Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Bill Johnston

An interview with screenwriter Bill Johnston regarding the Reel Writers Writing Competition.

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

A: "Requited" is a classic Western about family, justice, revenge and redemption.

A former lawman is forced to confront his past when he finds the last of his family in a life-and-death struggle against a ruthless land baron.(obvious logline)

There's a little bit of "Shane" and "The Searchers" mixed with "Inherit The Wind" (courtroom drama) and "CSI" (early forensic stuff)

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 was intrigued by their free multi-tiered feedback. After each round the writer receives a critique on what's working and what's not with advice on how and where to make corrections. In the first two rounds the script must receive a score of 70 or above in order to advance. If your score is less than 70 you can make adjustments and resubmit at a much reduced and reasonable cost. In round three you receieve a final critique based on story dynamics and story elements where the judge rates your script with a pass(less than 70), consider(70-90) or recommend(90-100).

"Requited" placed in the top five of both the 2013 Richmond International Film Festival and the Garden State Film Festival.

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: Very satisfied. They met all their deadlines and within a week of winning, I received all promised awards.

I was in frequent contact with Tammy Gross of ReelWriters. She was very helpful, supportive and always available. Coincidently, she just won the Grand Prize in the StoryPros contest for her script, "Evangelina."

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 the first draft of "Requited" in three weeks. No outline. I spent the next three years rewriting and tweaking. It's always a work in progress as any writer will tell you.

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.

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

A: I try to write every day but it doesn't always work out. Let's just say I can get a little lazy but it doesn't mean I'm not thinking about a story or character.

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

A: I'm not prone to writer's block because I always start with a premise and an ending. That way I'm always moving toward a defined goal.

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

A: My day job was in the field of social services but throughout those years I was also a musician and songwriter. The reason I started writing screenplays was because of a song I had written. I thought to myself (and anyone else who would listen) that this would make a nice movie.

So far I've written five screenplays.

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

A: I live on the East Coast and have no plans to move to LA. I love the Jersey shore.

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

A: I have a few new story ideas but am presently concentrating on a script I wrote a few years back. It's a mystery/thriller and I've always loved the story. Now that I've learned more about the screenwriting process, I want to do some rewriting.

Posted Wednesday, January 1, 2014