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FIONA SMITH - 10 Questions

10 Questions from the September 2014 Short Screenplay Winner.

1. What is your screenplay about?

Two truckers meet on a stormy overnight ferry from Liverpool to Dublin - after a few drinks and a bit of banter, they end up spending the night together, even though one is married with a family. It turns out it's not as easy to just move on and forget about it as they might have hoped.

2. Why should your script be made into a film?

There's still a lot of confusion and conflict regarding homosexuality, bisexuality and sexual expression in general especially when trying to fit into the narrow definitions of masculinity and femininity we still trap ourselves in. Rolling is a sort of bittersweet story that explores that conflict within two everyday working-class guys with touches of humour in a way that I think is easily relatable.

3. How long have you been writing screenplays?

I've always been writing something, starting off with unfinished novels, stories, then essays and journalism. I've only been screenwriting in earnest for about two years but I remember as a kid I used to transcribe my favourite TV shows and movies, like Quantum Leap and Indiana Jones, stopping and rewinding the video and putting in character descriptions, scenery, describing expressions and tone in dialogue. While that was partly a symptom of my Aspergers brain, I think it was also my way of trying to figure out how to put images I saw in my head into words, without really realizing what I was doing.

4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?

Hmm, there are a few I watch every time they are on like Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead as its an underrated gem and a few I put on DVD regularly like The Big Lebowski as I'm a big Coens fan and its always fun to watch with a few drinks. Then there are the ones I obsessed over as a kid, like Indy and Labyrinth. Actually Labyrinth is the most watched, I think I er, wrote that one down and wore out the tape.

5. What artists would you love to work with?

The first name that springs to mind is David Lynch in terms of directors but his films are so unique, I've no idea how that would go. In terms of actors there are so many, Jeff Bridges is one of my favourites, and having someone like Tilda Swinton or Jessica Lange in a film would be a dream come true. There are a plenty of amazing Irish actors, Brendan Gleeson's the ultimate. In terms of writers I'm a big fan of Mark O'Rowe, his plays blow my mind and he's a master at racheting up the tension on stage and screen. I've been to workshops with Vince Gilligan and Jimmy McGovern, two of my screenwriting idols and I think they'd be tough to work with as they'd push you very hard, then probably just go with their own genius ideas anyway. But you'd learn a lot! Singer Kate Bush would be the real dream collaborator, her live comeback show was phenomenal.

6. How many stories/screenplays have you written?

Rolling is my first finished screenplay but I've got another one nearing completion and four or five at various stages of development, some still only barely out of the idea stage. I've written a fair few short stories but only a few I feel are any good, including some recent ones though so that's promising. Some of those I'm rewriting as scripts now.

7. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

I'd like to have a couple of shorts and a feature made, a production company on the go, a play or two under my belt and be branching into the TV!

8. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

I find it hard to focus on writing if there is anything else vying for my attention, and with writing and editing freelance work, a husband and toddler its hard to find the opportunity. I will have to find more discipline and routine though as when I do properly knuckle down I can get a laser focus and get things done swiftly. But at the moment, its all scribbling stuff in different notebooks that then fall down the back of the sofa and trying to knock out a few lines late at night when I'm exhausted. But it will get easier once my kid is in school I hope.

9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love music, it's truly magical. Been obsessed since childhood, my first career was as a music journalist. I love Kate Bush, Blondie, Bjork, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Radiohead, a bit of Motown and Northern Soul, The Smiths. My husband and I always make time to go to gigs, though it's not always easy with a small daughter. I went to festivals when I was pregnant. So soundtracks are an important consideration too.

10. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?

I was hungry for feedback. I'm a bit shy about approaching industry people or even friends with my work, although I'm getting better at that. I've made a few connections now, some by chance, a director approached me on Twitter offering to take a look at my writing which is brilliant and I can't thank them enough for that. Every time I get feedback, even if its not entirely positive, it always sparks ideas and improvements. The WILDsound feedback was surprisingly thorough and in-depth and I was thrilled that they referenced Jimmy McGovern as an influence as I'd only just done a workshop with him a few weeks before I heard my script had been chosen as a winner.

11. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?

Criticism is nothing to be afraid of. Ignore it if you like but accept it in good grace.
All that fear and self-doubt? Fuck it, don't let it stop you.