Denise, congratulations on winning the 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge at FilmCon Awards. We enjoyed reading “Promises!”
In less than 24 hours, you wrote a short screenplay about a father-son relationship, with a powerful message of forgiveness.
Let's talk about how you started out. Tell us about your background, what sparked your interest in screenwriting?
I’ve been an actor for years, but finding great roles is a challenge, and when you do find them, the competition is fierce. I started hearing so many people say, “create your own content.” So, I thought I should write stories I want to tell, including writing something for myself.
Your winning entry, “Promises”, tells the story of Joe, a 60-year-old man, who meets his Phillip in prison. Joe needs to decide whether to give up on his lost son, or keep a promise - to look after him even at his worst times.
How did you come up with the idea? Do you normally use your real-life experiences in your stories?
For Promises, the story came to me right away based on the theme, but it took a while to structure it the way I wrote it. I had different ideas on how it should go before it ended up the way it did on the page. In the case of Promises, the story was original; however, I have used personal experiences in writing, including a short I wrote about my dad, which I hope to film this fall. And a real-life event is what finally pushed me to take a screenwriting class because I wanted to tell the story.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you approach a new story? What kind of stories attract you?
I am still developing my writing process. I have taken a couple classes that have given different perspectives on how to write your story, but the idea is the same. I am also part of a writing group that meets weekly online, and we provide each other with honest feedback with our ideas and drafts. Sometimes stories come more easily, and I can complete a draft quickly. But then there’s the case of the story that led me to screenwriting… that one has transitioned and evolved so many times and has been in various stages for almost 2 years. Writing dramatic short stories seems a bit less complicated for me, but I do love fun comedies.
What are some of the challenges in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours? Tell us about your experience with writing “Promises.”
The biggest challenge for me with writing a short screenplay within 24 hours is that I don’t have a lot of time to make changes and proofread it without worrying that I’ll have a few mistakes. I want it to make sense and tell a good story, and I also want to make sure that it works without seeming forced or obvious.
In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good screenplay? Do you have any tips for other first-time screenwriters?
What makes a good screenplay? My thoughts are that the audience should care about the protagonist. Tell a good story and write interesting characters. Emotionally connect with your audience. There should be satisfaction at the end… Even if it’s a tragedy, the ending should make sense. And my advice for first time screenwriters is to just start. Take a class to learn story techniques and formatting. But pick up a pen/pencil or open your computer and start writing.
Follow Denise on Instagram @deeneesie