UPDATE: 15 APRIL 2023 Great news! Today I have completed a rewrite of Counterchance. Please, if you have read the screenplay before, read it again. Up to 96 per cent of errors in word usage and syntax have been spotted and corrected. Many ambiguities in expression have been set right. Several drops in story consistency have been detected and straightened. In my opinion, Counterchance has the ingredients for a huge commercial success while at the same time being a thinking person's film as it explores the theme of crime and punishment without being didactic (ie, the story comes first, not the theme).
UPDATE: 7 APRIL 2023 I'm realising how much more work needs to be done before uploading a screenplay to an exposure site, like ISA. I first learnt the lesson when I finished, a few weeks ago, Howlingween 5: Trip Along, my 12th and latest screenplay, and when I rewrote Howlingween 2: Clarry the Clown, completing the task a few days ago. And I'm learning it now as I'm in the process of rewriting Counterchance. No matter how many times redrafting is needed, errors in spelling, word usage, grammar and story consistency must be tracked down and corrected. It's hard work (and still not foolproof): Howlingween 5: Trip Along took about a dozen readings, starting from page one through to the last page, and with every reading trying to freshen the eyes so as to feel like reading the screenplay is for the first time. But it must be done, because I believe one single error can break the spell that may exist between an industry reader and one's screenplay. Excepting Howlingween 2 and Howlingween 5, please read, if you wish, any of the other 10 screenplays available on ISA with the knowledge that they are scheduled for an overhaul. As each rewrite is completed, notice will be given on the title page of the screenplay and in my biography on ISA.
A few days ago (4 April 2023) I finished rewriting Howlingween 2: Clarry the Clown. It will be a more pleasurable read for producers and other creatives. Mistakes in spelling, word usage and grammar have been mostly corrected and inconsistencies in story have been "ironed out". Greater clarification of action paragraphs and tightening of dialogue have also been achieved. Howlingween 2: Clarry the Clown is now possibly a "master-class" of storytelling in the horror genre.
MY WORK AS A SCREENWRITER
I started writing screenplays proper in 2007 (that is, when I purchased Final Draft, version 7) and have since written 12 screenplays.
My latest is called Howlingween 5: Trip Along, which I've posted to ISA a few weeks ago. In a way it's about the past not letting go of its hold on the Forran family. The major significance of this, my 12th screenplay, is its crafting. Unlike the 11 screenplays before, which would be posted as soon as their first drafts were completed (then repeatedly revised and re-posted), Trip Along has been so thoroughly revised that I can almost guarantee up to 96% of spelling and syntax errors have been captured and corrected. Another significant thing about Trip Along is that, like Howlingween 4: Beastly Mist, the series has gone off Halloween as being the trigger-event for the story.
Though none of my screenplays (as at 15 April 2023) has been optioned, let alone produced, I keep writing them because I love creating worlds.
Please enjoy reading any one or more of the following screenplays …
Splendid Isolation (story of a frontier town in modern Alaska); On Board (misadventures on a cruise ship); Counterchance (sometimes bad things happen) [has been rewritten April 2023]; Twelve Less (teenagers in trouble with a saboteur); We Were Young Once (fun teen musical); Howlingween (a road trip to hell); Howlingween 2: Clarry the Clown (horror island) [has been rewritten April 2023]; Howlingween 3: Red River County (unforgiving beggar); Howlingween 4: Beastly Mist (insect sprays won't help with these bugs); Glorious Revolution (a story of unintended consequences); Once Young (love-struck teenagers). Howlingween 5: Trip Along (dreams can become real-life nightmares) [has been thoroughly revised before uploading].
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Which of the 12 is your favourite screenplay? My most emotionally beautiful screenplay is Splendid Isolation.
How do you see yourself as a screenwriter? As a hobbyist who finds writing screenplays is fun and redemptive.
What does it mean to be a hobbyist screenwriter? Professional screenwriters know how to write and appeal to the current set of dominating sensibilities, thus positioning themselves well for a possible lucrative career. As a hobbyist, I write what interests me and what moves me. My stories may directly appeal to current sensibilities or they may be tangential to them or instead altogether appeal to other sensibilities that are either yesterday's or possibly tomorrow's. I know for sure many sensibilities change over time: what is current today may become passé tomorrow. So, I write what's in my heart because it's extremely difficult for me – almost impossible – to write to another's prescription.
Do you see success coming your way as a screenwriter? Every time I complete a screenplay, I feel rewarded. It's a wonderful experience to complete a story that has a beginning, a middle and, most importantly, an end ... that final full stop or "FADE OUT".
What about financial success? I'd love for my screenplays to be optioned or produced and bring in money. But the odds are great against any one screenwriter achieving financial return on their writing.
Are you frustrated as a non-produced, never-optioned screenwriter? Oddly enough, no. When I wrote Splendid Isolation, my first official screenplay (I wrote another before it, but has been archived, most of it subsumed in a later screenplay), I thought the world would sit up and take notice and go "wow". The beginner's wonderment fallacy. It didn't take long to come to the realistic view that the odds are overwhelmingly against any of my screenplays being optioned, let alone produced. But life is very much about the unexpected good thing happening: it's called hope.
How did you come to terms with ongoing financial failure as a screenwriter? You've got to love what you're doing, irrespective of remuneration. I love creating worlds. I love letting the characters show me around their worlds and allowing me to discover who they are. My reward is being immersed in those worlds thinking I'm creating them but which at some point they create themselves.
You speak sometimes of a "vision-to-vision" connection between screenplays and producers, what do you mean? It's that all-important moment when a reader recognises another's screenplay as meeting their own idea of what a good story is. I believe many readers already have in their minds images of a story they would like to see on the screen. If a screenplay meets those images, there is an instant vision-to-vision connection.
What is the future like for you? Before I started writing Howlingween 5: Trip Along, I started writing the first 20-or-so pages to the sequel to Twelve Less, provisionally titled Twelve Less: Six Now. The six surviving teenagers are recruited by government agencies to go undercover as students to find who killed a janitor. The project stalled as the story didn't take a life of its own: that is to say, making headway in the storytelling became forced, laborious, the characters becoming artificial. I feel only revisions should be laborious, not the first draft. Now that I have completed rewriting Howlingween 2: Clarry the Clown, I intend to have a refreshed look at Twelve Less: Six Now in the hope of finding that spark that makes things happen "naturally".
What advice would you give to beginning screenwriters? As a financially unsuccessful screenwriter, I'm not in position to give advice on how to make money from screenwriting. However, I may say this ... write what excites you, write what engages you emotionally. Study films that excite you or engage you emotionally and try to learn how they do it, but only in a way that may be useful to your growth as a creative being. I'll never forget the anecdote of a screenwriter who wrote one story after another, but was told they lacked professionalism. This screenwriter went to classes on how to write professional-level screenplays. After the lessons, he started his first professional-level screenplay. The problem was: he couldn't finish it. Having in mind the "right way" of writing became roadblocks to his creative flow. I say: go with your heart; learn your own way, even if it's the long way. Be careful going to classes, or reading books on screenwriting: take in what is useful for you at the time and discard what may be stifling. Learning is about filtering. Later in your development, you may realise the advice you had earlier discarded is actually useful — the point is by then you reached a stage in your development when the advice makes sense and has real meaning FOR YOU. All in good time — in your good time.
What are some of the things you learnt from others? Hook the reader within the first 15 pages. Keep descriptive paragraphs to a minimum ... let the director, cinematographer and set designer fill the gaps. Not too many parentheticals ... let actors and actresses interpret dialogue their way.
What advice do you still discard? Despite many advising a parenthetical should only be about how a line is to be delivered, I often use a parenthetical to state, in very few words, action that pertains to the character; eg, "(takes book)", "(picking up pen)", "(adjusts glasses)".
How would you like to finish this questions and answers segment? When many achieving no financial success after writing 12 screenplays may give up the game and focus their energy, time and resources elsewhere, I keep writing screenplays because the sustaining reward is the wonderful feeling in creating worlds — and the hope I have that one day my screenplays will connect — that magical vision-to-vision thing — with producers and other industry creatives.
(Updated: 15 April 2023)