Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Patrick Nash

An interview with screenwriter Patrick Nash regarding the Shore Scripts Writing Competition.

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

A: My script is called 'Murder in the Lakelands' and essentially it's a film noir telling the tale of an Irish businessman who murders his business partner at the behest of his sultry wife, Claudia, with whom he's been having an affair. The story follows the consequences of the murder and his emotional disintegration as everything starts to go wrong. He's something of a reluctant murderer and he soon struggles with increasing desperation to evade the police and cope with the increasing demands of the femme fatale, Claudia, who has more on her agenda than he knows. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and it soon becomes clear the greatest enemy he faces is Claudia. Everything comes to a head when police move in to arrest him at his Lakelands fishing lodge and an armed siege develops. Needless to say for a film noir things turn out very badly for the conspirators but the police do not get it all their way either. The film is set in the picturesque Fermanagh Lakelands of Northern Ireland, close to where the recent G8 summit was held. It is a contemporary story but does not involve the recent Irish Troubles. The logline was 'A man who has everything throws it all away for the love of an evil woman'.

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 think what really caught my attention was the quality of the judges who were all major players in the industry with great credentials and some of them had produced or directed films in a similar genre to my script. I'd also heard good things about it from other writers I knew who told me it was a professionally run contest.

I'd entered the screenplay in a few contests before. I originally wrote it to enter the BBC's Tony Doyle Awards in 2010 and it ended up being a finalist there - a result that opened a lot of doors for me in the months that followed. It was also a semi-finalist (final 100 out of 3,541 scripts) in the Scriptapalooza Screenplay Contest in the USA in 2010 and also had a number of quarter finalist results with Fresh Voices screenplay contest and Screenwriting Goldmine and won an Honourable Mention in the 2011 Amsterdam Film Festival screenplay competition and of course is now the grand prize winner with Shoreline Scripts.

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: Yes on all counts. The competition was run very efficiently and I received all the prizes quickly and on time. I would definitely recommend it as one of the competitions well worth entering.

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

A: Originally when I was inspired by the idea that opens the screenplay I wrote it as a short drama, a 30 minute script I called 'Gone Fishing'. I tried it in a few short film competitions then let it sit in a drawer for nearly a year but it was one of those ideas that kept coming back to me and little by little I kept adding notes to the folder and thinking of new scenes and angles to use. Eventually I spotted the BBC Tony Doyle Awards competition and decided I wanted to give it a go. I took the notes out and the short script and finally wrote the feature length version which included a totally new ending. I actually wrote it in just 5 days writing around the clock. That 90 minute version ended up as a finalist with the competition. Over the next couple of years as it got favourable results elsewhere and as a result of a few professional script reports I had on it I rewrote it at least 4 times which increased the length but also deepened and improved the story, the character dynamics and conflicts. It's also had a few minor rewrites or polishes in between of course.

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

A: Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000. I do have Final Draft as well but I've always preferred Movie Magic. I just find it easier to use and I like the 'feel' of it if you want to call it that, although here in Europe most people seem to use Final Draft. I recently upgraded to Movie Magic 6.

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

A: Most days, yes. I typically work in the mornings from about 9am through to about 2pm when the children are at school and my wife is at work. I have peace and quiet to write. I also often work late in the evenings from about 10pm to maybe 2am, especially if I have deadlines. Sometimes if everything is really flowing I'll work flat out all day and even all night as I did writing the original version of this script. But I've written everywhere, on planes, at the side of the pool on holidays, in between films at festivals, in cafes, anywhere inspiration strikes or if I've a notebook or my writing folder (a leather bound thing with an A4 pad inside) with me. I like working everything out on paper with a pen first - scribbling furiously - notes everywhere. I just think the creative side of my mind seems to work better that way then I'll type it up on the laptop and work from there as it develops. I also like printing hard copies if I want to proof read and rewrite for the same reason - I can edit and scribble all over the page with a pen. Everyone has their own favoured way of working.

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

A: Not that often. I usually have a few things on the go at any one time and if I get blocked on one project I simply set it aside and work on something else. It always seems to free my mind up when I return to the project I got blocked on.

I also have this thing I call 'ideas folders'. Every time I get an idea for a new story I'll scribble it down on paper and put it in one of those cheap cardboard folders you get at any stationery store. I'll put a working title on the front cover and every time I've new thoughts for it I'll add those notes to it as well(with the same title and a date on it to help organise them later).

Over time I've gathered many of these folders which I keep in a large storage box. As time goes by some of these folders have become very thick - I know they're ideas or stories with legs - I know I can do something with them when the time is right. Others only grow a little and probably aren't going anywhere but nevertheless I never throw them away as someday they may suddenly take wings.

So one of my tricks I use when I get blocked is to pull out this box and take these folders out one by one. I'll read through what I've already written and accumulated and then add fresh notes with whatever else occurs to me as I read. (Inevitably I'll always have new ideas when I read through them). Then when I put them away again and return to the blocked project it's amazingly freed up my mind and cleared the blockage. Often I then find I'm bursting with new ideas. At the same time the technique has helped me to develop and advance the ideas I had in my ideas folders. It means I've a lot of material gathered to draw on for new projects as I move forward.

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

A: Well I worked for fifteen years as a production manager in a large hi-tech plant making computer disc drives in my home town of Derry in Northern Ireland(a company called Seagate Technology) and prior to that I did a little bit of freelance journalism among other things. I'd always an ambition to write screenplays and novels and finally while still working at Seagate I decided to chase my dream. After taking a few years to learn the craft I left that job to work full time as a writer and I've been doing that for four years now.

I've done a range of things. I've written some features, a couple of TV pilots and about 20 short screenplays ranging from 8 minutes in length up to 35 minutes. Six were half hour dramas. I've won a series of awards including a Page Award, a Colorado Film Award, a Lion Award at a red carpet event in London, two Arts Council Awards in Northern Ireland, the Grand Prize at Shoreline and other things like a Medal of Excellence for a filmmaking course I did. I've written and directed short films, made some music videos and worked in different capacities on many other people's shorts and film projects.

In 2012 I published a book called "Short Films: Writing the Screenplay" (Kamera Books of London's Creative Essentials series) which was launched at a panel event at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. I'm also currently adapting two of my screen stories into crime fiction novels. I've also lectured or mentored in screenwriting at the University of Ulster, the Nerve Centre film centre, a local technical college's media course and at the Kultburo Film Lab in Moscow and I'm also a selection panel member and juror at a local film festival.

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

A: No, I live in Derry City in Ireland and have an agent in London. I have no plans at least in the short term to move to L.A. as I've two young children and my wife works in the local university. It would be quite disruptive to move at present but I do travel around to film events, festivals and so on regularly. In fact I'm just back from spending five days at the London Screenwriters Festival and have been in Portugal, Spain, France, England and Russia already this year. I spent a week in Moscow earlier this year with a group of script consultants from across Europe working with the Kultburo Film Lab mentoring short filmmakers and a group of upcoming writer-directors.

I think ultimately you can write anywhere and the internet has made connecting easier though I appreciate meetings and the business side of the industry still require travel for face-to-face contact.

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

A: I'm working on several things at present one of which is an adaptation of one of my screen stories into a crime fiction novel. I'm also working on a draft for a horror screenplay set in Ireland and developing an idea for a TV crime series. I'm also doing some workshops based on my 'Short Films: Writing the Screenplay' book.

Posted Sunday, November 3, 2013