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Jamie Alan Mollart, LISP 2023 Film Festival, Feature Screenplay Winner, The Zoo

LISP 2023 Film Festival, Feature Screenplay, Winner, The Zoo by Jamie Alan Mollart

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

My name is Jamie, I’m a writer based in the East Midlands. As a day job I run an advertising agency and specialise in copywriting. I’m a novelist, having had two novels published and my agent is currently working on placing my third as I work on my fourth. I’ve written and produced one film and in the few spare moments I have I work with Writing East Midlands as a mentor. As I’m writing this, I’m aware that I sound like a very busy person, but all of it relates to writing in some way, so maybe it’s just all one big thing spilt into different deliverables.

- When and how did you get into writing?

I’ve always written, it’s been my release for as long as I can remember. As a teenager and through university I wanted to make films so completed a media production degree, but upon leaving, I got into the world of advertising instead. I continued to write as a hobby, but it took me 4 full novels before I got an agent and got published. This is only my second screenplay; the first was The Unlock, which I co-wrote and produced with my business partner, Simon. He came to me in 2022 with an idea for a new form of film making where the lead actor didn’t know anything about the script or storyline, so my script was far from orthodox. What it did do though was give me the buzz for film as a medium again, so while I’m still writing novels, I’m also very keen to keep writing screenplays and see the two as related.

- How often do you write? Do you have a working routine? And what inspires you to create?

Every day in some form. I’m always working on something. At the moment it’s a novella, and in the background, I have an idea for another novel, one for a screenplay and one for a TV drama. The idea phase takes me the longest, I like ideas to percolate for ages, sometimes years, and get into quite a good shape before I put anything on the page. Then I write a very quick first draft. As well as all the work commitments I have two young kids, so it’s very much a case of snatching time when I can. Then at least once a year I go to a writers retreat, called The Clockhouse, and get down some serious word count!

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

I think most, if not all, writers suffer from imposter syndrome and at the most basic level recognition, such as this award, goes some way to validate what we do as a craft. I still struggle to think of myself as a writer. If people ask me what I do I say I work in advertising! Writing is this weirdly personal thing; you spend months if not years working on something with only your own brain as company and then you through it out into the world and hope people like it. So, to get an award like this is an incredible feeling and makes those lonely hours totally worthwhile.

- What's the best and most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay?

I’ve written a few novels and so I foolishly thought writing a screenplay would be easy. How wrong I was! The first thing that I found a challenge was giving up all of the descriptive language, it sounds naïve, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me that I’d have to do that. The second was just how honed your dialogue needs to be because this is what drives the screenplay.

With screenplays it’s all about being able to think visually while writing, it sounds obvious, but it’s quite a hard thing to do. You need to understand the physical timing of something as you’re writing it, so the pace is right.

The hardest part of any writing is just how long it takes. It’s graft! It’s a lot of words and it takes a lot of time. If you’re not lucky enough to do it fulltime you need to fit it around work and that requires discipline. I always start like a steam train, get despondent in the middle and then finish strong, I know this, but that middle bit is always really hard, and I just have to battle through.

- How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected script. Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

The screenplay is based on one of my novels, so the amazing thing for me was to revisit the ideas of the book from a completely different angle and make something which was originally very literary as filmic as I could.

I had some much fun deconstructing the novel to its component parts and themes, then rebuilding it all in a totally different way. It was such an interesting process to realise what would and wouldn’t work on screen, it made me tear the concept apart and hone it right back to the bare bones of what I wanted to say and why.

The canvas you have to work on is much smaller than a novel, so you have to be much stricter with yourself about what you include, and so much needs to be communicated through dialogue rather than the character’s internal world that you have to be so precise in your writing. It was a massive learning curve for me and one that I loved. The whole process took me about a year, but it was a real pleasure and I’m itching to start writing another script.

The idea of The Zoo as figurines with emotive power has been with me for a long time. I like the idea of totems or avatars being representative of things and having double meanings. It came from toying with the idea of what a brand means and the way in which we as consumers apply associations to things and become blinded to the reality behind them. The whole thing stemmed from my personal concerns about the power of capitalism and the responsibility I feel for it because of my job.

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay?

Get it down. It’s much easier to edit something than it is to stare at a blank page. Get that first draft out of your head and onto the paper then cogitate over it. I love the editing process, to me it’s the most creative part asides from the original idea. I love whittling away at something.

Again, this sounds obvious, but watch lots of films. Writing is a craft you can learn to a degree, you need the creative flair and ideas to start with, but the actual mechanics of how to write a screenplay can be learnt, and the best way to do that is to watch lots and lots of films.

I like reading screenplays too. Have a read of Paul Schrader’s screenplay for ‘Taxidriver’; it reads like a novel, it really is an incredible thing. Reading other people’s work also helps you to learn the format you need to present your work in, A producer told me that if he’s given a script in the wrong format he will almost always reject it because it shows that the writer isn’t serious.

Oh, and write, lots and lots and lots. It’s a muscle that needs exercise and, in my experience, the more you do the better it flows.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions and festivals?

They’re kind of nerve wracking aren’t they! It’s that putting your work out there thing again, but with that risk comes reward. I’m honestly so excited and proud of winning this. And it’s made my mum proud, and that’s even better.

- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP?

Yes, 100% yes. Get your words out there. It’s why we do what we do after all!



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