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Tom Critch, LISP 2nd Half 2021 Short Screenplay Finalist

LISP 2nd Half 2021 Short Screenplay Finalist, U Be Me by Tom Critch

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

Tom is a workshy Recruitment Consultant who moonlights as a writer. He’s Northern and enjoys sitting down. When not berating people who haven’t turned up for interviews Tom looks after his 20-month-old son who is under the impression he’s a dinosaur. Daily life for Tom involves typing out sarcastically passive aggressive emails to a wide variety of clients or stopping said infant dinosaur from doing/eating something he shouldn’t. Tom also writes and speaks in the third person. You can imagine how popular Tom is at work. Actually, I’m gonna stop that now. Why do so many people write their bios in the third person? Never understood that…


- When and how did you get into writing?

I believe it was 15TH April 1992. A Wednesday if I recall. Round about teatime. We were set a homework challenge of writing a short story and I completely ripped off the plot of Ghostbusters II. I still think that short story is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Then I grew up (physically) went to Uni spent a decade inside a wine bottle and fell into a theatre. Got the writing bug and the rest as they say is history. I’ve been lucky enough to win the David Nobbs Memorial Trust competition, Best Comedy at the Portobello Film Festival with my short ‘The Piano’ and was co-writer on Ardvale Films award winning entry ‘The Last Union’ for the London 48 Hour Film Challenge. I’ve had short films made, audio series produced and have an ongoing commission with County Hall Arts. Hand on heart writing is the only thing in my entire life I’ve ever stuck at. The guitar lessons didn’t last. The infatuation with model trains didn’t last. The mullet didn’t last (thank God) Everything and everyone has come and gone except sitting around and making stuff up, and what a splendid way to while away a lifetime doing :]


- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

If I’m honest (and working in recruitment has taught me never to be honest) I’m pretty bipolar when it comes to the act of writing; either I’m fanatically devoting every hour God sent to the ole typey typey, or I’m sat in my pants eating cereal out of the box whilst watching Married At First Sight (the Australian version, of course, no one does drama like those Antipodeans!) There’s no set routine as such purely because writing is still something I do in my spare time, so as soon as someone or something in our house stops asking for attention (including that damned needy dishwasher!) that’s when the magic happens. I’m also training to be a magician. What inspires me to write? Uww that’s a good one. Arguments I’ve lost inspire me. Relationships that failed inspire me. What if’s. Lives that could have been. Affairs I’ve never had. I’m basically using writing to play out all my own personal neurosis…Crickey when you put it like that maybe I should just do some Mindfulness and save everyone the time and trouble!


- How does it feel to have your work recognised (a recognition can be winning a competition and/or getting your work published/produced)?

It’s always nice to have someone say ‘hey you know that thing you did that time? We liked that thing!’ writings quite solitary so you’re never entirely sure whether what you’re doing is any good and/or worthwhile, particularly with comedy. There’s nothing unfunnier than trying to write a comedy. Honest to God it’s like pulling teeth. I bug my missus to read scripts all the time and if the only thing she flags is the spelling and grammar (I am hilariously bad at spelling and grammar) then I know the story itself is watertight. Cheers Steph btw, I ruddy love the bones of you!


- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay/Story?

There’s always a moment when you’re writing – or if you’re lucky you’ll get several of ‘em – when you find yourself in what the trendy kids like to call ‘the zone’. It’s a bit like tuning a radio for ages, getting nothing but static, crackle and what might be Welsh, and then suddenly BANG! Radio 4 comes through loud and clear. The voices of your characters are practically screaming at you: FASTER FASTER TYPE MONKEY TYPE! You don’t so much write it as it pours out of you at breakneck speed and your fingers can just about keep up. When that happens it’s glorious. Absolutely glorious. The rest of the time it’s you staring at a blank screen until your forehead bleeds. Also, I find there’s a real love/hate feeling when typing ‘the end’ because you sit back, take a breath, perhaps do a little dancing, pour a nice deep glass of gin, and then it dawns on you: rewrite! Arrgh!!


- 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 gist of the script I submitted for LISP is as old as the hills: body swap drama. Only I’ve given it a bit of a 21st century makeover. Imagine being able to swap your body like you swap phones. The script is basically about two people who want to escape their own respective difficulties, then following an accident one gets stuck in the other's skin. I suppose it might have had its origins in the anonymity of the internet, and how people are able to hide behind usernames/avatars/pictures etc. There are also overtones of gender fluidity and dysphoria and lots of other buzzwords but I find the more you focus on a message the more you lose the story so essentially it’s about two women who want to be other people. Also, I read this article years ago ( https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/29/gayle-newland-found-guilty-at-retrial-of-tricking-female-friend-into-sex) and it always stayed with me. People are so strange and so fascinating, aren’t they?


- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay/Story?

If it’s alright with you I’m going to nick something I wrote for the last answer: the more you focus on a message the more you lose the story. You might sit down and think ‘Right I’m going to write a story about animal cruelty’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cram a load of facts down people’s throats. Hell, you don’t even have to write a story with animals in. Focus on what you as a viewer would like to see. Follow where your interest as a writer takes you. That initial gut feeling is what will steer you through that tortuous first draft, rewrites, getting feedback, rewrites, sending it out into the world, rejections, rewrites, interest from producers/production companies, more rejections and yes you guessed it … YET MORE REWRITES! YAY!

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?

I guess the best thing would be winning them right? Surely there’s nothing better about a competition than winning it?? In my entire life, I’ve only ever won two competitions: one for a Batman Forever figurine through a tabloid newspaper in 1996, and then the David Nobbs Memorial Trust competition in 2019. The most challenging thing is not knowing what kind of script to submit, to use the David Nobbs Memorial competition as an example they wanted the first 10 pages of a comedy script, but beyond that, you were free to submit whatever you wanted. I Google’d David Nobbs and his amazing body of work, researched the previous winners to try and get some idea of what they’d won with, looked into who the judges were… (note to self: I would have been an amazing spy) and in the end, I took a complete shot in the dark with a high concept two hander about a pair of female detectives who hunt supernatural criminals. Didn’t think in a million years it would get picked. Yet it did. What point am I trying to make? Dunno really…I guess if you believe in the script then bang it in and see what happens


- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?

Oh hell yes!


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