Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With Chris Watt (Part 2)

Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…

Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?

Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.

Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.


 
For Part 1, please go here

TGG: Thanks for agreeing to be reinterviewed. For those of our readers who didn’t catch the first one, could you please introduce yourself?

CW: Of course, and thank you for having me back. I’m based in the North-East of Scotland and have been writing professionally since 2003. After I graduated from film school, I settled into various jobs in and out of the industry, working on short films, music videos and any independent project I could find. Then in 2012 I wrote my first novel, PEER PRESSURE, which brought me enough attention that my work found its way to a few local film makers, who asked me to write a series of short scripts. One of those, MANIFEST, was produced in 2015 and ever since then, I have been writing in a freelance capacity, mainly as a film critic, for outlets such as Total Film Magazine, Film Inquiry and various other sites and publications. As a screenwriter, I’ve just finished a pilot script for a tv series, two feature screenplays (one a drama and the other a science fiction) and I’m hoping to work on a couple of projects this year, in collaboration with a couple of extremely talented fellow screenwriters. I’m also prepping to direct three short films, from my own scripts, at some point in the summer this year. In case it wasn’t obvious, I am incredibly lazy.

TGG: This year you’ve been getting awards for your script, “Follow Up”, can you tell us a little about that project?

CW: FOLLOW UP is a feature film screenplay that i wrote last year, about a reclusive musician named Jack Turner, who grants a two day interview to a music journalist. Turner was sort of a one hit wonder, produced a classic debut album and then mysteriously vanished and so, over the course of this interview, the journalist begins to slowly get the real story behind why he turned his back on fame, which turns out to be heart-breaking. It’s essentially a two hander drama, set (with the exception of some flashbacks) in one location. I like the idea of a character who has locked himself away from the world, almost in their own personal purgatory, and yet the story, while bittersweet, is ultimately uplifting and, I think, hopeful. And romantic too. I’ve written lots of different screenplays over the last 10 years, but FOLLOW UP is the piece that I’m proudest of and it seems to be resonating with those that read it, which is very satisfying to hear. It made my girlfriend Amy cry, which is a big compliment and I’ve entered it into a few festivals and screenplay competitions, where it has done very well indeed (it won the Honourable Mention Award for Feature Screenplay at the Kosice International Film Festival, and has been placed as a finalist in a handful of comps). It’s nice to think that something you wrote can strike an emotional chord with people. I’ve shown it to a handful of my fellow writers (including your good self) and the response has been wonderful. I’m currently working very hard to find producers/directors interested in getting the film made. It certainly wouldn’t cost a huge amount (at least by mainstream film standards) and with it being the story of a musician, there’s also potential for a great soundtrack to accompany the marketing. I’ve never seen myself as a director, but if the opportunity comes up, this may be the project that I take the plunge on. I’m currently in prep to direct three short films this year (kind of a practice run, in case such an opportunity arises), but that said, if the right person for the job wants to raise their hand, I’ll happily head back to my typewriter, where I belong.

TGG: Having read the script of FOLLOW UP, I can honestly say that it’s great. Can you tell us about your new musical, HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

CW: Yes, HAPPILY, EVER AFTER. This is a very different experience for me. Other than a couple of one act plays, I’ve never written for the theatre, but a good friend of mine, Megan Matheson, brought me this idea (she had a first draft) and asked me if I would come onboard to write the script. She’s very enthusiastic, Megan, and it’s infectious, so once I read that first draft, I could see a lot of potential to do something different within a medium I know little about. I don’t know what possessed her, to be honest. I’m not really a fan of musicals (with a few exceptions) and I was wary as I hadn’t heard any of the songs they were working on. It’s all original material and I have to say I was blown away when I finally heard them. This is not a typical piece of musical theatre. It’s very contemporary, and has a rock/pop sensibility. The songs (beautifully written by Rachel Taylor and being arranged brilliantly by Liam Bowie) could quite easily be put together as a concept album, so it will be great to see them staged. HAPPILY, EVER AFTER is a drama at heart, about four friends who all have aspirations to pursue careers in the arts (actors, musicians, writers). The story follows them over the course of about five years, during which they come together, break apart and suffer the slings and arrows of life in your 20s. It’s about dreaming big, but being slapped in the face by reality. I had a great time writing these characters and it allowed me to indulge in looking back at my own 20s when I was a hungry artist, desperate to make it big. The production is in the rehearsal process at the moment and they have an extremely talented cast (Kenneth Lypka, Megs Matheson, Robyn Smith and Mikey Innes). They’re all singers, actors and incredibly pretty, so obviously I hate them, but most importantly, they’re also hungry to make something new, which this most certainly is. It’s really all on their shoulders. It’s a show about something. Its themes are weaved through the songs. It’s about friendship, love, sex, success, death and the prices you pay to chase a dream. It also has important things to say about the entertainment industry post Weinstein. There is a major plot point that feeds into the #metoo #timesup cultural shift in how women are being treated, physically, psychologically and sexually. It’s rare that you get to work on something that takes place in the now and has a relevance. The conversations are long overdue. My work as a writer is done, but I believe in the project, so I’m going to keep shouting about it until opening night. The plan is to debut the show, possibly in October of this year, in Aberdeen, Scotland. It’s a big theatre city, so we’re hoping the appeal of something new and original will bring people in.

TGG: Fingers crossed! What’s the biggest difference for you in writing for the stage, for the screen, and your novels and film criticism?

CW: Writing for the stage, I find you have to be far more conscious of space and movement. The audience can only see theatre on one lens, as opposed to film and tv where the director and editor will cut, give you a close up, a tracking shot, and the like, in order to tell the story. Theatre is so much an actor and writers medium. Outside of experimental theatre, it’s all about the words. Dialogue and interaction between characters, so I’m very aware while I’m writing, of the limitations of a stage, but also of the possibilities. A good actor can make you feel a close up, even if you’re sitting in The Gods. Performance can be such a powerful tool, so when I write for stage, I write for the actors. Screenwriting is a very different beast. It has a lot of rules and structure, but there is so much more room to play and be creative, mainly because it doesn’t matter how big the idea is, cinema is a canvas that can take it. Novels are arguably the most freeing for a writer, because you are completely in control of every aspect of your story and you can break as many rules as you want, but the process still requires a certain discipline. You have to keep focus and make sure you are hitting every beat in order to move your story forward. Often writers can be self-indulgent (I certainly know i can be) and its always at the detriment of the story’s momentum. A great story should unfold, not get stuck on the unimportant detail, no matter how much you might love it. You have to ‘kill your darlings,’ as William Faulkner once said. As for the reviews and film criticism, I’ve only recently stepped away from that side of my work, to concentrate on more screenwriting projects. But journalism, and particularly reviews, are no less a part of the creative process than the others I work in. There was a big debate online recently about a critic’s place in the industry, and about online critics in particular. It being twitter, things got unreasonably heated, but there was certainly a snobbishness on behalf of many people who think the multitude of blog writers don’t have the experience to be called critics. I personally disagree. I know many brilliant writers, not all of them working freelancers, who may not own a degree but who make up for it with a passion and skill that I find distinctly lacking in many professional film critics who work for newspapers, magazines and the like. If it’s well written, I’ll read it. It’s that simple. I like to think my own reviews were as much about my experience of the film I watched, as they were a simple recommendation, or desperate soundbite. It’s about having a voice and being able to use it to describe what a piece of art did to you emotionally.

TGG: And finally, how can we best support you and your projects this year?

CW: I’m mostly found on Twitter @thechriswatt
if you want to give me a follow. I’m always interested in connecting with artists, writers, film makers and just decent, good people. I’m also looking for independent producers and directors who want to read my work, so my DMs are always open. My books are also available via Amazon, in paperback and kindle formats here:

#AD


 

#AD


 

And most importantly, the producers of HAPPILY, EVER AFTER are currently raising money to pay for the venue to put on the show, so we have a GoFundMe page, if anybody wants to take a look at all the cool incentives we are offering for your contributions.

You can find that here: https://gofundme.com/f/Happilyeverafterthemusical

To keep up to date with the production, you can also follow the show on

Instagram: https://instagram.com/happilyeverafterthemusical/

View this post on Instagram

Coming soon 🎶

A post shared by HEA (@happilyeverafterthemusical) on


We welcome your comments and feedback below. If this is your first visit, be sure to read the Privacy / Terms and Conditions Of Use. And Please, Play Nice.


Thanks for visiting. Let us know what you think.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.