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Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Lee Bailes)

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

My name is Lee Bailes, I was born in North Yorkshire in the UK.  I’m a UK ex-pat living in Stockholm, Sweden. My Hobbies are Martial Arts and playing guitar.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

Originally, I had a horrible dream back around 12 years ago. All I saw were buckets of blood and gobbets of flesh. It haunted me. The first script outline came together very quickly. It came together when I tried to make sense of who was seeing this imagery and guessing what their response was with the ‘what if? And there was real interest in having it produced, but then logistically it seemed impossible. I then sat on it for a long time. However, recently I decided to polish it / do a page one rewrite and update it a little – regarding technology changes.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

Back then, I was a proud punster. So the original idea did not go through any detailed planning. It was all very organic, once I knew the inciting incident and the climax. However, after a year of really throwing myself back into the story and plotting and developing a process I like, I did actually go back to square one. Testing each idea, to work from the title, logline, etc all the way to mapping out each beat, the character development, symbolism, etc.

Now I typically work in a self-created template in Notes, filling in all of the relevant questions/gaps. When stuck I tend to mind-map on paper. Before then transferring the relevant information into index cards in Final Draft and then scripting in a split-screen view (index cards on the left and script on the right). And for more involved ideas / longer form pieces I either work in a word template I created for Beating things out, on paper (if mind-mapping / brainstorming) and then using Plotter software if wanting to move things around and play with structure.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

After working as an intern for an indie film producer and realizing no one will let you direct. You need a script and no one will give you a script to direct without a proven track record, so go and learn how to write a film script” – so I did. And I actually realized I really liked it and wrote my first feature in a week – once I’d read a few books and grasped the format/rules. However, I didn’t care for the rewriting process so much. Being a pantser has its drawbacks. I think the fact that I keep on journaling and writing fiction so it becomes more of a question of understanding format and rule conventions.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

I’m a horror b-movie guy at heart and grew up on Dario Argento, John Carpenter, and Luci Fulci films. Stylistically as a writer, I think the economy of Dan O’Bannon’s scripts really spoke to me, like the first time I read the ALIEN script and saw this stark economic description that made it a quick read. But then I was also moved when Taylor Sheridan’s work, for the stillness of it.     

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

I’ve just finished MARE OF EAST TOWN and loved the writing/performances etc. But previously, TRUE DETECTIVE just really plucked my ‘weird’ nerve and got to me.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

The Dead Baby Boy cocktail moment in MAN BITES DOG – was such a groundbreaking film.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Severen (played by Bill Paxton) in NEAR DARK

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

I’d love to converse with someone from 1100 Norway / Sweden, to converse with the Vikings at the time when they transitioned from pagan to Christian beliefs. I’ve just always been drawn to that side of history.