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Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist (Nik Perring)

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

Nik Perring. Born near Manchester in the UK, where I’m typing this from. My current hobby’s been making music. I gave it up twenty-something years ago to concentrate on writing stories.

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?

Geographically, I came up with the idea right here, at my desk but I guess the real answer is that I put myself in a place not too far from here in time. I was wondering about the evolution of social media and how dangerous prying technology could be. It can leave us exposed now. It’s scary thinking how that monster might grow.

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

My process changes depending on the story but the guiderails haven’t changed much in twenty years (my background’s in books and short stories).

Sketch out an idea. Only a few sentences.

Write it to find out what I really mean. Then I can start again and write it all the way through.

Revise, revise, revise until I’m certain it’s finished. Then…

Read it out.

And… repeat.

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

Such a good and difficult question. My career’s been in publishing books. I’ve thought, for a long while now, that if those great long-form novelists were writing now (Tolstoy, Dickens) they’d probably be writing for the screen. I sold a short script ten or fifteen years ago and it never got made so I went back to what I knew.

And then… we had a huge snow storm five or six years ago which grounded us. I was supposed to be working on a UNICEF project but couldn’t get where I was supposed to be. So I decided to use the week or two to see if I could do it. I did a couple of courses after that and… here we are. Multi award-winning short script (thank you!), a pilot that’s placing in comps (it’s with a producer right now) three short films being made (this one included – stay tuned for details) and much more comfortable in doing it. It takes time and I love it.

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

I love minimalism. Always have. The idea that we trust the reader’s intelligence and allow them to bring the story to life in their own way has always made sense. With screenplays we’re absolutely not only giving blueprints for a movie – we’re entertaining readers and (hopefully!) giving a director the opportunity to see how they’d do their thing with it. It’s a collaboration. I love that.

I was blown away by David S Goyer’s Blade script when I read that years ago. It was so exciting and has such beautiful urgency. Spike Jonze, I love too. I think I’m Here was the first short I fell in love with. I want to mention NITV Shorts because they’re all incredible (the brilliant Frank, the director who’s making this short, and I totally bonded over Ciúnas).

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

So many! I always come back to Big Fish because it has so many layers and so much heart – and it’s fun. I must have watched I’m Here a hundred times. Casablanca is an obvious choice but I’m not going to apologise for that. The way everything comes together – photography, acting, direction, script – it’s electric.

Most recently, I fell in love with The English. It’s pretty much perfect. I love Martin MacDonagh’s movies – they seem to do everything; Del Torro for beautiful spectacle and heart, and I’m falling in love with Yorgos Lanthimos after watching The Killing of the Sacred Deer. Is that enough…?

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

That’s way too hard to answer. But that won’t stop me…

The scene in Ruby Sparks where she’s in the same room as Calvin when he’s typing’s a wonderfully powerful moment.

The airport at end of Casablanca. The last time we see The Black Rabbit in Watership Down.

Why? Because they connect with something really deep inside us – and in the latter two they’re last times and last times, naturally, are significant moments – they’re done but they stay with us and that’s what good art should do.

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

The one I’ve loved the longest is Luke Skywalker.

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

I’d like to talk to the first person who shaved their face, and ask them why. It’s always struck me as a risky thing to do.