J.J. HILLARD - 10 Questions
10 Questions from the June 2014 Feature Screenplay Winner.
1. What is your SHORT SCRIPT about?
Here's 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.
2. Why should your script be made into a film?
CAGEY is a short crime thriller that would be relatively inexpensive to produce, has strong characters, plenty of action, and offers enough plot twists and reveals to keep viewers entertained for at least 5 minutes on their cellphones or tablets. Plus, I'd get an IMDB page out of it!
3. How long have you been writing screenplays?
For about 8 years I've been learning the craft by reading many books and articles, taking online instruction (UCLA Extension with Emmy-nominated screenwriter Jessica Scott, a lengthy fellowship with Jeff Gordon's Writers Boot Camp and recently, completing Hal Croasmun's Screenwriting U ProSeries). I've attended film festivals and actively communicate via Twitter with other writers and filmmakers. And of course, I've watched WILDsound videos and listened to your podcasts!
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Hard to say as I've not kept a tally. It would probably be among these dozen films: Adaptation, Alien, Avatar, Blade Runner, Body Heat, Casablanca, Contact, District 9, The Fifth Element, Romancing the Stone, Thelma & Louise and The Wizard of Oz. Yes, I have a strong predilection for science fiction and fantasy stories.
5. What artists would you love to work with?
Among producers and directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Robert Altman, David Lean, Nora Ephron and Stanley Kubrick -- but that's not going to happen, is it? You see boys and girls, that's why you shouldn't procrastinate. None of us is around forever! Among the living it would be: Kathyrn Bigelow, Neill Blomkamp, John Boorman, Alfonso Cuarón, Clint Eastwood, Gareth Edwards, Atom Egoyan, Megan Ellison, Ang Lee, David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Tarsem, and Robert Zemeckis. In terms of actors, Summer Glau, Nathan Fillion and Jake Gyllenhaal can call me anytime and we'll talk screenplays tailored to their unique talents.
6. How many stories/screenplays have you written?
I've written/rewritten 6 shorts, from psychodramas to sci-fi, some of which placed in or won contests; 1 spec teleplay for The Big Bang Theory; and 3 spec feature screenplays: a sci-fi script about artificial intelligence, an interplanetary epic and an action-adventure set in a rainforest. I have a modern medicine horror story in mind for my next screenplay.
7. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?
Working on my latest studio assignment, in close collaboration with the producer, the director and the actors, while rewriting another independent feature script in my spare time!
8. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?
I've learned through my writing courses that outlining and structuring a screenplay is essential to make any type of progress finishing a first draft. I plan before I execute. I research and read up before I actually start to work on a script. Once I know the ending, I can begin. I love weekends, when I can dedicate large amounts of time to writing -- and to procrastinating and being distracted, of course.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Biology, natural history, ecology and conservation, especially of tropical rainforests and coral reefs. I support and champion various Kickstarter and Indiegogo film projects -- both narrative and documentary. I'm also an advocate of strong coffee, rich desserts and creative napping.
10. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?
More than once my writing has been the beneficiary of the feedback I've received from WILDsound readers, regardless if I reached the finals or won one of your contests. Besides, once I get into your website it's hard to find my way out without signing up for something!
11. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?
Cultivate your ischial callosities. In other words, keep your seat in your seat and write. Create your own deadlines and rewards if that's what it takes to get something written on a regular basis. And please, remove the earphones when you're out and about. Eavesdrop on those around you. Listen. Be attentive. Observe people in all kinds of settings. Those are a writer's prerogatives. There's inspiration everywhere if you're receptive. And most importantly, be in touch with your emotions, all of them. Don't be afraid of strong feelings. After all, that's what you want your readers and audiences to experience from your work.