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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Interview with Chris Watt....Screenwriter, Author and Interviewer from Scotland

It's been awhile since I've shared an interview, so here's one of my latest. I will have more to share in the near future. Here's one with Chris Watt who is a screenwriter, author, father and interviewer from Scotland. He was a guest host on my blog a couple of months ago and you can click here to read that  http://www.mariarochelle.com/2016/03/the-parent-slap-one-single-fathers.html,  

Tell me about your writing process. Where do like to write?
It always starts with an idea, really. I read a great deal, so often an idea or a concept will stick in my mind. From idea to conception is always the process I enjoy the most, trying to figure out how to tell the story, who the characters are going to be and where I want to take them within the confines of the plot.  There are endless notebooks by my desk, although I would say the bulk of the most important writing I do, takes place on buses, in bars, restaurants, usually on napkins or on scrap pieces of paper.
Post-it notes are useful for breaking down scenes. I also write to music, and will usually have a spotify play list made up before I start. Something that fits the tone of the material. Music is wonderful in that way. Immediate emotional response. It can make an empty room seem full.

I do have a desk at home, where the majority of my typing takes place, but I write any and everywhere. I always have a notebook and pen on me and pockets bulging with notes.

Who is your favourite writer and why?
Nick Hornby is the writer I seem to return to the most. When I wrote my first novel (PEER PRESSURE), I wasn't entirely sure if I had a writing style, as such. I just assumed any style would come directly from the story I was telling. In that respect, I guess my style is that I have no style! The characters I like are always real, relatable and human and Hornby is one of those writers that understands there is just as much validity in humour as there is in tragedy. His books all walk that line. I think he gets the bitter sweetness of life, something i tend to gravitate towards in my work as well.

I’ve read several of your interviews and I have to say, I really enjoy them as well as I find them very informative. How long have you been interviewing and how did you get started?
Thank you for saying that, but to be honest, I've kind of fallen in to the interview thing over the last year or so. I've been writing film criticism seriously for the last 10 years or so, contributing to websites that have been nice enough to employ me. I started writing reviews for WATCH THIS SPACE FILM MAGAZINE and, through Twitter, managed to chat socially with many of the film makers I was writing about. It just seemed to make sense to me to take those conversations further. I can only interview people who intrigue me, who are working as artists in the industry that i love. I don't actually know if I'm any good at interviewing, i certainly have no training in it. But i am unbelievably lucky to have been able to speak with the people that i have. It has led to not only satisfy my curiosity about them, but to friendships and even possibilities of collaboration.

What are working on right now, any new film scripts?
I have two projects at the moment. The first is a short film screenplay called THE GIRL IN THE FIELD. It's a ghost story, set in Ireland. Not a horror film, by the way, but more of a haunting tragedy about a father and a daughter. I really enjoy writing tight, shorter pieces. Its good storytelling practice, really.
The second project is a feature film screenplay called HIGHER GROUND, that I'm writing for a friend of mine who was looking for a project to develop. A very loose description would be to call it a grown up GOONIES. Its an adventure comedy set in the Highlands of Scotland and, if we can get the money together, it should be a lot of fun for audiences. Its the sort of film that doesn't get made much in Scotland. We tend to make historical films, gritty urban dramas or gory horror. My screenplay is a popcorn movie, with an 80's vibe to it.
When it comes to screenplays, I don't write to satisfy others. I'm not even particularly interested in the finished product. For me its about the process. I don't care if its a comedy, a drama, smart or dumb. I write because the process feels natural to me. I write because I love it. People always ask me if i will direct one day, but the reality is, I have no interest in that part of the process. I work in paper, ink and ideas. Once i hand over that final draft, I'm done. At that point, I've told the story on paper. Its up to the film maker to make it work onscreen. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. You either know what kind of film you're making or you don't. I can't do that work for you.
Outside of film scripts, I'm also interested in writing some shorter pieces for YouTube, possibly a series of monologues.
And of course, there is my second novel, which is still sitting in my drawer, occasionally tapping on the wood like some Poe-esque metaphor.

What was the first screenplay you’ve written and what software do you use?
When it comes to software, I'm out of the loop, really. I don't have anything other than my trusty word processing programme on my computer, no Final Cut or screenwriting software. But its for a very particular reason, which goes back to my 'process .' By the time i come to type up my first draft, I like to then format my script myself, using the time it takes to do so to iron out any problems i see as i go along. In many ways i see it as the first major re-write. I always spot the biggest problems while formatting, be it a plot hole or a clunky piece of dialogue, which, incidentally, is a seamless link to my first ever screenplay, which was a romantic comedy called SIDEWALKERS. I still have it in my archives somewhere, but iI daren't look at it. That would be like opening the Ark of the Covenant at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and I'm rather fond of my face, thank you very much. I can only assume it is a disjointed series of scenes with one dimensional characters and atrocious dialogue. Y'know, a little like PEARL HARBOR.

Tell me three fun facts about you 
1: I collect First Editions of books.
2: I still prefer to listen to music on vinyl. There is something about the hiss and crackle that feels more intimate.
3: I'm the guy who thought Woody Allen's CASSANDRA'S DREAM was a pretty good film.

What film would you take to a deserted island and who would you take with you?
I'm assuming I don't get Netflix on this deserted island? What one film would i take? Boy, that's a hard question, and I'm tempted to go with my favourite film of all time ("2001: A Space Odyssey, or "Jaws" depending on the day), but then i also have to think about who I'm taking with me. I mean, it has to be my girlfriend Amy, obviously. Shes the person i could talk to for hours without getting bored. And she looks pretty good in a swimsuit, which doesn't hurt. So i guess it would have to be a movie we both like. 'American Beauty' perhaps?

Is there anyone you would love to interview for a magazine?
So many of my heroes are gone now, but if resurrection was a power i possessed, then Stanley Kubrick would be the big one. I don't think there was a better film maker of his generation and I am something of a Kubrick obsessive, so to actually sit down with the man would have been wonderful. Cinema simply hasn't been the same since he passed away.
Of the film makers alive today, i would love to interview Paul Thomas Anderson. He is one of the few artists that really cares about the medium he uses. There has to be a reason we are seeing a film as a 'film' and few film makers really use cinema properly. Its not enough to show us something. Show us 'why' we're seeing it. Sofia Copolla is another wonderful example of such an artist. She can create a mood, a tone, through her visuals, that can be incredibly poetic.
When you’re having a tough day or week, is there a quote or a book that you go to for inspiration?
There is a wonderful quote from John Cassavetes;
"Say what you are. Not what you would like to be. Not what you have to be. Just say what you are. And what you are is good enough."
Cassavetes was really on to something there and you can see it reflected in his work. Everything he made was made from the heart, with no compromise, because that's how he lived his life and the life of an artist has to be reflected in the work.
I think if you're looking to be content, or reaching to be happy, you only really need to be basic. When you're younger, i think there is a real impulse to impress people, to seek that pat on the back or that 'good job', but it only over-complicates things. Now that I'm in my mid 30's, I couldn't care less what people think. Its liberating. And i feel like my writing is more truthful when its simple.

If you could change anything in the world, what would that be?
There are too many problems to mention, really, but I must say I am becoming very bored with peoples pre-occupations with 'stuff'. Social media seems to have become one large 'point and grunt' where everybody wants to let everybody else see what they own. I've been guilty of it myself, in the past. I think we all have, to a degree. As i get older, I'm becoming more interested in scaling back and owning less. There are too many distractions in life, that tend to draw focus away from the important things we should all be focusing on. A few years ago, I sat down to truly weigh up the importance of everything I owned and then I started to get rid of all the dead wood. I don't need a massive DVD collection, I don't need two laptops, or seven pairs of shoes. Materialism has become almost religion for some people, this desperate need to feel happy through accumulating, and I would love to see that go away. I love books, music, films, but these are nothing compared to the love i have for my daughter, my girlfriend, my family. I have a nice house, a good job and i don't concern myself with the newest this or the latest that. My passions these days are to be content, and it seems to me that most of the people that i see running around accumulating 'stuff' are just distracting themselves. One day we're all going to die and I'd like to think that when my time comes, I'll remember the breeze blowing through my daughter's hair, or my girlfriend's eyes, not that i once owned an I-phone that made a light sabre noise. That's the direction I'm heading in, anyway. Its about 'life'choice not 'lifestyle'.

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About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
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