Watch the August 2016 Winning Short Screenplay.
Red Dot by Mark Richards
Genre: Suspense, Comedy, Action
Synopsis: An assassination attempt gets botched by an unlikely source.
Get to know the winning writer:
What is your screenplay about?
An assassination attempt on a journalistic photographer gets botched by the sniper’s own lens.
Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
It all comes down to the punchline. The page delivers its setup with a tense rhythm, which leads to an slightly strange punchline. Honestly, it’s not enough to fit a whole movie, but it would make a great scene for an action comedy or a thriller.
How would you describe this script in two words?
What movie have you watched the most times in your life?
The Lion King.
How long have you been working on this screenplay?
I’d estimate a week at length. There were 2 nights of writing the script in April (one grueling night spent editing it). Then another 2 nights of rewriting and editing in May after a critique from the festival. I thought I was finished. But in July, inspiration struck and I rewrote it yet again for one long night. So 5 nights in total.
How many stories have you written?
I’ve written a few short scripts and one feature length screenplay. In College, my script “The Family Dinner” was accepted into the Scripts at Work reading. Last year, I’ve completed my first feature length screenplay; a horror comedy called “Skullington Tales: The Dream Weaver.”
What motivated you to write this screenplay?
I came upon an ad for the 1 page screenplay contest and I couldn’t resist the challenge.
(Spoiler Alert) While watching a dog chasing a red dot, I wondered what would happened if that red dot came from a sniper rifle. I came up with the setup of a sniper attempting to assassinate a political activist, with the dog serving as the punchline.
What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Trying to fit the script into one page. It served as a lesson on create an image with as few words as possible. I had to strip the story to its bare minimum. Finally, I had to consider what is truly important for the story.
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I am also passionate about movies and theatre. Ever since earning a theatre technical production diploma from Red Deer College, I’ve seized any opportunity to work in either field.
I also write reviews for these mediums and graphic novels. You can check them out in my website http://www.randomrichardsreviews.ca. I’ve also created a webseries Random Richards Reviews. You can check it out here; https://vimeo.com/174790726.
What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
First of all, I loved the idea of the challenge. Second of all, I wanted my script to be a part of a reading. Finally, it’s good to write some short scripts to get my name out there. After all, it takes a lot of time and mental strain to complete a full length script.
When I first received the feedback, I was conflicted at best. At first, I began with the image of the Cobra the assassin taking aim at Renaltta. I had the what, but I didn’t have the why. Specifically, I didn’t put in a reason why Renaltta’s being targeted in the first place.
When I saw this, I thought; how the hell was I going to fit this into a script? It was a strain the first time trying to fit the scene in one page. Just imagine having to sum up the motivation in one moment and squeeze it into an already tight script. But I met the challenge. It required images to be sacrificed, but it was worth it for the greater good of the script. The other criticisms were a lot easier to fix.
Though my ego may get bruised, I accept the constructive criticism. After all, I want the script to be the best it can be and I want to learn from my errors and be a better screenwriter. Suggestions, however, I’m not so accepting. While there are exceptions to the rule (especially when the feedback points out how it fixes a problem), I didn’t like the suggestion for the ending. I admit the first draft’s final image was just plain silly, but I found the suggestion too silly. I know it sounds petty, but that was my opinion. Instead of taking offense, I took it as a challenge to come up with better ideas. I eventually changed the ending that made more sense and changed Cobra to make him more interesting. There was a gag I originally put in the opening to set up the red dot and give Cobra a more comedic personality, but I removed it due to constraints with the page.
It reminds me of a quote from Neil Gaiman; “95% of criticisms are accurate, 95% of suggestions are inaccurate.” I believe it’s the sole responsibility of the screenwriter to figure out the solution. I want my scripts to be the best they can be, so I need selection committees to tell me what’s wrong with it? But I feel I need to come up with the solution myself. This way, I better learn from my mistakes. Plus, I have a chance to surprise the committee with the solutions.
But I don’t want to burn bridges with festivals. So, I consider suggestions not as offenses but as challenges to come up with better ideas.
Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Screenplays are like music. There should be a sense of rhythm with every image you create, connected by the beat of the cuts. As a whole, the story has a flow brought to life by an orchestra known as filmmakers.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Editor: John Johnson
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne