Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Jeremy Christensen

An interview with screenwriter Jeremy Christensen regarding the Screamfest Writing Competition.

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

A: "The Gaslamp Horror" is a Lovecraftian period piece set in 1890's London. Down on his luck private detective John Littlechild searches for his lost daughter following madness and institutionalization brought on by his pursuit of the unsolved Ripper case. As Littlechild twists his way into the underworld of a doomsday cult who worships ancient gods from beyond the stars, he not only has to fight for his own sanity, but for the fate of humanity.

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 entered Screamfest because I liked the collection of films they have curated for their festivals every year, it seemed like what I was writing might be a good fit. Screamfest is the first festival I have ever entered, but since then The Gaslamp Horror was a finalist in Screenplay Festival's Horror/Thriller category as well. There are a few other approaching deadlines for screenplay competitions I will be entering as well.

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

A: So far, so good!

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: I wrote a first draft as part of the UCLA professional program in screenwriting over about 20 weeks. I did do a pretty extensive outline, but of course it changed drastically while I wrote. Since that first draft I haven't had to do any page one rewrites, but I would say it's on its third draft now. Still refining!

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: I wrote in a combination of Word and Final Draft, I also have Movie Magic Screenwriter (the prize from the Screamfest competition). I generally do a first draft in Word and just really plow the scenes out, write everything that pops into my head, formatting be damned. Then I copy and paste into Final Draft and rework the material. This takes a little longer, but I never face the blank page. A blank page in Final Draft is absolutely horrifying to me.

Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day?

A: (Laughs) I try to write every day. If I can't find the time to sit down I at least try to jot down notes on my phone or iPad, just to keep the story in my sights. I generally try to do Sunday-Thursday from 8-10pm, but I usually just write until I finish the scene I'm trying to break. I'm not a morning person, so it has to be at night.

Q: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with that?

A: I don't believe in writer's block. I know that sounds a little pretentious as we all hit a wall occasionally, but I think you can generally boil it down to fear, not lack of anything to say, at least for me anyway. What if I'm not good enough? Or what if no one likes my ideas? This is the fear of the blank page, of too many possibilities. Every time I have sat down and just started typing I go somewhere; maybe not as far or as perfect as I'd like, but I get something. A few times the only thing I have gotten is a diatribe about how I can't write, but I usually get a little thread on the story as I have a written dialog with my own brain and my fear. The only cure for writer's block is to write, and to write horribly if that is what it takes.

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

A: I did an English literature and creative writing degree at the University of Minnesota, then I stopped writing for over ten years to focus on music. As I became interested in music for film I also rekindled my love of story telling and writing. So I got involved in helping write some no budget affairs and went from there. I realized that books weren't pointing me in the right direction so I took some UCLA extension classes and then the UCLA professional program, which was invaluable. I still have a writer's group today from fellow students in the program. I have written four or five other screenplays and a television pilot, including a spec script with a creative executive who read The Gaslamp Horror from Screamfest. I consider all of my work to be drama, but three are definitely horror/thriller, one is a character piece and two others are sci-fi in scope.

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

A: I do. Over ten years now, probably not going anywhere else anytime soon. The contacts you make with people doing what you're doing is invaluable. I don't look at all the other writers as competition, though they undoubtedly are, I see them as peers with something to teach me. And if they're really good, they motivate me to be better. I don't know where else you could get that outside of LA.

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

A: I am always working on a new script. Since I wrapped up the first draft with the creative executive on our project I am focused on polishing The Gaslamp Horror and I'm working on a new horror feature. I don't see any point in waiting for something to happen, if I have down time I may as well sharpen my skills and generate new material. It can't hurt to take a meeting and have more ideas!

Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013