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Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Wilson Macduff)

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

My name is Wilson Macduff, thane of Fife.  I live and work in Scotland.  From my window, fresh fields of barley run down to the sea.  I hear the gab of the gulls wheeling overhead and the meaty thrum of tractors lifting up the worms to the sky. 

I’m a father, grandfather, and dedicated juggler. I have a lifelong interest in the stars and origin myths. Moreover, I love to make and fly kites, re-read books that changed me in some way (Lawrence, Steinbeck, Irving, Capote), concoct tonics, and cycle the quiet, lonely paths of life with my canine buddy and patient counsellor, Bram.

I also like to adapt things.

My latest screenplay structure for example – Escape To Inner Earth – is a (very) low budget adaptation of my (mega-budget) short novel of the same name.

Freebie Coming Up, folks… And you can read it for FREE on Amazon Kindle. Yay! (You can even listen to it for FREE if you sign up to Audible.  Let the dulcet tones of Tom Freya carry you off to the stars.

ETIE, incidentally, runs alongside another hobby-cum-adaptation of mine called Odyssey based on a screenplay I wrote back in 2008 called Coming Home which actually did win best short sci-fi screenplay at the International Family Film Festival.  At the risk of being ejected from this lovely establishment (sorry, guv) you can also read it for peanuts on Amazon.

And yes, it, too, will soon be an audio book.

How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

A long time. I started writing LEVEL ONE on the back of my thesis project at the Scottish Screen Academy as early as 2010. Although, I think I started writing it as a young father on the cusp of the Y2K crisis back in 1999 when all I wanted to do was protect my children from harm.

Complicated subject matter like that slows me up. LEVEL ONE is the sort of story outline that speaks to the increasing number of ruptures in contemporary society where the innocent and the lost are brutalized by a growing and unchecked culture of predation and religious brainwashing.  I tend to dwell on that stuff for too long…  a woman who abandons her child, a jaded cop who seeks redemption, a small, bible belt town staring Armageddon in the face.  It placed well in a few comps and attracted the attention of Sensorium Pictures in the USA with talented DOP Zack Richard attached and got down to the final five of SPs development slate.

Subsequently, I met with the producers in New York to discuss its merits, flaws, and potential, but I was gutted when they decided to pass after a lot of debate.  SOB.  (And that’s not invective)

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

Oh dear…sometimes forever. Writing is a kind of poor man’s therapy for me.  My day job is quite demanding so I’m pretty drained when I get home.  Nothing fresh on the page after 8pm in my hobbit hole.  (A little editing perhaps). My main sprint is early in the morning.  I get up about 6am, shower, try not to disturb Bram (she’s a teenager so relatively safe on that count, and…side note… I get to hear her snore). After which, I set up shop on my bed for what is essentially a process of blind divination.  I don’t chase narrative so much these days. 

My unconscious tends to be in the driver’s seat, often when I least expect it (you know, when you’ve finished that ass-numbingly difficult scene and head out for a victory frap- that’s usually when SHE COMES knocking.) Anyway, if I pay attention to her, I get the gist of the story beat/point/sequence and dutifully write it down – no matter where I am.  I either stop writing when I feel empty or if the composition gets claggy. (Good Scottish word, that) If I spend too much time feeling for the pulse of a thing – BREAKING NEWS – ‘Paramedics put on show for grieving relatives!’ – it’s either dead, irrelevant, or not worth saving. 

All I can say is – thank heaven for the delete button.  A ruthless companion. The upside of self-flagellation, right?  That’s kind of it really.  A stab in the dark, opportunity knocks…

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

In all honesty, I never have.  Maybe that’s why it’s taking so long.   (muffled guffaw).   I was a slow learner at school, compensated by quick feet and clownish antics which were rewarded by weekly doses of corporal punishment. Becoming a writer was never an option. I did have a pretty fertile/odd/esoteric imagination. However, it just never really translated until at the ripe old age of twenty-one, I reached the last page of The World According to Garp and picked up the pen.  I’ve been beating myself senseless with it ever since then. Thank you, Mr. Irving.

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

 I was a child of the 60s, so I got to queue up outside the Odeon to see all the great blockbusters of the day – Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters, ET, Indiana Jones. I didn’t know it then but fast forward forty years and here I am with a drawer marked ‘insane stuff’ ‘do not enter’ ‘keep the hell out’ filled with quick silver for my own private Idaho.

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

Frequently. All the diamonds to one side (Sopranos/The Wire/BB/The Americans/GOTs) I honestly think VEEP is the best film script format in the whole wide world. Definitely going to watch it on my D Day.

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

When I kissed Lesley Sweenie in the back row.  Lesley – please come back to me…

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

Oh, god.  Theon Greyjoy? Walter White? Big Tony?   Anyone who makes it back from a dark place.

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

My dad.  Why the pain, old man?

Talk about ending on a bum note!

Actually, I think it would be nice to have an open and frank conversation with Bram.