DAVID JACK SMITH - 10 Questions
10 Questions from the March 2014 1st Scene Screenplay Winner.
1. Why should your script be made into a film?
It's a tense, exciting tale based on real events, as seen through the eyes of real people (some composites) in real peril. While the politics is only touched upon via TV footage in the background, our lead protagonist is Sergeant Ben Roberts. A mature family man with lots to lose, we travel with him through the incredible physical and mental effort need to join the nascent Delta Force.
These operators are not young, dumb and full of come. They're doers and quiet patriots. So when the order comes down from Washington to rescue the hostages at all costs, they are all in. Despite knowing that if they even make it to the streets of Tehran, operation EAGLE CLAW will likely be a suicide mission for many of them.
This build up is counter-pointed with the fate of the US embassy hostages. Many show courage way beyond that expected of pencil pushers and desk-jockeys. Some do not. Some crack. Who's to say what you would do?
2. How long have you been writing screenplays?
3. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Where Eagles Dare -- Broadsword calling Danny Boy. If Clint Eastwood and two blonde chicks firing machine guns out of a speeding bus, driven by Richard Burton, doesn't grab you, well there's something seriously wrong with you, my friend.
4. What artists would you love to work with?
Mamet, then Mamet, then.... Kevin Spacey, Bill Murray, Joss Whedon, Samantha Morton, Woody Allen, Gina Torres, Tom Cruise, JJ Abrams, Michael Emerson, James Caan, Maggie Smith, Idris Elba, Ridley Scott, Kristen Bell, James Elroy, Lena Headley, Nathan Fillion, Michael Mann, James Spader. Lance Riddick, The Nolans, David Hockney, Cate Blanchett.
Okay, I guess dead artists are out, but if I could have a resurrection it would have to be Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers. No, hang on, Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond. Okay, I'll shut up now.
5. How many stories/screenplays have you written?
7 screenplays. 6 TV pilots. 2 radio plays. 2 crime novels.
6. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?
Green-lighters ask me if I have anything they might be interested in reading. A bidding war would be cool.
7. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?
I like to start the day sitting on a veranda sipping a 60 year old single malt, smoking a fat Havana - no, hang on, that was Hemingway.
Seriously... to get anything done I have to unplug. Internet in particular. Get this: 140 characters is about 11 words a tweet. My latest screenplay was 20,000 words. My latest novel is 117,000 words. I keep telling myself that 10k tweets is a one novel or 5 screenplays.
Really my only routine is to sit in front of that bright white screen (damaging my eyes irreparably) and start typing. If I hit a block, I'll skip ahead. I've also found that actual proof reading (as opposed to just reading) a day's output is best to avoid those typos we all make. But then I am the world's worst for missing my own typos, though I am shit hot at spotting those of other writers. Case in point there is a major typo in my first 10 pages for this competition which i just spotted.
I know some writers like to start with incredibly tight beat sheet from fade in to fade out. I'm in the other camp. While I know where I'm starting and where I'm going, the journey is often a surprise. For a novel, I will sketch out about eight chapters ahead, where I want the characters to go. But for a screenplay, I might get to the 3rd act without the full resolution having yet appeared from the characters. That's just me, and we all find our own method.
8. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Reading. Crime novels (Robert Crais is a fave) and screenplays -- best advice I ever read is if you want to write screenplays, read screenplays, as many as you can. Which I do. You learn so much.
Then there's Liverpool Football Club...or soccer as you guys call the beautiful game. Come on you mighty reds.
Naturally I watch movies and TV ad infinitum. So I guess that makes me passionate. Also I am a complete coffee nut and would love to run my own coffee shop.
9. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?
A tweet popped up from somewhere, mentioning the first 10 pages competition. And a Canadian producer mate said you were great and offered excellent coverage.
10. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?
Yikes... how presumptuous of me to tell others, at least until I had one movie made from a screenplay written by me. (Maybe next year, as I do have a gung-ho producer interested in something to be made over here in the UK in 2015. Fingers crossed.)
Plus I have no original insight that hasn't been of expounded upon over by so many more talented people than me since Aristotle's Poetics circa 4th century B.C..
However I will say you can't go wrong with the classics. Character really is everything. Once I get the characters in my head, they tend to take over all the work.
I just do what they tell me. It's great to work at something where you can tell people you listen to voices in your head, and they think that's cool instead of having you committed to a mental institution.
But the plot is a close second. I have to have a tight complicated scenario in which the character navigate based upon their inner drives and motivations.
Place interesting characters in a cracking plot and light fuse. Hopefully fireworks ensue. Also, remember: dialogue is not conversation.
And finally, to repeat Mamet....... NO FUCKING EXPOSITION!!
DAVID JACK SMITH