This week, I’m really delighted to share with you –
20 QUESTIONS FOR SCREENWRITERS interview with REGINA MORIARTY.
Gina was on the 2012 Channel 4 screenwriting course. She wrote a wonderful screenplay to get her on the course. And an equally wonderful script once she was on the course. These two scripts have deservedly opened many industry doors for her, and among many other projects in development, she wrote BBC3’s outstanding MURDERED BY MY BOYFRIEND, for which she’s been nominated for ‘Outstanding Newcomer For British Television Writing’ at this weekend’s London Screenwriters festival.
1 WHERE DO YOU WRITE ?
I write at home at the moment. I do like the idea of writing in cafes or places like the British Library but I’m too easily distracted and it takes me ages to settle down after I’ve arrived somewhere. My fantasy is to have my own shed.
2 WHEN DO YOU WRITE?
During school hours. For a couple of years, when my son was very small, I was working part-time and doing an MA so the only time I could write was at night. I couldn’t do that now. Actually I couldn’t really do it then. I used to have crazy dreams. One night I beat myself up in my sleep.
3 WHAT SORT OF STORIES EXCITE YOU?
I don’t have specific sorts of stories that excite me but I like character driven stuff. What excites me in stories are moments of emotional truth; when you get a shock of recognition, a glimpse of humanity or fragility or an insight into the absurdity of life. One of my favourite moments recently was in the film Le Weekend when Lindsay Duncan casually shoves Jim Broadbent and he falls over and hurts himself and she can’t help laughing. It was awful but also funny and truthful … or maybe I’m just not very nice. Or another one; in Ken Loach’s film Riff Raff when Stevie, the character played by Robert Carlyle, is overcome with emotion because his girlfriend has made him a birthday cake and bought him some underpants and it’s the first time anyone has ever done anything special for him. That made me cry.
4 WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF BUILDING A GREAT CHARACTER?
There are lots of approaches to building character, screenwriting books are full of advice about how to do it, but I think characters will only come alive if you genuinely try to see things from their perspective. You have to try and feel what they feel. Not to say that I think this is easy. Recently I was writing a character that I just couldn’t empathise with and he remained flat no matter what I did. I’ve wondered since if I didn’t want to empathise with him. Maybe if you can’t get a particular character it’s not because of lack of craft but because you don’t want to, that you have some subconscious resistance. If this happens go into therapy and let me know what they say.
5, 6 2 WRITERS WHO HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
In his screenplays (I don’t know his books so well) I feel that Hanif Kureishi strives to be honest and humane and I find that inspiring. Carol Eastman’s screenplay for Five Easy Pieces is an inspiration; it’s funny, caustic and heartfelt. Oh God, at 4am I’m going to be lying in bed thinking about all the writers I could have mentioned…
7, 8 2 TV SHOWS THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
‘One Summer,’ the 1983 drama by Willy Russell about two Liverpool schoolboys who run away to Wales. David Morrissey was about 16 in this and I was madly in love with him (as were all my mates). I haven’t re-watched it but I’ve always remembered its tone; warm and heartbreaking (is ‘heartbreaking’ a tone?). Although there are other series I like more, I was inspired by the way The Shield had me literally running to my DVD player in my desperation to put the next disc in and see what happens next. I’d love to be able to do that!
9,10 2 FILMS THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
I might choose different films on a different day but today I’m going to choose Powell and Pressburger’s, ‘I Know Where I’m Going’. I wish I could write a love story as simple and magical as this. It also has Roger Livesey in it who has the best voice ever. My second choice is ‘Caro Diario’ by Nanni Moretti. It’s a fictionalised version of the director’s own life. I love it because it’s so original and funny but it also struck a philosophical note and made me think. I know I shouldn’t but can I just squeeze in Withnail and I, Walkabout, Moonstruck, Harold and Maude, Bright Star, Spirited Away, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, American Werewolf in London, The Apartment ….
11 1 THEATRE SHOW THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU AND WHY
Midsummer by David Grieg. It was fizzy, funny and romantic and when I came out I felt a bit drunk (on happiness not booze).
12 DO YOU OUTLINE BEFORE YOU START WRITING?
Yes. To begin with I didn’t but I’d be scared to do that now!
13 1 PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SCREENWRITERS JUST STARTING OUT
I’d say don’t be too self-deprecating, if it looks like you don’t believe in yourself why would anyone else believe in you? I think many writers (including me) default to self-deprecating behaviour so if you’re aware you do it all the time it might be an idea to curb it a bit.
14 WHAT SHOULD THE FILM \ TV INDUSTRY BE DOING FOR SCREENWRITERS THAT IT ISN’T?
How about providing writers with work spaces? (or sheds). And how about doing more outreach to encourage a more diverse range of people to get into writing? I think the Royal Court once did a play writing scheme for over 80’s (I hope I didn’t just imagine that!) and I think that’s brilliant.
15 WAS THERE A SPECIFIC MOMENT THAT MADE YOU START WRITING AND IF SO WHAT WAS IT?
The first time I remember making an effort at creative writing was during the school holidays when I was about 12. I wrote ‘funny’ postcards to send to the cool girls in my class in an effort to get in with them. I didn’t bother to send a postcard to my real (not cool) friend which was nice of me. I think for me my initial interest in writing came out of a desire to win approval.
16 WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN THEN THAT YOU KNOW NOW?
That if you’re invited by producers to come in and have a little chat about a project (say an adaptation or a re-write) they often don’t really mean ‘a little chat’. They’ll expect you to have thought hard about it, made notes, and come up with a distinct take of your own. They’ll be seeing other writers who’ll have done some hardcore prep so don’t float in expecting that a ‘little chat’ is going to get you the job. I’ve actually only just realised this!
17 WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT SCREENWRITING?
Getting my arse in a chair and starting work. I’m making an effort to be more disciplined now. Sometimes I leave my modem at a friend’s because the internet is such a distraction. I ordered water snails off Ebay once. That’s the sort of rubbish you get up to on the internet when you should be working. Other things I find difficult are treatments and outlines. It’s hard to balance the specific and the general. Sometimes mine are way too long or much too brief. It’s useful to get hold of some good examples to use as a template to begin with.
18 WHAT IS THE MOST ENJOYABLE THING ABOUT SCREENWRITING?
Sitting there making stuff up is a great way to spend your working day. And I enjoy the collaborative aspect of screenwriting; sitting around chatting about ideas and life. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
19 WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF (AS A WRITER) FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
Still working and improving as a screenwriter. I hope the future me will be braver, more honest, have an amazing work ethic and no internet.
20 AND FINALLY – ONE SURPRISING (NON-WRITING RELATED!) FACT ABOUT YOU.
I once licked a boiled frog and my head blew up to the size of a football.
Thank you so much to Gina for this brilliant, insightful and inspiring interview.
Three more things –
I will be at the London Screenwriters Festival on and off for the next three days. Please say hello!
There’s now little more than a week to get your entries in for the 2015 Channel 4 Screenwriting Course. Don’t miss out. Entry is free and if you get on the course, you get paid a fee, and it has the potential to launch your screenwriting career.
My Nov 15th London CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS COURSE is now SOLD OUT. But I will be running another one on Saturday Feb 21st 2015. You can book for this now –
Until next week
All the best
Oct 23rd 2014