John F.

How many screenplays have you read for BlueCat?

200+

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working in post-production on a new short film which is a political thriller with a vampire twist, writing a screenplay adaptation of a novel and will soon focus on a new original feature screenplay, a thriller about a film scholar caught in a dangerous web of intrigue!

What is your main job when providing feedback to a writer?

 I try to encourage a writer to think outside the box, to avoid trouble and to deliver a story a unique perspective and interesting characters that take us somewhere we may never get to go.

What is your attitude toward a screenplay before you start reading?

I approach every script with a blank slate, inviting the writer to keep me engaged. As in life, first impressions are important – I always hope for (and many well-written successful screenplays offer this) a great image or moment to hook me on page one.

What are three common problems that keep coming up when reading a screenplay?

– Covering ground that other films, books, TV shows… have covered before, I often notice scenes (especially in comedies or thrillers) that I’ve seen a thousand times before – why not subvert those tropes – show us a new take on them!

– In terms of comedy there is nothing worse than a joke that falls flat or is perhaps too vulgar or attempts to shock just for the sake of it. Here you should take very calculated risks but above all behavior should drive comedy, not just one-liners.

-Keep your story moving: scenes that either start too early or too late in a scene, that don’t build upon the story or develop a character and just continue to stall the forward progression of the story are a common problem amongst emerging writers. Scene descriptions that properly orient us without providing excessive details are also critical. (In any given year screenplays for the awards contenders are readily available online – read and learn from their efficiencies) .

As an experienced reader, do you have any advice for writing a screenplay?

It’s all about process – you do need to find a process that works for you (for me its outlining, writing and then continually re-writing). Throughout the cycle of making a film is collaborative and often as you move forward you discover new/interesting things about these characters (and the story) along the way including in post production. Consider the questions a performer may ask you about their character. Often an actor will ask – why would my character do this? You should always have an answer to that question, even if its a rather abstract or psychological answer.

What do you think is the hardest part of being a screenwriter?

Translating abstract ideas or emotions into visual actions can be difficult, all while trying to show us something we haven’t seen before. The best screenwriters make the process of getting from Point A to Point B look effortless – but it’s far from effortless, even for the best of the best. Writing and rewriting will help you get to that point, also having a support group of friends and collaborates perhaps even workshopping a few select scenes with friends will help you as well. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, screenwriting shouldn’t strictly be a solitary endeavor.

What is the heart of a successful screenplay?

The best films and screenplays follow the rules are so engaging that while they may be following commonly accepted formulas, they make us forget they are. Engaging characters with histories and motives that we may not relate to but can see why they would have that perspective are critical. The best scripts are highly visual, tightly written from dialogue to scene descriptions and continually keep us engaged by raising the stakes and shifting the balance of power frequently.

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