SCREENWRITER DAVE SCULLION INTERVIEW

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CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS 1 day course London Saturday Feb 21st 2015

A course for scriptwriters in all media – TV, film, radio, theatre – designed to help you generate exciting ideas and characters, and give your creativity a boost with a day of fun, stimulating writing exercises. Run by TV drama script editor, producer and script consultant PHILIP SHELLEY.

http://www.script-consultant.co.uk/training/

 

Hi There,

This week another of my 20 SCREENWRITING QUESTIONS INTERVIEWS – with screenwriter DAVE SCULLION, a very talented horror / comedy (mainly) writer who was on the 2013 Channel 4 screenwriting course.

Over to you Dave…

1.) WHERE DO YOU WRITE ?

Anywhere! At my desk, on the London underground, on trains, in pubs, on airplanes, on holiday and generally anywhere I can. Sometimes on the toilet. Once in a cave.

2.) WHEN DO YOU WRITE?

On lunch breaks (in my day job), every evening (if I haven’t got meetings) and the weekend from about 7am onwards. So, whenever I can, basically…

3.) WHAT SORT OF STORIES EXCITE YOU?

Ones that are less than 110 pages long… Ones with a great pace, great characters and a great sense of irony.

4.) WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF BUILDING A GREAT CHARACTER?

Ensuring they have a flaw.

5, 6.) 2 WRITERS WHO HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY

Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (they’re one person, right?) – their dialogue is utterly superb and their characters are always compelling. They inspire me to write well better dialogue words and all that.

James Moran – an industry professional who is happy to openly talk about the profession, he gives a rare insight into the world of scriptwriting through his Blog and in person. He ran a workshop with Dan Turner a few years ago (called Studio 5) and it gave me the necessary foot-in-the-anus I needed to move my career forward. Without that cheeky boot I doubt I’d be where I am now (in Pentonville Prison psychiatric ward, covered in lard).

7, 8.)  2 TV SHOWS THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY

The X-Files – it kept it fresh for years, had the perfect setup for mixing crime investigation and the supernatural, without feeling contrived. Some episodes are better than most modern Horror films! “Darkness Falls” from Series 1 is probably my favourite episode of any television show, ever.

Eerie, Indiana – a fantastic kids’ show from the early 90’s, which sparked my love of the supernatural and weird, but also the supernatural and weird with HEART. Five episodes were directed by Joe Dante, whose style I’ve always adored (from The ‘Burbs to Gremlins to Small Soldiers and beyond) – mixing adult themes and dark ideas with an unexpectedly loveable, heart-warming tone. It probably explains my loved of Horror-Comedies…

9, 10.)    2 FILMS THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU AND WHY

The Thing – one of the first Horror films I saw (and Sci-Fi), it’s both utterly brilliant and genuinely disturbing. It also has an example of a superb character introduction, without the need of a massive dialogue heavy scene; R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) loses to a automated chess computer and pours his whisky into it, destroying it. It tells you everything about him and also sets up the theme & struggle for the entire movie (subtly, of course).

An American Werewolf in London – as with “Eerie, Indiana”, this excellent John Landis film inspired me when I was a young’un. It told me a film can be scary, horrifying, inventive, disturbing, sexy, bonkers and hilarious all at the same time. Such a pleasure to watch – even now – it informed my love of films that intrigue, excite and entertain. I really hope they don’t remake it… or make a ‘prequel’ to it.

11.) 1 THEATRE SHOW THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU AND WHY

Ghost Stories – it’s nice to discover that “The Woman in Black” isn’t the only stage show capable of making you crap yourself with fear. It also shows how mainstream audiences DO like Horror and the supernatural, and that theatre isn’t always just about drama and musicals. It explains why “Evil Dead: The Musical” is so popular in Vegas…

12.)  DO YOU OUTLINE BEFORE YOU START WRITING?

Yes. Much more than I used to. It makes it SO much quicker and easier to write something. I’ve experimented with both ways – freestyling and planning – and planning wins hands down.

13.) 1 PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SCREENWRITERS JUST STARTING OUT

Talk to other writers. Seek them out. Get to know them. Share advice and horror stories about the industry and – MOST IMPORTANTLY – share scripts! Ones you’re reading and ones you’re writing. Get feedback, give feedback. It’s the best way to learn, network and develop your craft.

14.) WHAT SHOULD THE FILM \ TV INDUSTRY BE DOING FOR SCREENWRITERS THAT IT ISN’T?

Make more accessible routes into television and film – through courses, workshops, competitions etc…

There are very few screenwriting workshops that focus on the business of screenwriting, which look at the next step once you’ve (hopefully) mastered your craft (and done all those “INT means Interior” basic screenwriting courses).

The 4Screenwriting course and rare workshops like Studio 5 are the only UK-based courses that really hit that note; a focus on the ‘next step’.

15.) WAS THERE A SPECIFIC MOMENT THAT MADE YOU START WRITING AND IF SO WHAT WAS IT?

Writing scripts? Definitely! I was writing really pulpy (and utterly shit) horror novels and sending them to every publisher, agent and half-important intern in the country, expecting to be the next Stephen King or Richard Laymon or Shaun Hutson. I didn’t get a million pound deal, just a million rejection letters.

Two rejections, however, came within the same week and were actually personal – a thrilling moment in any rejection-swamped writer’s life! – and they both said my pace, characters, dialogue and story was great… but it’s all the bits in-between that weren’t. The ‘description stuff’. They both said I should write scripts for film and TV.

And they were right. I couldn’t be bothered to describe the emotional context of the faux-Renaissance architecture in my protagonist’s kitchen, I just wrote “there is a massive knife rack and a clock in the shape of a beer bottle”, because that stuff actually mattered in the ‘scene’.

So that week I jacked in my novel writing and began on a journey to scriptwriting wonderland.

I no longer had to post novels to hundreds of unfortunate bastards. No more envelopes. No more stamps. No more SAE I never saw again.

Yeah, so I effectively bankrupt The Royal Mail single-handedly. Sorry!

16.) WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN THEN THAT YOU KNOW NOW?

To read a LOT of scripts – one a week at least – professional and ‘amateur’. I struggled with formatting for months when I first began writing scripts, but reading scripts is one of the best guides to seeing what’s acceptable and what reads best. You can also discuss them with other writers and begin forming your opinion on what makes a script ‘sing’ and what makes a script ‘sink’.

17.) WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT SCREENWRITING?

Finding time to write, especially when you’re starting out.

A lot of ‘social sacrifices’ have to be made, and I don’t mean publicly killing a goat for the great lord Cthulhu (all hail). Most ‘newbie’ writers will have a full time day job, as well as family commitments, so the lack of actual time to write is definitely one of the most difficult things about screenwriting.

18.) WHAT IS THE MOST ENJOYABLE THING ABOUT SCREENWRITING?

Finishing Draft 1 – then printing the entire thing out and looking at it like a new-born child, thinking “I made this” with a tear in your eye.

Then ripping it to pieces.

19.) WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF (AS A WRITER) FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?

Older, fatter, wiser, not dead.

Hopefully I will be a ‘career writer’ and not have to work part time as a rent boy (again). I’d also like to be in a position to help other would-be screenwriters get to the ‘next level’.

20.) AND FINALLY – ONE SURPRISING (NON-WRITING RELATED!) FACT ABOUT YOU.

I have never had a hangover… but I certainly deserve one. Or a thousand. Whatever the case, you now hate me.

My work here is done.’

Thank you very much Dave – cracking stuff!

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 Some information about the 2015 ADRIAN PAGAN playwriting award –

The King’s Head Theatre is pleased to announce the 2015 Adrian Pagan Award for Playwriting.

This year the award is open to anyone who has not been professionally produced more than once.

We are looking for – A good story, well told, that communicates bold ideas, is relevant to our times, and engages in some way with the live nature of theatre.

The winning script will be produced at the King’s Head Theatre in Autumn 2015.

Further details about the award and how to submit can be found attached to this e-mail, as well as on our website: http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/adrian-pagan.html.
Follow us on @ap_award for updates, news, and more.

Deadline for submissions is 10.00AM on 2 February 2015.

Until next week,

All the best

Phil

PHILIP SHELLEY

www.script-consultant.co.uk

Twitter: @philipshelley1

Dec 12th 2015

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