BlueCat: Why did you start writing screenplays?
Greg Ó Braonáin: I knew I wanted to be a writer since my early teens. I wrote mostly poetry and short stories originally. Having learned the Irish language in the late 80’s, I became interested in the movement to establish an Irish language television station and decided to learn the art of screenwriting with the idea of moving to Ireland to write for it.
I was successful, and ironically, considering I was American born and bred, I found myself the most produced writer of Irish language drama after 20 years of Irish language T.V. During that time, I wrote a number of scripts for Irish language features, which were well received, but none of them have reached production to date. The funds available for Irish language drama are very small, and it takes a very clever producer and director to get the money to make a film. I also acknowledge that the scripts I wrote were ambitious in scale and more focused on the stories I wanted to tell than on writing a film just to get it made.
BlueCat: What is your highest screenwriting goal for yourself?
GB: My highest screenwriting goal for myself is to get the films and stories in my head, the ones I’m most passionate about, produced and distributed. Originally, my goal was to do this in the Irish language, but as the years roll on and my idealism wanes, it’s more important to me that my stories get told than it is to create a body of work focused on and for the Irish speaking community in which I live. I am now more interested in initiating projects in English than I would have been 20 years ago.
BlueCat: What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the most?
GB: I struggle most with the need to earn a living to support my family of 7 children, which requires me to work full time as a writer for hire, leaving me with virtually no time to develop the stories I want to tell. Within the confines of my work I struggle to constantly improve and learn as a writer, so that hopefully when the chance arises, I will be as ready as possible to tell my stories well enough to attract the talent funding necessary to get them made.
BlueCat: What movies do you watch to remind yourself that you love screenwriting?
GB: Once Were Warriors, a gut wrenching and visceral story telling. All of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations; they take me to a world I’ve wanted to be in since discovering Tolkien as a teenager. One of my main dreams is to develop a trilogy, similar in scope and scale, based on the Cuchulainn cycle from Irish mythology and for Peter to direct it before we’re both too old to do so. Also, The Son’s Room for making me laugh and cry so much during the same film.
BlueCat: What do you feel you do well as a screenwriter?
GB: I feel I write scenes in which the characters are well realized and in which an audience will recognize their own humanity, feelings, and emotions on screen. I also feel there is an emotional depth and a search for truth and meaning in my storytelling in general. I’m pretty good at structure, but struggle with forms which are more plot oriented, and less character based.
BlueCat: Do you feel that screenwriting is different in your country than it is in Hollywood? If so, how?
GB: Ireland is a very small place. The number of indigenous films made per year is small. There are a lot of very good writers looking to get their work made. Big budget, large scale stuff just doesn’t get made here with Irish money.
There is a very strong, and highly skilled and experienced audio visual industry here in Ireland, but most of the larger scale stuff is outside production. Some very good contemporary drama on the smaller end of the budget scale gets made here, but larger scale stuff generally needs to be financed elsewhere and then brought here to shoot.
BlueCat: What screenplay have you written which you feel most proud of and why?
GB: I am very proud of several of my Irish language screenplays, and I have them in English language versions, but the screenplay I’m most proud of at the moment Is Jpeg The Movie. I only had time to write a first draft, generously financed by my best friend Patrick McLaughlin, and it did pretty well considering. I would love to revisit it improving and refining it in future drafts. But I am pleased that what I have at the moment is a highly visual, entertaining, fun ride for an audience, that raises questions and gives cause to think about how fast our knowledge is outstripping our wisdom to use it.