INTERVIEW WITH SCREENWRITER BROOKE BURNS

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

I’ve always been interested in writing from a young age. Short stories, poems, whatever came to mind when I had a pen and paper. My first short film I wrote a few years ago followed a young girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality and come out to her parents. It highlights a
low point in my own life when I was also coming to terms with my identity.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

I remember when my sister showed me Dead Poets Society when I was a young teenager and I just discovered my passion for movies. I’ve seen a lot of films in the years between the first viewing and now, but there is something untouchable about the power of DPS and its commentary on free thinking, romantic ideologies, and pursuing our own truth. Recently, Portrait of a Lady on Fire has reminded me how I always longed for a movie like it but how lucky we are to have more representation now.

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

Send your screenplay to everyone you know that can provide feedback you need to hear. Writing is rewriting constantly until you feel like the finished product is ready. Once it is, submit to festivals – like Short Close-Up – or get it out to as many people as possible. You never know who will pass it on to someone in a higher position. Even if every person says no, keep sending
it out.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

Even though my stories are fiction, I bring my personal struggles, passions, and interests to the tables my characters sit at.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

I love to people watch and listen to everyone around me. Usually a moment or a word from someone can spark a whole idea. The process is ongoing, and every draft sheds light on a new layer you didn’t know your character had.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

Most of my notes before sitting down and typing on Final Draft are completely erratic and on multiple pieces of paper. With the random tidbits, I outline my main characters with a template I curated for my own personal use. Once I nail down my characters and my treatment, it’s easy to start with the first word of the script.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

Becoming emotionally involved with your characters can hinder the development of the story. If you can’t let go of certain ideas that don’t fit the overall picture, sometimes you fall into a block between story and character development. The characters are ever-changing through the first few drafts until their true voice emerges and you know who they are – right down to what they ate for breakfast that morning.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

Structure is a good basis to follow, though you don’t have to adhere to every beat for the beginning, middle, and end. I think if the story you create follows its own rhythm and it works, the structure is only part of the foundation.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

Outlining is the most integral part of my process and acts as the blueprint. I keep it next to me every time I sit down to write so I can remain consistent with the beats I’m trying to hit.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

Characters should be three dimensional. I find that if the character is stuck between two identities – or two worlds, two people, two schools – there’s a lot of room for development because they are in the middle of a major conflict. They’re either chasing or escaping their situation but they have to make their choices to move forward.