Submit your First Scene to the Festival: http://firstscenescreenplay.com
Watch Table Reading of the March 2016 Winning First Scene Screenplay.
NARRATOR – Fran Townend
ABE – Jonathan Robbins
SUZANNA – Annie MacKay
GOOFY – John Marcucci
Get to know writer Stuart Wright:
1. What is your screenplay about?
The logline for BEFORE GOD is: After surviving a suicide attempt, a troubled pastor is tormented by visions of a 12 Year Old Boy that force him to confront a suppressed childhood memory.
Thematically it is about a crisis of faith, but not in the usual sense of doubt in the existence of God. Abe Stonehouse is a man who has given his life to the church, but despite his dedication and knowledge of scripture he never believed – ever. He only ever joined the church because he thought if he could gain God’s forgiveness for then he could move on. Only it never happened and before he knew it he’d been a longstanding, valued member of the local diocese. BEFORE GOD blurs the lines between life and death to expose Abe’s true self and offer him salvation.
Tonally it’s inspired by Jacob’s Ladder and Donnie Darko.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
BEFORE GOD should be made in a movie because it dares to suggest that faith can be learned to fool everyone but yourself. Spiritually speaking this can only lead to personal misery and denial of who you truly are. Rediscovering your one true self proves to be liberating in this life and the next.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
Dark and Enlightening
4. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
Time Bandits, Texas Chainsaw Massacre… More recently Only God Forgives enjoys repeat viewings in my house.
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
A couple of years on and off
6. How many stories have you written?
I’ve outlined many stories, but I’ve written ten feature length screenplays… My writing quality gets better with each one… Arguably only the last three or four, including BEFORE GOD, have the potential to be sold or developed into a movie.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
I wrote and produced an award winning short film called FALLEN. As confirmed Atheists, the director and I set out with the ambition of making something that would show how mean God is. However, through the development of the film, and my own personal research interviewing born again Christians, we became increasingly sympathetic to people with faith; differentiating them from organised religion. During the editing process I began to see what we had done together as maybe the end of a film. Brainstorming ideas of how the story got there led me to BEFORE GOD. Writing the screenplay didn’t turn me into a believer, but it steered my resolute atheism a tad closer to agnostic.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
The structure of BEFORE GOD is non-linear and plays fast and loose with what is real and unreal. It is meant to keep the audience in the dark until the final moments where the curtain is pulled back on my unreliable narration. It was my first serious diversion away from linear and I wanted to make sure the audience didn’t begin to mistrust me as the author because there were too many surprises or not enough clarity about some of the more supernatural elements that are included.
Fundamentally speaking, pun intended, an early draft table read of the short film version exposed our anti-religious bias in our characters. The pointed criticism asked if we believed in God. Proudly we said no. The person giving the feedback said neither do any of your characters. This led to me reaching out to born again Christians, vicars and pastors to interview them about their faith.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I am keen podcaster and host the weekly film podcast for britflicks.com. As a writer I shamelessly use to learn from other filmmakers about their process of nailing story and turning that into a film. They’re archived here http://www.britflicks.com/podcasts.aspx and available through iTunes too.
By the early nineties a combination of Public Enemy, Ween, Slayer and Sonic Youth changed everything for me in terms of music I love and would prove to be a platform for a never-ending search for challenging singers and artists. Although I’m a long way from too cool for school as both Todd Rundgren and Bob Seger are fixtures on my MP3 player and turntable alike.
I am a big fan of Liverpool Football Club and enjoy cycling in the British countryside.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I value the impact a table read can have on me as a writer when I hear other people tackling my words. Film is a very collaborative medium so it’s imperative to discover how your work is interpreted if you’re to understand its strengths and weaknesses.
The written feedback I received was bittersweet. It told me what I wanted to hear – the transitions were jarring – but it was framed as criticism.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
The headline advice of writing is rewriting is still worth banging on about. If you think about that notion you’re accepting you have to get it wrong on the page to get it right in the end. This is counter intuitive and must be nurtured as part of your development as a writer. Essentially, if you commit nothing to paper, you’re not writing and you’ll never know if that idea floating around your head works or not.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson