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5 Q&A's with Daniel Ståhl, 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge winner

Daniel, congratulations on winning 24-Hour Screenwriting Challenge at FilmCon Awards. We enjoyed reading “Little Green Apples!"

In less than 24 hours, you wrote a short screenplay about a young delivery boy and an old woman who discover they have a lot in common and help each other find some solace and repose.

Let's talk about how you started out. Tell us about your background, what sparked your interest in screenwriting?

  Thank you so much. I guess I've always liked to create stories and use my imagination - going back to before I could even write when I would draw pictures instead in order to tell a story.  My interest in screenwriting came just about the same time as I discovered movies. Although I appreciate a great story in the shape of a book, a song or a poem I believe film is the ultimate medium of storytelling. I guess it's the audio/visual-experience of film that has the power to draw you in unlike any other medium.  

Your winning entry, “Little Green Apples”, tells the story of Gavin, a 17-year-old delivery boy, who arrives at Ms. Moore's house. After a short conversation, Gavin learns a life lesson from Ms. Moore's story and realizes that he should move on, and find another girl for the upcoming prom. Without giving too much away, we must say that we loved the way the story ends!

How did you come up with the idea? Do you normally use your real-life experiences in your stories?

The idea for "Little Green Apples" came rather quickly. I'm a big fan of "Coming-Of-Old-Age"-movies as I call them, in contrast to "Coming-Of-Age"-movies. With this story I had the opportunity to combine them both which I found very exciting. A part of yourself always seeps into the stories and characters you create, regardless if you're writing a contemporary, down-to-earth drama or a bombastic sci-fi extravaganza. I don't tend to incorporate any personal real-life experiences into my stories but I think they are essential to have in your toolkit because you will be able to understand your characters better and make your story more relatable that way.

Tell us about your writing process. How do you approach a new story? What kind of stories attract you?

It usually takes a long, long time for me to finally get a story I got stuck in my head down on paper, or at least into a script. I guess it's based on the fear that once you've written it down you realise the story sounded much better in your head. Outlining is something I always do before I start writing a script. It makes the story much easier to overlook and you get a better sense of the flow of the story that way. Once the outline is done, the writing of the script itself usually goes rather smoothly because you've already laid the groundwork. I like stories with characters I can connect to and who's journey I feel engaged in. I also love stories that are multi-layered like "To Kill A Mockingbird" which is not just a story about racism and injustice but also about a widowed father trying to raise his children to the best of his abilities and about the children who has to realise that the world is not as safe and jovial as they thought it was. 

What are some of the challenges in writing a short screenplay in 24 hours? Tell us about your experience with writing "Little Green Apples”.

Like I mentioned in the previous answer, a big challenge for me was to get the story out of my head and down on paper as quickly as I had to. Another challenge was the page limit which made you think hard about what to keep in and what to keep out - to really get down to the core of the story. Although challenging, it was very rewarding and a great learning experience for future projects. 

In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good screenplay? Do you have any tips for other first-time screenwriters?

I believe that once you have an intriguing and engaging story with relatable characters (good or bad) who's journey you care for the whole way through, you have a good screenplay. I think it's easier to forgive a so-so storyline with well-written characters than the other way around. My one tip for my fellow screenwriters is something I have to remind myself of from time to time: to just write. It doesn't have to be in the form of a script. It might just be a conversation you overheard during the day or a line of dialogue that popped into your head that sounded good. Write it down - you never know if it will grow into a new story of yours.

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