Welcome ladies, to the psychological playground of the horror genre…

As a writer of ghostly and supernatural stories, one of my earliest literary influences as a young teenager came from the classic world of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Later, I became obsessed with the vampire chronicles of Anne Rice, the wonderfully gothic and ghostly tales of Susan Hill, and the everyday magic that lyrically dances from the pages of the novels of Alice Hoffman.

So it is very satisfying now, to see a resurgence in the popularity of the genre as more and more female writers delve into what Helen Dunmore refers to as a  “psychological playground”. An apt description, and where I am also quite happy to play, literally!

Although I do write drama, I am always drawn back to mixing up the gothic and the dark fairytale with the horror elements, and many of my stories, The Lupii, Evanescence, Iona’s House, Spinning with the Devil,  and of course, Vampire of Arkyne, all stem from this genre.  I can only aspire to reach the levels of the great ladies mentioned above, but I fully intend to keep trying, and to keep playing!

Anne Rice’s latest novel, The Wolf Gift, to be released on Valentine’s Day, will be my next read…

On Reflection 2011…

Last post of 2011, and like all seriously driven writers and artists should, time to reflect on work done and results of same that will hopefully lead to bigger and better for 2012.

Most of us can be rather critical of our offerings, and I am no exception, so this exercise is really about savouring the good stuff that has been generated this year, acknowledging the talent that I am collaborating with, and also those who have inspired and encouraged me to move forward, do better and most importantly, to keep the faith!

So, the year kicked off with a meeting with Irish/Italian Director, Vittoria Colonna, a powerhouse of talent, beauty and creative energy, and between us, our collaborative project The Captives, which is set in Florence, Italy, has emerged. The first draft was longlisted for the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum, Edinburgh 2011, and though there is still some way to go with it, we are getting there…

The Literary Journal, REVIVAL, published an extract from my as yet, unfinished novel, LADY BETH. This is also a screenplay that continues to be close to my heart, and one that I intend to keep pushing towards development. In July, IFTA, in collaboration with the Galway Film Festival, awarded the screenplay a one-to-one consultation with Gill Dennis, Master of the American Film Institute and screenwriter of Walk The Line, amongst others. He has mentored a new  generation of filmmakers, including Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), Jacob Estes (Mean Creek) and Goran Dukic (Wristcutters). A true professional and a gentleman, Gill was highly supportive of LADY BETH, and subsequently put me in touch with a very talented, emerging director, whom Gill has also mentored through the AFI. I am very grateful to Gill for his encouragement, and for making those connections with great people and their continuing work to bring the project forward…exciting stuff…

I have still to master the art of the pitch document, so when two of my projects, Arkyne and Lady Beth, were longlisted for the Fresh Voices Pitch Awards, I was pretty chuffed. Particularly with Arkyne, which was the first screenplay I wrote, and began as such an epic tale, I have decided to finally stop faffing around and complete the novel version, Vampire of Arkyne. I should have the draft ready sometime in 2012…

In August, you can just picture the happy gig when my family fantasy script, PIXER KNOWS!, was awarded the Altantis Prize at the Moondance International Film Festival. Another labour of love, it is a big-budget concept, but so far, despite the win, it has been difficult to get the attention of producers, but, I shall persevere…

Two of my screenplays, both of the horror genre, were placed in international competitions, The Lupii, a quarter-finalist in Write Movies Competition, and Evanescence, a second round qualifier of the PAGE International Screenplay awards. Both are early drafts, so I will be doing some work on them in 2012. For whatever reason, I get a real kick out of writing the horror stuff…for those who know me well, that ain’t no surprise at all…

My blog post on Irish Director Terry McMahon’s abrasively brilliant indie film, Charlie Casanova, went far and wide, mainly due to the fact that Terry posted it on his facebook page…great comments on the post, and indeed, the film, of which praise is certainly well deserved!

Also, I need to give a shout out to the members of my Screenwriting Group for their support and endurance of my meanderings, and to Dermot Tynan of Claddagh Films, for his positive actions, as opposed to just talking encouragement…much appreciated…

So, all and all, on the writing front, it has been a positively productive year, which generated work and new relationships that I hope, will carry on into 2012…and as I contemplate the beginnings of, as yet, undreamed worlds, I will end on the wisdom of Shakespeare…

To unpathed waters, undreamed shores.

The Screenwriting Competition Trail!

My personal experience of entering screenwriting competitions has been, for the most part, a positive one. However, I have lately become concerned about the constant bombardment of marketing and sales pitches that seem to arrive through my inbox in a deluge once I have entered or even signed up for more information on the competition in question. My reaction to this?  Delete and unsubscribe!

In 2010, I wrote an article on screenwriting competitions for the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild, which you can read here: http://script.ie/writing/interviews/dont-put-all-your-shelf-puppies-in-one-basket/.  It was also published online by Film Ireland: http://filmireland.net/tag/caroline-farrell/

While I stand by that article and would encourage any newbie screenwriter looking to develop a profile, get a sense of the strength of their writing skills, as well as showcasing their talent, to consider entering some of the better competitions that are currently out there, I do stress that you must do your homework before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Websites such as http://www.moviebytes.com/ and http://www.screenplayers.net/contestinfo.html are good places to source information.

Before you enter though, make sure that your script has developed enough to be up there with the best of them. The most effective way to get a sense of what is working and what isn’t is to give your script to trusted colleagues and writer friends for some honest, and sometimes tough, feedback. And always be prepared to return the favour! If you don’t yet know other writers, join a group, sign up for training courses such as those offered by Filmbasehttp://www.filmbase.ie/training/index.php and Screentraining Ireland: http://www.screentrainingireland.ie/ or go to the many fundraising and film events that happen regularly about town, where you can network with like-minded people.

And do the research! Simply entering each competition that comes your way is a waste of time and money. Figure out what you wish to gain by entering, and what the outcome could be: Is the competition part of a bigger festival, where winners and finalists can go along to pitch and network? Will the script be read by industry professionals? Is there a cash prize? Will there be an opportunity to gain representation from an agent or manager? How much is the entry fee? Are notes provided at no extra cost if you are placed in the finals? And keep in mind, some screenwriting comps appear to be glorified script consultation companies, and while that may help some of you to further develop your storytelling and script formatting skills, always do your homework and be discerning in your choices…and finally, it may take a while to achieve that initial breakthrough…so keep at it and good luck!

Film Ireland's image link to Don't put all your shelf puppies in one basket by Caroline Farrell