Irish playwright and scriptwriter Ciaran Creagh rose to attention in the film industry last year when his screenplay Parked was made into a cinema-released feature film starring Colm Meaney (The Snapper) and directed by Darragh Byrne. The film picked up numerous awards internationally.
This year, Creagh embarked on his directorial debut with his forthcoming short film The Note starring Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones, Love/Hate) and Ruth McCabe (Single-Handed).
At his workshop, hosted at the Underground Film Festival in Dun Laoghaire this morning (Saturday), the Dubliner had this advice to those hoping to become screenwriters:
“The key advice I’d give to anyone interested in scriptwriting is to listen and learn. Learn from your mistakes and listen to people who aren’t afraid to tell you that what you’ve written is crap.
The writing process is about 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. You must be used to people telling you no. You have to trust yourself. I came to scriptwriting late in life. I was 35 and married with kids before I got into it. Before this I’d barely read a book. I had my fair share of rejection and bad reviews.
It doesn’t matter who you are, your work can still get rejected. Don’t give up and never lose heart. If you keep going and keep yourself open to constructive criticism all the time, you will succeed in the end.
You need a good, strong story. If you don’t have a strong story, you may as well not bother. There is no such thing as a new story, just a different take on the same story, and it’s this different version that must be unique. It’s after you have this good idea that you can create your characters and build a script.
Your characters must be believable. If the audience doesn’t believe in the character or understand their motivation behind any single action, you’ve lost them. It is important to have a complete back-story to your characters. You have to know what motivates your characters, where they are in life and where they want to be. It’s up to you how much of this you disclose to your audience and at what point along the way, but you must have it in your own head before you create a character or else he is just floating in space.
You must have a structure to your story – a start, middle and end. When you start writing the script, you will know the end, you just won’t know how you get there. The script will flow after that.
Open your eyes to real people around you. This is where the good stuff comes from. Writing dialogue for a character is easy. We all know people – funny people, nervous people, heavy drinkers, gobshites. The things people do can’t be made up from the top of your head. The minute details are what count and what makes a character real – how someone crosses their legs, bites their lip when they are nervous, a friend’s facial expressions when they are drunk.
It is vital to strip away the dialogue which is one of the hardest things to do as a scriptwriter. You have to be ruthless when cutting dialogue. Edit, edit, edit. Be inventive and put your trust in the actors to convey meaning without words. You’ll find that so much can be said without pages of dialogue. The audience are smart and more importantly, they know real life and real people, so will pick up on meaning without you having to spell it out for them. A simple look, gritted teeth, body language, can all convey meaning without words.”
This year’s Underground Cinema Film Festival runs from Thursday, 13th – Sunday, 16th September.
The Underground Cinema Film Festival (UCFF) in Dun Laoghaire celebrates the best of Irish Independent Cinema screening a selection of some of the best short and feature films made by Irish independent filmmakers. The festival takes place 13th-16th September.