Elaine Roberts is a screenwriter and producer based in Florida. Elaine's short screenplay, "Through The Silence", won FilmCon's 24hr Screenwriting Challenge in December 2019. We invited Elaine to join us for an interview.
Elaine, congratulations on winning 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge at FilmCon Awards. We enjoyed reading “Through the Silence”! In less than 24 hours, you wrote an inspiring story, using several flashbacks to significant (though traumatic) landmarks in a man’s life. Let's talk about how you started out. Tell us about your background, what sparked your interest in screenwriting?
My love for writing started at a very young age. I came up with my first story for a book when I was eight years old. Reading was also one of my favorite things to do. Fast forward to a Literature class where we were assigned to write a screenplay for a contest. Although it was my first time writing one, it felt more natural than anything I’ve ever done. Luckily that feeling was validated when it was selected as the top screenplay. At that moment, that spark was ignited, and I knew it was something I would do sooner or later in my life.
Your winning entry, “Through the Silence”, tells the story of a man who decides not to give up, despite some tragic events from his past, and do the right thing for his children. What is your message to other writers who consider giving up on their dreams?
My message is that we all struggle with our own challenges every day, and we all have our low points. But life is precious, and each of us are meant to be exactly who we are. If you reach a moment where you feel like giving up, you have to remember why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing. As long as you’re alive, your journey hasn’t ended. Your moment will come, if you choose to not give up and continue to fight for it.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you approach a new story? What kind of stories attract you?
My writing process might be different from most. The first thing I do is sit down with a blank screen, start writing, and let the story take me where it wants to go. Sometimes I don’t even start at the beginning. If there’s an idea or a vision of a scene, then I just begin to write from that point and take it from there. After that, the story will start to develop, and then comes the research, structure, etc. I enjoy all kinds of stories, but I’m mainly attracted to stories that have drama. It could range from a historical period drama like “Gone With the Wind” to a romantic comedy-drama like “Silver Linings Playbook”. The elements of conflict force the characters to deal with the conflict, usually badly at first, until they reach that point where they find it in themselves to do the right thing. That is what creates that character arc, and is what I’m really drawn to.
What are some of the challenges in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours? What inspired you to write this particular story?
The main challenge in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours is coming up with a good concept for a story with a specific theme in a short amount of time. Usually when I write something, it’s because I was struck with an idea. In this scenario, I’m given a specific theme and have to come up with a story in a limited amount of time. What inspired me to write “Through the Silence” was the theme of doing the right thing for your children. Having a child of my own, I can understand the magnitude of that concept where being a regular parent who works a regular job faces challenges and difficult moments. I can personally say what gets me through those moments, is my son and doing what’s right for him. Therefore, taking that concept and applying it on a larger scale where the protagonist is faced with very difficult moments many children face in childhood, to more extreme situations such as 9/11 or the war in Afghanistan, helps relay how much these difficult moments can bring someone down and to the point where they want to give up. In this story, all it took was a reminder of why it’s worth fighting, and it got him through it.
In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good screenplay? Do you have any tips for other first-time screenwriters?
I would say the ingredients for creating a good screenplay are having good dialogue, because that really helps create the characters, the plot, and the relationship with the reader. Tying lose ends is also crucial, because you don’t want to provide the audience with an idea that either doesn’t lead anywhere or doesn’t tie into anything. There’s nothing better for the audience than to have that ‘aha’ moment where they can piece things together. Lastly, make sure there is a payoff. You can have a great screenplay, but if the ending doesn’t deliver a payoff, that’s what the reader will be left with. The best tip I could give to first-time screenwriters is to just write, and keep writing because each time that you do, you will improve and reach the point where you create your own winning screenplay.