BlueCat: Why did you start writing screenplays?
Bas Oversteegen: I’ve always been fascinated with movies. They answer and feed curiosity by submerging you in other worlds and lives, like a kind of antennae that extends your own senses.
My own life went along a path of linguistics and stopped at the profession of software developer. Twenty years later, I realized that I was still producing the same amount of bugs reported by equally frustrated users and annoyed managers. Time had arrived to quit my job and do something more satisfying, something that would set free my creativity and give other people a nice time. So I read some books about the craft of screenwriting and started writing spec scripts.
BlueCat: What is your highest screenwriting goal for yourself?
BS: To stroll along the street and hear ‘Did you already watch Fata Morgana?’ ‘Yeah, I wish our dog was more like Starsky.’. I would smile like the Joker.
BlueCat: What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the most?
BS: The first point that comes to mind is evaluating the target audience and accommodating the script to them. I have a strong personal preference that movies should describe the realism of everyday life. I stop watching when the hero boards a train transporting bulldozers and moments later races one of them with a big jump to the next wagon. How the hell did he start this thing, a million-to-one chance that he is capable of driving it and bulldozers don’t accelerate that fast. But my friends say: ‘Don’t be so rational, it’s a movie!’.
A related problem is to anticipate the judgment of readers. Script assessment is highly subjective and I find it almost impossible to make guidelines or assumptions about what will move analysts to recommend a script. If I say A they may say B and vice versa. In Hollywood a much-heard slogan is ‘Writing is rewriting’. The question is how far to go without having a contract or losing your own identity as a writer.
Because English is not my native language, producing natural dialogue is difficult. I have never been to the U.S. and must pick it up from the Internet, books and TV. But British and Australian writers probably have the same problem when judged by North American readers.
BlueCat: What movies do you watch to remind yourself that you love screenwriting?
BS: I have a wide range of interests of which thrillers and sci-fi have my special attention. But suspense and computer graphics mostly need a strong touch of realism or originality for me to really enjoy them.
Recently I watched Appleseed Alpha (2014), an animated film about a woman and a cyborg whose friendship makes them survive through an apocalyptic world. Also, Maleficent (2014), which tells the tale of a vengeful fairy. The negative emotions make her suffer but, culminate in an act of true love. I also remember Happy Gillmore (1996), the raw ice hockey player with a heart of gold who turns into a golfer. With his ice hockey stick he rockets a golf ball through a window of a house more than a mile away. Now that’s funny.
I guess the original concept of these films makes them entertain me, being the man/machine bond, storytelling from the perspective of a witch and placement of an aggressive ice hockey player in an elite golf sport environment.
BlueCat: What do you feel you do well as a screenwriter?
BS: My writings are driven by intuition and are therefore genuine. Before the writing phase, I first perform a thorough preliminary study. I visually imagine my stories on the projection screen. I try to follow the Hollywood screenwriting standards regarding formatting and three-act story structure with compelling turning points, active protagonists and strong oppositions.
BlueCat: Do you feel that screenwriting is different in your country than it is in Hollywood? If so, how?
BS: I think that Dutch movies are less over the top than Hollywood films. A context like ‘Save the world or your daughter will be skinned alive’ would be weakened to ‘Don’t work so much or your daughter will become a prostitute’. Instead of depicting archetypical oppositions in cataclysmic flashes, scenes develop more thematically. Not Spider-Man fighting Doctor Octopus, but an Emo staring at a spider on the wall.
In Holland scripts are strongly affected by limited budgets. You can’t put in amazing special effects or mega explosions. The maximum we seem capable of today is a production like Nova Zembla (2011), which starred Dutch supermodel Doutzen Kroes.
Currently Dutch directors like Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and actors like Famke Janssen and Carice van Houten, are well respected in Hollywood. I hope that one day the same will be true for Dutch screenwriters.
BlueCat: What screenplay have you written which you feel most proud of and why?
BS: My sci-fi duo Alien Attraction. Being my first screenplay project, they let me unleash my creativity after twenty years of software programming. They describe an unstoppable human/alien romance unfolding against the background of overwhelming worlds and people that could well be part of our own future.