Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter J J Hillard

An interview with screenwriter J J Hillard regarding the Wildsound Writing Competition.

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

A: The title of my short script is CAGEY. The premise: Two drunk, angry men -- one in his 20s, the other in his 30s, both in business suits -- share an office space and an unstated but unusual assignment from their hated boss, a task which neither one wants to take on.

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

A: More than once my screenwriting has been the beneficiary of the feedback I've received from WILDsound readers, regardless if I reached the finals or won one of their contests. CAGEY was a nominee for best dialogue at a recent Action On Film festival. It was also listed as one of the top 50 shorts in a recent Canadian Short Screenplay Contest.

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: I am very pleased with the private communications and online postings about my win from Matthew Toffolo, founder and creator of the WILDsound website, screenplay and film festival. He arranged to videotape a read-through by local actors of the entire script and posted it online. It's had almost a thousand views in three weeks as I write this. I'm very happy with that result!

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

A: As with all writing, not just screenwriting, CAGEY went through several rewrites. I got feedback from WILDsound and others (including suggestions from Joops Fragale of 386Films) and outlined it and then rearranged the 3 acts to better suit the plot. The first act actually happens in the middle, as a flashback.

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 use Final Draft. In the past I've used Dramatica Pro for narrative fiction. Sometimes I do go "retro" with pen and paper though.

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

A: I write every day... on Twitter! Does that count? When I'm taking an online course I write daily in the evening, one to two hours. Otherwise, because I have a weekday job, I tend to binge-write on weekends, holidays and a vacations. That's what that time is for, isn't it?

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

A: I take what I call a "creative nap." Sometimes that means actual sleep, other times it means reading or doing something else intellectual, while my faithful subconscious works out story problems in collaboration with my muse.

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

A: I work as a webmaster in a state government agency. I'm actually more of an editor than a techie. I've moved a lot, lived and traveled overseas and had several jobs and more than one career, all of which is useful for anyone who wants to write about more than just their high school experiences. Which is not to say I didn't have a lot of interesting things happen to me when I was in HS! One of my shorts (BOING!) won a Creative Screenwriting-sponsored contest at a past Screenwriting Expo and I was awarded a lengthy fellowship to Jeff Gordon's Writers Boot Camp. At this time I am deep in the rewriting process on three feature screenplays. I have written one teleplay (an episode of The Big Bang Theory) and a half-dozen shorts (from sci-fi to psychodrama). I've had a script optioned once (a comedy sci-fi short, S&M In Space) but am not produced... yet.

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

A: Some time ago I lived in Long Beach for a year and a half and attended film events and took classes, but I don't live in SoCal right now. I would consider moving back, but only if I'm invited (i.e, if I sold a screenplay). Otherwise, I'll just visit and attend meetings.

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

A: Once I "finish" my three rewrites, I have an idea for a horror story I've not seen done before (or yet), so I will probably tackle that. I also want to attend some film/screenplay festivals, network more and try pitching in person.

Thanks MovieBytes for the opportunity to post this interview on my WILDsound win for CAGEY!

Posted Sunday, July 13, 2014