Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Q&A... on writing

As part of the upcoming PAC Script Lab (more of that in a later post) I was asked some questions by co-founder of the Perth Actors Collective, the indefatigable Annie Murtagh-Monks:

Many people are intrigued as to how writers get their inspiration for stories/scripts.

What triggers your ideas?

This is perhaps the hardest question of all for a screenwriter – where do ideas come from?  For me it could be an obscure news item or a snippet of overheard conversation or simply the question all screenwriters ask, “What if…?” The hardest one to explain is when I see a scene fully formed in my head. If it keeps reappearing I try and figure out what it means and what the greater story around it is. The greatest trick is to trust that you know a good idea when it comes to you, no matter how that happens!

What was it in this story that came to you first?

There were three main aspects. Firstly, Tim and I wanted to make a straight forward, low budget genre thriller as a reaction to not getting any traction (yet) on our big, sprawling conspiracy thriller. We explored a few scenarios but the one that stuck was, “what would you do if you found a gun and a list of names in a briefcase?” The other element came from a bizarre, real life news story that felt like it was straight out of a movie script.

Are you the kind of writer who writes only when the ‘inspiration’ fires? Up till all hours burning the night oil OR do you set aside allotted time each day or week to write in?

I consider myself an ill-disciplined writer yet I manage to write a lot of pages. When I’m “in the zone” I write prolifically. When I’m not I procrastinate like crazy. How to find that magic place where time slows and creativity reigns? If only I knew.

I’m certainly not someone who has set times every day to write. I admire people who can do that. Deadlines help me enormously. I think the hardest part is beginning – once you dive into the world of your story you get immersed in it. It’s getting to the keyboard that’s the killer – the usual self-doubts most creative people have. “Will it be good enough?”

Screenwriting is difficult at the best of times. You’re juggling story, character, tone, theme, pace, structure, a myriad of different elements. That can be daunting. When you get it anywhere near “right”, however, it is exhilarating.

What do you find easiest about writing film scripts?

The collaboration. Working with smart, creative people such as directors who share your sense of storytelling style and who you trust and respect. Script meetings, brainstorming, problem solving, working with actors on improvisations or workshopping scenes. Basically bouncing ideas off people to make the script better.

What most challenging?

After all the meetings and discussions, the reality is that screenwriting is very much an anti-social activity. You have to lock yourself away and write, for hours, for days, for months, in some cases for years. That can be really difficult and maybe is another reason beginning each day is so scary. You have to cut yourself off from the real world to some measure and lose yourself in your imagination and the world you have created. That’s why rainy, stormy days are my favourite writing days – less excuses to be out “doing things”!

Where do you get your ideas from?

What are your writing habits?

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