Robin Johnston, Semi-Finalist
Robin Johnston, Screenplay Semi-Finalist, LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I am 45. I work full time at a community centre here in Glasgow and I live with my wife, stepson and small dog in the city’s west end.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I have been writing on and off since I was a teenager. I studied video production and film and photography in further education and intended to pursue a career in the media. I worked for a short while as a runner and production assistant. I left to work in London for a few years and when I returned to Glasgow I became interested in film and photography again. I started making my own short videos and projects, as well as organising my own photography exhibitions.
I have struggled to be disciplined and keep up on my writing over the years, so a couple of years ago I decided to do Aaron Sorkin’s masterclass on screenwriting. I wrote ‘Simulacres’ and a few other short scripts around that time. lockdown I have been working on more ideas that hopefully will see the light of day soon.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It’s great. Often it can feel that you are working in a vacuum, so it is very encouraging when people outside your usual circle show an interest and respond positively to what you are doing. This is the benefit of competitions and festivals.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Screenplay?
Starting the project and then keeping on till the end, especially with so many distractions in life. You also must deal with criticism, good and bad, which is not always easy. It is necessary if you want to improve though.
- 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 that was set in the future and was also very intimate and human and could be made simply. I liked the austere, sterile backdrop of a film like THX1138 and wanted to combine this in a very intimate domestic situation. The idea of one last older person in a world inhabited by perpetually young people fascinated me. Are the people who surround him still human? Have they lost too much in order to stay young? It has a lot in common with other science fiction stories and films in that respect, exploring fundamental aspects of humanity.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short screenplay?
It is best to think of a short film as a poem or telling a joke with a punchline, when a feature length film is more like a short novel. It is best to keep the situation simple, which does not mean your theme needs to be simplistic. If it works like a poem you can potentially say a lot with relatively few words, or images.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
The best thing would be the potential exposure and sharing your work with others. The worse is the potential for rejection and disappointment I suppose. This is something you absolutely must come to terms with however, to overcome your ego and understand that you need to improve. It is not easy and can be a bruising process so you need to persevere.
-Lastly, do you recommend writers to give it a go on LISP?
Yes definitely, it is always worth taking a chance and seeing the outcome, as well as the opportunity to share your ideas and thoughts with other people.