Celeste, congratulations on winning the 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge at FilmCon Awards. We enjoyed reading “Tender Ties!”
In less than 24 hours, you wrote a short screenplay about a woman with mental illness who is just looking for someone to love her.
Let's talk about how you started out. Tell us about your background, what sparked your interest in screenwriting?
Well I've been writing since I was 8 years old. I started off writing short stories called The Four Friends then progressed into some various genres of short stories as I got older. I stopped writing once I got into the Air force and instead found a love for photography. When I started going to Clayton State University, I wanted to improve myself as a photographer so I became a Film Production Major (they don't have anything photography specific). I decided to take the screenwriting course to brush up on my skills as a writer and that's when my love for writing came back ten fold! My professors and many of my friends/colleagues expressed how much they enjoyed reading my screenplays and that was when I knew that I wanted to become a screenwriter.
Your winning entry, “Tender Ties,” tells the story of Abigail Jones, a woman in her 50's, who meets Scott, a delivery guy. The voices in Abigail's head bother her so much that she loses the ability to make decisions for herself.
How did you come up with the idea? And how do you feel about Abigail?
I used to play this video game called Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. It's a game about Senua, a young woman who suffers from psychosis and is trying to find the soul of her dead lover. I remember thinking how intricate this game was in its details of the voices and how they felt real, not only to the character but to the player as well.
Abigail is like any other 'normal' (and I use the word normal loosely) person. We all want love but sometimes can be self-sabotaging when it comes to retrieving said love. Our brains can be our best friend and worst enemy and it can make or break us. Abigail is no different than you and me. We all have that little voice in our head that tells us we're not good enough, but for Abigail it's three voices; each with their own personality and feel very real to Abigail. I feel bad for Abigail because it seems no matter how hard she tries to overcome her mental illness, it always wins, something that I understand all too well.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you approach a new story? What kind of stories attract you?
Hmm it depends on who wants the story. Honestly, writing a screenplay for a client is much easier for me than writing something that I've created myself. I find it more thrilling to bring someone's thoughts and ideas to life and seeing the look on their face when I take their characters, themes and storyline and breath fire into them. Sometimes if I'm very compelled to write a story, I will sit down and hammer it out. If I'm stuck on a certain part of a story, I will create an outline to see where I want to take the story next.
I love all stories. From non fiction to sci - fi, I love creating stories and characters that are not only relatable but will stir up certain emotions in the reader.
What are some of the challenges in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours? Tell us about your experience with writing “Tender Ties.”
I think the hardest thing for me was to keep the details without going past the page limit. I LOVE details. I want the reader to envision what I write when they're reading the screenplay, and trying to show that without breaking the rules was very difficult. I actually had another scene in the screenplay but I had to erase it or else the script would've been 7 pages [laughs].
Writing Tender Ties was very interesting. I wanted the reader to empathize with Abigail but also be distant because of what she does in the end. She's broken and wants nothing more than to be loved but her mental illness makes it hard for her to obtain that goal.
In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good screenplay? Do you have any tips for other first-time screenwriters?
Oooo that's a difficult one. I guess I would say, for me, it is: character development, unclear hero/villian, make the reader love/hate the protagonist and antagonist, endings that leave the reader thinking/speculating.
For my first time screenwriters: create a screenplay that YOU are proud of. Everyone won't like what you write and that's okay. As long as you enjoy what you wrote that's all that matters! However, also be open to criticism. As a writer, we are VERY sensitive about our work because it is practically our child. And someone telling you how to raise your child can make you go on the offensive. Listen to the advice and if it's something you believe can help make the story better then use it. If you like the way your story is, that's okay too! At the end of the day, it is YOUR STORY and you have the final say in what stays and what goes.
Thank you so much for the recognition!
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