FILMS and BOOKS… Watt a Screenwriter and a Novelist… in his own words (part 1)

#2010s #2020s

 

Joining the ranks of Bill Forsyth and Armando Iannucci, introducing another wonderful writer from Scotland…

 

Sharing Chris Watt’s thoughts about his sensational writing, and methinks, a potential all-star Scottish movie adaptation.

 

 

 

I approached the talented and award winning screenwriter and novelist, Chris Watt for an interview. On replying, this generous Scot shared what has become the motherload of future posts of all sorts with me. These 3 posts all kicked off a wee while ago after he, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment and Mike from The Warrior Agency kindly let me review Chris’ screenplay as transferred to the screen in Stalker (2022), a British indie film.

Chris’ thrilling screenplay was brought to life in this for the most part two-hander. It has an outstanding performance from Sophie Skelton from Outlander (2014-) and she stars with the multi-talented on and off-screen, Stuart Brennan. The film tells of an egoistic actress stuck in a hotel lift with a timid colleague in a deserted hotel, with unpredictable phone reception. This was filmed during the pandemic which adds volumes to the claustrophobia, as these characters’ true selves are revealed…

In the first of 2 posts – taken from a future interview with Chris – he tells more about his most recently filmed screenplays, and how their vision was transferred to the big screen. My questions are in bold, and his in normal type…

 

Tell me about all your screenplays with a couple of sentences for each…

I’m twenty or so years in at this point, which means that I have gathered a large amount of work, but we’ll talk a little about the ones that I have coming up.

 

Stalker (2022)

Stalker (2022) – OFFICIAL TRAILER, KaleidoscopeEnt

Stalker, which premiered at Frightfest this year and is just about to launch on DVD and digital.* Stalker is a psychological horror thriller in which an actor (played by Outlander‘s Sophie Skelton) finds herself trapped in a freight elevator with a man (played by BAFTA winner Stuart Brennan) who is seemingly obsessed with her. Essentially a claustrophobic game of cat and mouse, in which we never leave the elevator for the duration of the film, Stalker represents my first official screenwriting credit and I’m very excited to see what the public makes of it, as it explores some very, very dark themes.

 

Coming soon, The Mire…

The Mire | NEW Eve of Ascension Trailer – Official, Apple Park Films

Then there is The Mire which I wrote back in 2020, for director Adam Nelson. The Mire is another contained thriller (although this time there is a whole church to play with, rather than an elevator) that focuses on a character named Joseph Layton, who is the leader of a cult known as The Canon.

Essentially a con man, Joseph has been stringing along his followers for years, and the story takes place on the eve of what is supposed to be a mass suicide, but Joseph has no intention of going ahead with it and is leaving with a large sum of his followers’ financial contributions when he is stopped by two of his most loyal believers. Finding himself trapped inside his own web of lies, the plot begins to spiral into a battle of wits between him and them, over the course of one night. It is currently in its final stages of post-production, and is a true passion project, in the sense that it was developed from the ground up, crowdfunded for its budget, and, from the cuts that I have been seeing, looking to be a wonderful piece of work.

 

Bruise (2022)

Bruise Trailer, On the Western Front Studios

Bruise which I am immensely proud of. That film deals with the subject of domestic and sexual abuse towards women but is the first of my scripts that is written with no dialogue. A completely visual experience, Bruise is a collaboration in the most beautiful sense, between director, producer, cinematographer and composer, that has produced what I think is a gorgeous piece of work, that has elevated what was on the page, into something truly cinematic. That film had its premiere at The Galway Film Fleadh and is currently on its festival run.

I’m now in the process of writing new films, one that I have been commissioned to do for a producer, and the other a spec script for a horror film I would be keen to see get made. As a writer, particularly at this stage in my career, it’s important to have a few projects ready to show to people, as I have so many stories that I want to tell.

 

 

Which films do you feel have made the best use of your screenplay and vision?

It’s interesting to talk about vision, as that is where the distinction between writer and director often splits. If I was writing with an eye to direct something myself, I think that the style of how I write would change, as I would be more specific about certain visual elements. But as I don’t write in this way, the word ‘collaboration’ becomes incredibly important, and in that sense, it’s important to make sure that when you get to the stage where your work is being made, you have a good relationship with the director.

In the case of The Mire, I had known the director, Adam, for a few years, and by the time we came to work together, I think we knew that we would be able to negotiate each other’s tastes. He had a very specific idea of the film that he wanted to make, and I facilitated that as best I could within my writing, keeping us both on the same page, so to speak.

With Stalker it was a different, but incredibly rewarding, process, as the director, Steve Johnson, was brought on by the producer, after the screenplay was already optioned, and both Steve and I realised quite quickly that we could work together to get the script to a place where it was as much his vision as mine. You have to have that kind of give in your work, as it is the director’s name that will be on the screen before yours, and they are the ones doing all the work to make what’s on the page, work on the big screen. I don’t, personally, have an auteur sense to my writing. I want to get feedback from outside my process, I want the film to be as good as it can be, and it takes a lot of people to get it to that point. I think in the case of Stalker, it helps to have good actors and both Sophie and Stuart go to some very intense places, as I was never easy on the characters and the impact that their experience has on them, emotionally.

The Mire has that same sense, and the actors in that (Antony Knight, Holly McLachlan and Joseph Adelakun) have brought my characters to life in a way that sells so much of the drama and conflict.

 

 

Tell me more about your novel, Peer Pressure.. as you described it on your LinkedIn page as “just your usual girl meets boy, boy fancies girl’s mum type story”. And who would you cast in your dream film adaptation?

I wrote Peer Pressure back in 2011, and it was published in 2012. It’s hard to believe it’s ten years old already, but I had always wanted to try writing a novel and I’m still fairly satisfied with how it turned out. Of course, I haven’t looked at it in years, and I’m sure it is rife with problems and errors, and I’m sure there is plenty I would change if I could bring myself to revisit it. In many ways, it feels like a story that doesn’t lend itself to a romantic comedy, as the subject matter could easily lead you into problematic waters.

It was based on a rumour that once went around my secondary school, that a teacher was having an affair with a student. This turned out to be untrue, and the teacher, as it transpired, was seeing the student’s mother. When I came to write the book, I wanted to write about a relationship between a mother and a daughter, where the generation gap wasn’t that big and the plot revolves around the daughter getting a crush on her new English teacher, who is this fresh faced 25 year old, straight out of teacher training, only to have the teacher fall for her mother instead, causing a rift between parent and daughter.

Interestingly, when I first came up with the story, I thought it might be better suited as a screenplay, and when I started writing it, I had this image of Kelly MacDonald and James McAvoy in the leads, but if I were to try and envision it as a film today, I would probably leave that decision up to the director.

 

So a big thanks to Chris and tune in soon for the remainder of my exclusive interview with this wonderful and inspiring Scot… and here’s hoping a screenplay for his Scottish comedy novel is greenlit with his talent from Scotland adapting his novel, and starring this dream ageless Scottish cast…

 

LINKS…

Links for Stalker: iTunes and Amazon.

 

A big thanks to the screenplay writer, Chris Watt and Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment for allowing me access to a screener for this film. Financial compensation was not received for this post. All opinions expressed here are from Chris Watt. I would also like that Chris Watt kindly sent me and personally agreed to me using imagery from these films in my blog and all copyright is theirs. If you are involved in the entertainment or blogging industry and would like to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.

 

 

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