Lewis Carter, LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Short Screenplay
LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Short Screenplay, The Filter by Lewis Carter
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
Of course, my name is Lewis Carter. I'm an award-winning writer and indie filmmaker from South Wales. Most of my days are spent in the office of the video production agency, Fine Rolling Media, where I'm on-retainer as their in-house head writer/producer. If I'm not in the office writing a script or managing production schedules for one of Fine Rolling's narrative lead, high-end brand films, I'm probably out directing and producing them. In my own time, I can probably be found reading or working one of my own passion projects as a writer/director. Which tend to be anything from short films to documentaries to scripted audio dramas.
When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I started writing off and on from an early age, but I didn't allow myself to admit that I wanted to be a writer until I had graduated from university. I struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia in school, so while I was an avid reader, I was never encouraged to work on my writing beyond simple school assignments. I worked hard to keep my dyslexia a secret in university, working extra hard on my writing style to mask any spelling mistakes and errors that occurred naturally. But my writing journey really began when I submitted a short story to Leeds University which bagged me a place on their MA course for 'Writing for Performance and Publication'. It was there that I started to develop my voice as a writer and experiment with mediums beyond the page, such as screenplays and audio plays. I remember starting the course feeling like a fraud that was about to get caught out by the far more experienced writers around me—which did happen a few times. But, by the end of my studies there, I was awarded the highest grade on the course for my final dissertation project, a novella in the form of a ghost story, as well as winning my first independent writing competition for one of my short stories.
In my final week at University, I wrote a short screenplay titled, Campfire Story, as a calling card to showcase my ability to write in my favourite genre (horror) and to prove that I could construct compelling dialogue. I was encouraged to send the script to Fine Rolling Media, who were looking to get into scripted filmmaking. They jumped at the chance to produce the film and even allowed me to come on board as a co-director due to the strength of the script. Campfire Story went on to screen and win awards at film festivals all over the world and I was glad to accept an offer to join the Fine Rolling team as their in-house writer on all subsequent projects.
Since then, I've had the pleasure of writing and directing various other short films and documentaries for Fine Rolling Media and for other outlets such as the prestigious It's My Shout scheme in collaboration with BBC TWO Wales.
How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Of course, it's always nice to have your hard work recognised. My first motive in writing anything is to develop and hone my skills as a writer. What was nice about having my short script The Filter recognized by LISP, is that it's a script I intended to make myself before lockdown hit, rendering production impossible. Since writing the script for The Filter I've had to move on to other writing and directing projects, so to hear the news that it's a screenplay finalist at LISP is a great reminder that the script is still of value and is interesting to others in the world of filmmaking. Who knows, it may just be time to take it off the shelf.
What's the hardest thing and the best thing about writing a Screenplay?
I can only speak for myself, but I found the moment I stopped looking at the screenplay as a literary medium, my scripts became a lot more engaging. After directing and editing my own films, I revisited the way I approached screenwriting—which I initially saw as a medium to deliver engaging dialogue. Whilst my scripts are still character-driven and very interested in dialogue, I now spend far more time constructing the scenes on the page. In fact, I believe the successful screenwriter may have more in common with the editor than the novelist or the playwright. That's been a hard lesson to learn, but one I've enjoyed learning by directing and editing films and seeing exactly how the script is translated to the screen.
The best thing about writing a screenplay is when you're outlining or constructing the film's structure and the characters begin to talk to each other in your head. Then it's that beautiful time to place all your planning aside and let instinct take over. Everything comes through the characters for me. You can never spend enough time developing them, but when they start to whisper their secrets in your ear and talk amongst each other, it's time to get out of the way and let them tell the story they want to tell.
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?
I wanted to write something short and straight to the point in the comedy genre that only required one or two locations and I could potentially find time to direct myself. I view The Filter as kind of a short story set in a sit-com world. Our main character is a classic put-upon protagonist whose life is littered with all sorts of obstacles designed to trip him up in ways we love to watch play out in our favourite comedies. What sets The Filter apart from a classic comedy is its commentary on the world of; social media, influencers, and cancel culture.
The story took form when I heard that celebrities and famous people in Hollywood were actually paying people to filter and censor their social media posts for fear of posting something that will get them 'cancelled'. This bizarre new profession as a 'filter' for famous people's social media was the perfect world in which to throw in a sit-com style protagonist and watch him become devoured by it. I wrote the film pretty quickly once the idea was fully formed with TV actor Richard Mylan in mind, who had been an executive producer on one of my previous projects and was interested in having a script written as a vehicle for him.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay?
I think the best advice that springs to mind is: make sure you're actually writing a short screenplay. A lot of the scripts I get sent by aspiring writers asking for help are not fully formed short scripts. They either tend to be scenes in isolation, or descriptions of visual montages with little story or character development. A short film still needs many of the characteristics of a feature in order to be successful. You must have a protagonist who wants something, goes on a journey to get it, only to be changed in some way by the experience. It's very hard to do this in a short space of time. Ironically, you may have to pay more attention to your structure when writing a short screenplay as opposed to writing a feature-length script, but ultimately, it comes down to your character development. If you have an interesting protagonist, you are well on your way to having an interesting short screenplay.
Also, make it short—like, under 15 mins short.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about festivals/competitions?
Film festivals remain the best way for your short film to find its audience. I've released a few projects online during lockdown, and building a community of online fans around your project has been a rewarding experience. But, there's still nothing like sitting in a cinema as an audience watches your film for the first time. In many ways, you won't know if your vision has been successfully realised until you've gone through that experience with your film a few times.
The hardest thing can be realising you've submitted to a festival that is not interested in showcasing your film because they've fallen in love with it. But are more interested in amassing a profit on the backs of aspiring filmmakers. There are many out there—be careful when submitting and do your research.
Lastly, do you recommend writers to give it a go LISP?
I don't submit scripts to a lot of festivals, as they tend to be a waste of time. But, I'm happy to recommend LISP as a place to send your script or short story to gauge its success and potential wider appeal. LISP has a great track record of supporting and promoting the writers they believe in and providing a place for beginner writers to send their script to be read and considered without asking for ridiculous submission fees.