visual medium, so to be able to tell a story purely through pictures and movement (and in the case of the main character, dance) was where the challenge lay. I have to feel challenged, or it's not worth doing. - Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay? Knowing where you want to go is always a good place to start. I like to plan my stories very carefully, particularly the shorter works, as you only have a limited time to get your ideas, characters and plot across. I would also say that short screenplays can often be a great canvas on which to explore a theme or a concept, but in a particularly expressive way. You can get away with a lot more in short work in terms of narrative. Yoyu can be more experimental. So, I guess, what I'm really saying is that if you want to write screenplays, then shorts are the perfect practice ground to hone your craft. There certainly aren't as many rules as there are within a feature, which can often be restricted by the traditional 3 act structure. - What's the best thing about writing competitions? I think it's having the opportunity to be read, to receive feedback and encouragement and to feel part of a community of like minded, creative people. Seeing the long lists of names and titles on your site is a constant tonic to me, knowing that we are all in it to tell new stories, to entertain and educate. Art can be extremely powerful to every individual, not to mention therapeutic to the participant. And to think that I have been included with such a wonderful bunch of people, with the backing of a fantastic organisation such as yourselves makes all the difference on those dark nights when we all think about giving it up and succumbing to day jobs. -Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on writing a Screenplay and LISP?
Absolutely! It has been a wonderful experience and LISP has been very generous with its time, giving regular updates and communicating with its writers in a way that you don't often get from writing competitions. It has been such a good experience that it has encouraged me to try entering in a different capacity next time around, maybe with a short story. We'll see what the blank page calls out for.