Niki J. Borger, Screenplay Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020
- Can you please tell us about your daily life?
I am an actress based in Burbank/ Los Angeles. With Covid-19, production has been shut down for 3 months now, but I'm using the time to write and to prepare for my upcoming projects. And there's a lot of interesting stuff to do!
So, I get up in the morning, and have some coffee. Then I do applications, auditions and online projects, usually until lunch. The afternoon I spend writing and working out. Next year, I'll be filming a couple of shows that require stunts and a lot of fighting scenes. So, I'm working on that every day. Plus, I'm working on different American accents - also for future projects. And that's it pretty much right now. Admittedly, I enjoy the focus that comes with being locked into one place and there's only so much you can do. It helped me a lot with getting my own short films finished and finally out there - which probably wouldn't have happened if I was still on set every day.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I only started writing in October 2019, so about 8 months ago. I had acted in over 40 short films during the 12 months before, but most of them didn't have good stories. There was nothing new, they were often very superficial and I was tired of that. So I started writing my own short films - admittedly in which I would play lead - and filmed them. My first project is called "A Portrayal of a subtle suicide". It's been in the festival run for 6 weeks and has already gotten me several awards as best actress and best women's film. My second project is "Because I could", which has been in the run for 2 months now, it's already been screened on 3 continents and got me several awards for best mobile short.
This is the first time that I submitted a screenplay/ for screenplay consideration - so that was really exciting. And it was only the 4th short film I have written so far. Given the quarantine I am now writing on a daily basis. But I also got to admit, that acting is my priority and I'm writing scripts that I am acting in only. I don't think I could put all my love and care into a project and then have someone else act it - that would be heartbreaking.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
WOW! That's what it feels like. Simply amazing! I submitted my script to a few festivals, but I didn't really expect great feedback at all, let alone be a finalist! So, that was totally unexpected and really boosted my motivation to write more!
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Screenplay?
For me, personally, the best thing is that I get to design the characters that I want to play, which is really exciting! The hardest thing is that English is not my native language and sometimes it's hard for me to find those nuances in the language that I'm looking for. But that's hopefully only a matter of time and practice.
In general, I'd say the best thing is that you get to share your view of a specific story with a lot of people. You can make your own, unique and beautiful voice get heard. Ideally, the hardest thing comes after - getting it produced. But in my experience, if you really want something, you can always get it.
- 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 idea of "A Lady's diary" had been in my head for quite a few months. There's been a few situations, where random people knew way more about me - due to social media - than I thought. So, I started recognising the danger of sharing online. I wanted to create a story, that points that out. But I also wanted it to be somewhat funny - even if it's very dark humour - and I wanted to have a main character that allows for amazing acting. That's when the idea of the old lady came in, somebody that had once been adored by millions, but now we mainly pity her, until she shows that she really doesn't deserve our sympathy any more.
Once I was clear on her character, I wrote the screenplay in about 2 hours. I got some feedback from friends, did a few minor changes, but that was all.
It took a while to get that clarity on the story and the character, and then it was "just" about writing it down.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay?
Start from things you know, things you have experienced or that you know about. Then start examining them in the core: what are they really? Is that guy insulting a homeless man because he asked him for money? Or is there a different reason? Is he frustrated with not having enough of his own? Does the homeless man remind him of somebody? What is really going on? Find the original aspect in your story. What makes it stand out? Why is it something new, something that hasn't been on a screen yet? Emphasize that. And then write as authentically as you possibly can. The more human you make your characters, the more your audience will see themselves in them. Best example: This is us! And lastly: be very clear about your message. What is it you want to say? What feeling do you want to create? What do you want the audience to think? That's nothing you have to put into your script, but you as a writer have to be aware of the message of your screenplay at all times.
That is how I work and it works for me. But surely, there's many different ways and ultimately you have to find your own.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
Screenplays, short stories, short films - they are all pieces of art. And hence, the reactions you get are very diverse. Some people will love it, others will hate it, and some are in between. The hardest thing about festivals and writing competitions is to not take the feedback personally. Yes, they are criticizing your piece of work, and hence a little bit of yourself, because you put all this effort into your project, you believed in it. But that doesn't make you any less worthy. So, don't get discouraged, you're on this way for a reason, and one day it'll all make sense and pay of. And that is the best thing about festivals and competitions: the day it does. I was blessed to get numerous awards for my projects in the last couple of months, for writing, directing and acting. And each of them was an amazing experience! I can't wait to go back to real on-site festivals and experience all of that in person!
-Lastly, do you recommend the short story and Flash Fiction writers to give it a go on screenplay writing and LISP?
Definitely yes! Films or visiuals in general are the best way, to get a broad audience for what you have to say! And the way to that is a great screenplay! Plus: the access has never been easier. With youtube, intagram, tiktok - you have a million ways of sharing your stories with others through media. So, find yourself a team you vibe with (a director, a DP and a couple of actors), write some amazing scripts and get your work out there. Your stories deserve to be heard!