LISP 2nd Half 2021 Feature Screenplay Finalist 'Call Me Thor' by Jamie Campbell
-Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I live in Kansas City with my fiancé, Jessica, and our dog, Henry. I typically spend my days writing a combination of screenplays, short stories, and freelance blog-posts. I spend my evenings performing as a stand-up comedian, storyteller, and improviser. I also squeeze in some on-camera acting now and then. When I’m not working, I’m busy helping to plan for our wedding, which is coming up soon!
-When and how did you get into writing?
I am a firm believer in making your own opportunities. When I first began working as a comedic performer, I discovered that no one was knocking down my door begging me to get onstage. I decided to create my own work to showcase what I can do as a comedian. I began to write characters, sketches, and other material for myself to perform.
When I was training in sketch comedy at The Second City in Chicago, I met a friend named Amanda Murphy. We began to write a project together, which turned into a full-length musical entitled four play. I’m not a great singer, but she is, so I ended up stepping away from a performing role to direct the show. It was the first time I was able to watch other actors read words I had written. I was hooked. The show was a success and managed to win a couple of awards from Broadway World that year.
I continued to write, still mostly material for myself, but I did branch out and entered a competition called DrekFest, produced by Stage Left Theatre. It is a competition to write the “world’s worst 10 minute play.” It’s a popular contest that receives entries from all over the world. The idea is to intentionally write the worst thing possible. I was up for the challenge, and penned a very offensive script called A Fist Before Dying. It won that year’s top prize. It was the first writing accolade I had ever received.
A landmark moment for me was when I became a staff writer for the webseries Lunch and Learn. It meant a lot to me, because I was being paid for my creative input, and the series had a solid viewership and an actual budget. It has been described as The Office, if it took place at an inept interior design firm. The show received millions of online views and I’m very proud of the work I did,
I didn’t really focus on writing for the screen until the pandemic hit. I took a few online courses and managed to connect with some mentors who helped teach me the craft of writing for the screen, which was immensely helpful. Since then, I’ve made writing a part of my daily life.
Call Me Thor, which I am honored was selected as a finalist for the London Independent Story Prize, was a second round selection for the Sundance Development Lab, and made Barnstorm Media’s “Short List” of the best screenplays they read last year.
A horror short that I wrote, which was originally called Dead, Baby, was recently awarded first prize at the 26th Annual Fade In Awards. It was picked-up by V-Pac Productions in the UK. It will go into production later this Spring, under the new title Mourning Sickness. I also have a sitcom script, Gary Wakes Up, which was named a winner at last year’s Lit Laughs International Comedy Festival, and a short play, Hotline, was adapted for the screen, and just began its festival run.
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine?
I write every day. Sometimes for a long time and sometimes it’s just a short burst. I am a creature of routine, but I need some flexibility within that structure. I am someone who needs to approach work and goals with a plan, and I work best with structures and deadlines. So, having a writing session built into my daily schedule is essential.
And what inspires you to write?
I believe every character we write is on a quest for joy, and I’m inspired by that journey, and what that means for each person. People will go to great lengths to find what they believe will bring them happiness, and that’s something that I want to explore more of.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It’s an honor when my words affect anyone in a positive way. The ultimate goal for a screenwriter is to write a script that others want to make. Any time a competition recognizes my work, it increases the odds of the story getting into the hands of someone who will want to turn it into a film.
- 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?
The screenplay for Call Me Thor takes place in the early 90’s, and follows a chubby, heavy-metal obsessed boy and his mother who go on the run from abusive men, changing their identities and hiding out in New Mexico. It is loosely based on events that happened in my own life when I was a pre-teen.
The screenplay is fiction, but many of those things really happened to me. Before writing the script I told my own tale in a one-man show that toured theaters and fringe festivals across America. Sharing my own story was cathartic and therapeutic. After each performance, audience members would come up to me and share their own personal stories of trauma. The experience helped me heal those childhood wounds and connect to others to help them do the same.
When it came time to write this screenplay, I decided that I didn’t need it to be my exact story. Making it a fictionalized account that was merely inspired by my own life allowed me the freedom to make the main characters more heroic.
I also decided I didn’t want it to turn into trauma porn. I didn’t want the violence and abuse to be so graphic that teenagers couldn’t watch it. It was important to me that kids who are going through something similar would be able to watch the movie and know they aren’t alone.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
I think that the best thing about competitions is the opportunity to be recognized by your peers and potentially make some connections that may help you move forward and have your work realized on the screen. Even if that competition doesn’t directly connect you with filmmakers, it can increase your visibility and help indirectly.
The most challenging thing is to come to the realization that your work is not going to affect everyone in the same way. Some people aren’t going to like it. It can be difficult not to take rejection personally, especially because we put so much of ourselves into the work.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?
Absolutely. You owe it to yourself to put your work out there.