It was an absolute honour to be awarded the Queensland Screenwriting Award at the Gold Coast Film Festival last Thursday. I just can't believe it happened, frankly! I wrote this screenplay with Belinda Missen, based on my book but so much faster! I decided to accelerate everything to liven things up whilst still staying true to the story. I wrote the first draft week 2 of recovering from COVID!
What's it about, you ask? Set in Brisbane in the 80s, this is Sarah's 'coming of age' tale, where at the start she resents her family, her life and of course, computer games! So who better to trap inside a Commodore 64? Can she beat the games and get out in one piece? That's the A-plot. Her personal journey is the B-plot. There are other plots too ... can you find them all?
I've been writing screenplays for over 15 years, 7 more seriously. Starting with a dozen shorts before moving onto feature films. I think working with Belinda has added a depth to my characters and made them more believable. I also think her descriptive text for the big print jumps off the page to the screen in the mind of the reader. Needless to say, combining powers did the trick!
I studied with QPIX over 15 years ago, learning my craft from Robert Taylor (Muggers, Cliffy) as I completed the writing cluster from the Advanced Dip of Screen. I studied journalism before that, deciding creative writing was more my style. While screenwriting isn't my job that pays the bills, it is one that I am passionate about. I was a finalist the Byron Bay International Film Festival and won at AFIN in 2020 (for 'The Case of the Notorious Roboticist') but I've never cracked the GCFF before.
This screenplay was inspired by the ZTTP (Zapped to the Past) Podcast which reviews old C64 games. I remember how much joy they gave me and decided it was time to return to my youth. Write what you know, write what you love. Belinda was no stranger to the C64 either, so that made the writing connection here easier (and we've worked together before on my books, Belinda is a beta reader for my ace editor, Kat Betts, at Element Editing Services, the best in the business BTW).
Yesterday, the screenplay was read out as part of the festival at HOTA, and wow did the QUT film students, led by the legendary Andrea Moor, knock my socks off with the depth and professionalism they brought to the stage. The future of Australian film rests in safe hands!
What's next? We hope to option it and get it made, of course! While Sarah is the protagonist, her sidekick and mentor Nell is the next most important character in the story. It's girl power and they don't need anyone else to save the day ... not even Sarah's brother, gamer Rhys. We hope the film will get made one day and provide an opportunity for young stars to take to the stage and soar. That said, we might need to tell them what a Commodore 64 is first!