This week a massive thank you to excellent screenwriter KATE TRAILL for her wonderfully entertaining and insightful answers to my 10 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS.
But before that, I would like to thank you for the wonderful and overwhelming response to what Kat Roberts and I wrote in the last newsletter. I have never received so many emails in reply to one of my newsletters and especially so many heartfelt and brilliantly articulated replies. So many in fact that they presented me with something of a dilemma because there was enough in the responses for about 5 newsletters. So what I have done is written them up as a 2nd newsletter for this week for you to read if you’d like at your leisure – I’m always wary of over-burdening you with too much material! But if the subject of boarding schools, private education and the dysfunction and inequalities that it causes in the UK interests you, then there is definitely something for you here!
Former journalist Kate Traill is a Screenwriting MA graduate of LCC and is represented by Julie Press at Kitson Press Associates. She has a Young Adult drama series in development at Bryncoed Productions and is currently developing several TV drama scripts.
1. Why do you write?
I write because it quiets the stories in my head, momentarily at least! I write because it’s something I’ve always done – for joy as a child, for money as a journalist and now for hope and passion as a screenwriter (… and money again, I hope – she adds quickly).
I love stories. I love telling stories, I love re-hashing and re-working stories and I love the reactions I get from stories. On the flip side I hate writing crap, which I often do – I always think I can and should and must write better. When I write something really good I can almost taste it. I grew up as the family storyteller and it’s a part of my identity – I write because it’s me.
2. A book you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to tell us about.
Most of the books I love have already been adapted for film or TV, so I’ll choose one from my childhood that I’d love to see re-imagined for the screen (written by me, of course 😉 !)
WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech is the story of a young girl – Salamanca Tree Hiddle (ace name) – making a road trip across America with her grandparents to try and make sense of the disappearance of her depressed, runaway mother. It’s a coming-of-age mystery story that deals with raw, delicate family issues and death, and is incredibly moving.
It was the first book that really captured me as a tween, and I can see it re-imagined as an adapted screenplay for modern day, set in the UK with a struggling, breadline family.
I also fell in love with IF CATS DISAPPEARED FROM THE WORLD by Genki Kawamura. A beautiful, modern-day fairytale/horror about a dying man’s pact with the Devil and what it really means to lose the things we love.
3. The best TV / film (screenplay) of the last year and why.
Fleabag, Fleabag, Fleabag. Forever and ever, amen. If she’s off the table, then I loved DERRY GIRLS – specifically the final episode of Series One and its unexpected tear-jerker of an ending. The language, references and music also chimed with my teenage years (The Cranberries!) so it made you feel like one of the gang. Not as nuanced and cleverly intertwined as Fleabag but re-watch-worthy nonetheless. I also really enjoyed PURE and THE BISEXUAL. Again, little shows with kooky characters that either tapped into universal experiences or laced humanity into the unfamiliar. Film-wise, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME crept into my thoughts for months afterwards. Watching it felt like witnessing something truly special. US streaming TV-wise, HANNA had me gripped from the off.
4, 5. Which (2) writers / scripts inspire you and why?
Not a screenwriter but author DBC Pierre. I fell in love with VERNON GOD LITTLE fifteen years ago and have re-read it countless times. His world-building is phenomenal and his characters – though so extreme and grotesque almost to the point of caricature – feel alive and vital, if tragic. His subsequent novels never quite achieved the level of success of VGL but I still think about LIGHTS OUT IN WONDERLAND every now and again, so it obviously planted something in my brain. Both would make amazing film/limited series adaptations.
The most freeing, beautiful and joyful script that fills me with inspiration and drive to write from the heart is Richard O’Brien’s THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. It’s one of those bizarre, magical and ridiculous concepts that you could never explain to anyone in a pitch or as an idea… it just had to be written in order to exist, without censor or inhibition.
Phoebe-Waller Bridge is just incredible – re-watching FLEABAG S2 you notice that every tragic or comedic beat had already been planted in earlier eps (Clare’s hair, the fox, the Priest’s history with alcohol) – it was all there, quietly quilting itself together and leading up to the inevitable conclusion. Utterly brilliant.
6. What are the best internet resources / podcasts for writers?
I have just received my copy of Stephen Jeffreys’ book so I look forward to reading that. I feel rather lost in giving advice on podcasts and internet resources so I will be mining recommendations from others!
7. What are the best books for screenwriters?
CREATING THE SERIES and its predecessor WRITING THE PILOT by William Rabkin. Both are quite flimsy, and oddly formatted to the point of looking self-published, but boy are they brilliant for getting into the nooks and crannies of what it is you’re trying to create with a project and why. They also reference many fantastic and successful shows and look at how they grabbed their audiences the way they did. Can’t recommend these enough.
RELEASE THE BATS: WRITING YOUR WAY OUT OF IT by DBC Pierre is part biography/part guide to fiction writing (novels but can also apply to screenwriting). It’s kooky and funny and filled with lessons that Pierre has learnt the hard way – honest and inspirational.
8,9. 2 pieces of advice for writers
You are not your first draft! Get it out, get it messy, get it over with.
Go for long walks and runs. By doing something else and something active I find plot solutions, gorgeous dialogue and entire scenes will simply wander into my head, whereas sitting in front of screen sends me blank.
10. When and where do you write?
I type it all out on a laptop either on the sofa or in bed during the day (the shame! Never at the desk I insisted I absolutely must have), but really I write on the go – walking the dog, driving the kids to school, in the bath. Write in your head, then type it out.
Very disappointingly, I’ve discovered without doubt that I cannot write whilst drunk.
The next newsletter will be on Friday October 18th,
All the best
Oct 4th 2019