Jess Gardner, Screenplay Semi-Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020
- Can you please tell us about your daily life?
I’m a creative producer and production manager working across film, tv and branded content. I have worked in branded content and commercials for about 8 years, writing short creative copy and voiceover scripts and devising creative concepts for video content as well as managing productions. I've recently been working in feature films and documentaries as a production manager and line producer which is really exciting and great because I also get to read a lot of scripts too.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I wrote my first book aged 6 (and illustrated it…) and presented it to my year 1 class. I still have it. I was always a poetry writer, having won several poetry competitions in my teenage years and having a few published in anthologies. I’ve always wanted to get into screenplay writing, and wrote a few at university but always lacked the confidence to show them to others.
I write sporadically due to how intense my work is when working on other productions, but I love being creative and thinking up ideas, so I have hundreds of notebooks with my ideas for scripts.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
After years of having piles of scripts sat collecting dust, either because I have been too busy with work or because I have lacked the confidence to show anyone my work, this has really given me a confidence boost.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Screenplay?
The best thing is seeing your characters come to life on a page - I’m a very visual person, so I have already imagined a lot in my head, so when dialogue comes out on the page, I can really see the film in my head.
The hardest thing about writing a screenplay is probably editing. Knowing when to stop tinkering and just get it out there. There will always be tweaks, they happen on set with actors and directors, so your script will never be ironclad, so sometimes you have to just let others see it and get a sense of what the story is.
- 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 story is based on my relationship with my grandfather who sadly has been diagnosed with dementia. I have been struggling to come to terms with saying goodbye to him as the person I know and love slowly fades and I had been thinking about the idea of memories in multiple capacities for a while and how memories exist in our mutual consciousness - similar to the idea in The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.
I actually wrote it off the cuff in an evening. I had some time and it just flowed out of me and then I submitted it the next day!
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay?
Set yourself some parameters - sometimes it's easy to get stuck with how big or small to go with an idea. For me, as I work in production, I set myself a time and budget constraint - it has to be this long and needs to be done for this budget. With restrictions you have to work harder with your creativity, to find solutions to problems, and it can jump start your mind and help you get going with an idea.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
Being a very self critical person means that the idea of submitting to a competition means I think its “worthy” in some way, perhaps almost too egotistical - I only did it because I forced myself to and it was more of a spur of the moment thing. That comes with the aspect then of validation, do you feel your work is not worthy if it didn't win or if its great because it was selected. I think it's good to be aware of this and to take pride in the aspect of writing itself - be proud of yourself writing anything - it's hard! If you get selected in a competition that’s a bonus but it doesn’t mean your work doesn't need improving and vice versa, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not a “winner”, because writing shouldn't solely focus on that, it should be something that you enjoy as well. There is always room for improvement for any writer, a massive success or not.
-Lastly, do you recommend the short story and Flash Fiction writers to give it a go on screenplay writing and LISP?
Yes absolutely, it's not only great to get yourself to write to a deadline but also it's important to get your work read, regardless of any accolades.