Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Camille LaGuire

An interview with screenwriter Camille LaGuire regarding the Split-Screenplay Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: "The Legend of Casey McKee" is a western about a wild teenaged girl who has never seen justice and has no use for it. But then she meets up with an ex-lawman turned bounty hunter who lives for real, upright justice -- not just revenge or reward. He has no use for a teen-aged girl sharpshooter. But he and his gang are after the very outlaw who is terrorizing Casey's home town -- so they're going to have to learn to work together to save the town.

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: I picked this contest for another script. I'd just rewritten it, so I thought a feedback competition would be good. (This is a peer-judged competition -- we read and judge each other's scripts.) But as I read my assigned scripts, I thought that the people who had written those scripts would prefer an adventure to the twisty noir I'd entered. There was still a little time, so I entered Casey. I guess my judgement is pretty good on that, since it took first.

I've made the quarter finals or better in a number of contests with other scripts, but for this western the only one that gave it any notice at all was the Nicholl, where I got a personal "This just missed the quarter finals" letter. I had figured a western just wasn't festival fodder -- but after this, maybe I'll trot it out a little more.

Q: Were you satisfied with the adminstration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: They were maybe a day or so late, but that's pretty good for a small contest, especially a free one. They came through on everything promised. I enjoyed the online discussion groups at their site, too.

Q: Were you given any feedback on your script? If so, did you find the feedback helpful?

A: Yeah, that's really the point of this contest. The entrants are split into two divisions, and each side judges the other (so they aren't judging their own competition). The quality of the feedback is...variable. But that is to be expected. The entrants are self-selected, and everybody, regardless of knowledge, sophistication (or even ethics) is required to read and judge at least four scripts.

The people running the contest work hard to see that you get something useful out of it, though. The critiques aren't just a few lines of notes. The reviewers are required to answer questions about the plot, provide a short synopsis, logline, list of characters. And to be honest, that was the most useful part of the critiques (even when the reviewer was good): the synopses gave me a very good picture of what I got across to the reader and what I didn't, and sometimes what captured their attention and what didn't.

Q: Has your success in this contest helped you market your script? Were you contacted by any agents, managers or producers?

A: No, but with a small, peer-judged contest like this, I really didn't expect it. It's nice to be able to put "winner" rather than just "finalist" or "quarter-finalist" on a query letter.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: I started with fiction writing -- mostly mystery, fantasy and children's fiction. But my heart has always been in film, and I just think publishing is in gridlock right now. So I made the jump to screenwriting, in spite of being an "out of town" writer, and having to start over. I've got two other scripts, both doing okay in contests, but genre-wise they don't really work together as a marketing strategy. I am currently building up my portfolio of work so that I can market more effectively.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: Not at the moment.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: Sure -- it's another grrl action movie, in fact. HARSH CLIMATE is kind of a teen-aged Die Hard in an isolated farm house. A pair of runaway teens take shelter from the winter in a seemingly abandonned house, only to find it is the hideout for a band of vicious kidnappers.

Posted Saturday, August 5, 2006