Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Author/Screenwriter: Shawn Parker

Shawn Parker

Shawn Parker is a writer. I say writer, because he doesn't just write in one way. He's an author of the novel Night has Fallen and he's written two screenplays that are about to be made into movies. Pretty cool, right? I thought so too! Shawn was nice enough to give us an in-depth look on his work, so show your thanks by reading and leaving a comment!

1. When did you figure out that writing was what you wanted to pursue in life? Did you start writing movies or books first?

Writing is always something I’ve loved doing, but it wasn’t until about five years ago that I started giving it serious consideration as a career path. When I was in the sixth grade I did write a 50 page novella about a magical Gonle named Foltar—I don’t think anyone took me seriously then, either.I started writing movies first, after a failed (through my own negligence and disinterest more than anything) attempt at running a magazine. At that time I was still playing at being a dumb jock, and there were too many distractions at school to keep me from writing. I always thought writing a book was a daunting, all-consuming task that one needed to be prepared for. Still do.

2. What are the main differences between writing a novel and writing a screenplay? Do you find one easier then the other?

I certainly find one easier than the other, but explaining why has always been difficult. I suppose it’s because I look at screenwriting as such a technical process – a screenwriter isn’t an artist, he’s an engineer. When you’re writing for the screen no one cares about your language, no matter how glorious or pompous it is. Everyone from the producer to the director to the cinematographer and lighting tech needs to be able to read and, more importantly, understand the script. It needs to be as clean and clear as possible. Forget about the fluffy language.With a novel you’re free—and expected—to write with more flair, more passion. At least when you’re writing prose. Writing a novel is a wholly creative process, where screenwriting is more like filling in the blanks. If you’ve got a great story you can be the worst writer in the world and still put together a marvellous film. The book medium is much less forgiving.

3. Your novel Night has Fallen is available now. Will you give us a brief summary on the book? Where can people pick up a copy?

This is cheap and I might be cheating, but I think the best summary of the book comes from the jacket:

Night Has Fallen is the story of four lifelong friends steered into adulthood by the impending marriage of their most reluctant member. As a grand farewell to their youth, they plot an adventure to the furthest reaches of the Canadian north—with no prior knowledge of what it means to test the natural and savage elements of the world.They descend on the wilderness with all the naivety and brazen disregard for safety that young men are disposed to. They are ill prepared, but it does not matter, for they are in search of adventure—a final voyage together, one for all time. In one horrifying moment the adventure becomes a struggle for survival.

The rugged Canadian wild and the treacherous whitewater that cuts sharp swathes across the terrain will be their final playground, if they allow it. They have nothing to defend themselves against the wilds but a pistol and a can of bear repellent that may or may not contain hairspray. But they will survive. For that, all they need is each other. Night Has Fallen is the intensely affecting tale of a journey. It is an exploration of loss, betrayal, courage and friendship and a reflection on what man is capable of when he is faced with insurmountable odds: wanton destruction, incomparable compassion and unrivaled heroism.

It’s essentially a movie about four friends during the biggest transition period of their life. Some might call it an exercise in masculine bravado, but I don’t have a problem with that. It might have fit in perfectly with the cultural landscape of the 1980s, a time when Stallone, Van Damme, Segal and Norris represented the quintessential “man.” It seems more and more like men are given less slack for being just that—masculine. I wanted to write a story about men the way that they are and the way that they’ve been classically portrayed, and I wanted to do it unapologetically.

These guys aren’t ashamed because they drink strong beer and don’t shave their chests. You might think that I’m trying to alienate women or target a specific audience with this, but it’s just the opposite—the best responses have come from my female fans.

The book will be officially launched in stores in Canada and the US on April 15th, but you can pick up copies online now directly from the publisher – and . It’ll be on by mid-February and then rolled out as the year progresses.

4. When will filming for your movie Wireless start? Are there any details you can give us about the film?

Wireless is a Dog Gone Mad production and set to go in front of the cameras on August 11th in Los Angeles. I had a chance to go over the approved budget and shooting schedule a few weeks ago, and what I can tell you is that this is going to be the best movie of the year. I’ve heard rumours of a number of Oscar nods in half a dozen categories…I’m kidding. I can’t spill a lot of details on casting until contracts are all finalized and the production company issues a press release, but I can tell you that we’re close to locking up two incredibly talented actors from what some people might consider the A-list. I also realize that’s what everyone says and I’m turning into a really boring interviewee. Let me see if I can’t kick it up a notch. WIRELESS One term removed from the Bush administration reckless US foreign policy has caught up with the most powerful nation on earth. International angst has risen to an all-time high. Terrorists have devastated the American intelligence community. The Vice President and other high-ranking officials are dead.

With no other option, the President of the United States is forced to turn to a weapon more powerful than anything the world has ever known. A weapon able to infiltrate not only every piece of technological equipment ever built, but the human mind itself.When the group responsible for the destruction of the CIA steals the weapon, the President enlists the scientist who created it to get it back. Together they race against time to uncover a conspiracy that will take the world to the brink of World War III and beyond.In addition to a cool story there’s also a plane crash, gunfights and people jumping out of apartment building windows. The three main ingredients in all high art.

5. Can you give us any information on your other movie, the comedy I Hate Dating?

I Hate Dating was basically a pet project that I never thought I’d show to anyone. It’s about me and the fun (or lack thereof) I’ve had dating since I was in high school. It’s highly fictionalized, of course, but it’s still a really personal project. I poke fun at myself for about 110 pages… I’m not sure what clinical psychologists would have to say about that.

6. You will be helping with I Hate Dating as a producer. How did that come about?

I was lucky enough to get a chance to do some production work on Wireless and it’s something I really enjoy doing. One of the provisions the production company added to the deal for I Hate Dating was that I’d stick around to produce. They must think I’m good with people or something. I’m not sure where they would have got that idea.

7. Where do you feel you get most of your ideas from?

This is probably the toughest question I get from people and I always struggle to answer it. I pull from everything that I know, or that I want to know more about. I believe in the axiom of write what you know only to a degree: if we only wrote what we knew, I think it might have been impossible for Lucas to come up with the story that became Star Wars. I don’t think he’s ever been a Jedi, but he uses what he knows to create the environment and the story while keeping it based in his own conditions.

Spielberg was probably never bitten by a shark. Fincher never owned a soap company and he didn’t fight himself in some parking lot (okay, maybe he did, but the others are true).Most really talented creative writers have this locked down. I was hired to write Wireless as a political thriller. Since I’m neither American, the President of the United States nor a scientist who works for a secret division of the government (I’m not a terrorist either, just so you know) people assume that it must have been difficult to write. It was, to an extent. But that’s what books and libraries are for.

I rooted the story in what I knew and then built up the facts around it. We’ll see if it worked. I might have to try my hand at light sabres if this all blows up in my face.I’m also a pop culture junkie. I’m a little like one of the characters from Night Has Fallen; put me in front of the television and tune to Jeopardy and I’ll drive you insane. I pull a lot of facts and tidbits of useless information from everything around me, but as for stories… it’s hard to say.

Sometimes I decide on a style of story that I want to write and then work from there. I sat down one day and said to myself, man versus nature epic. Survival. I don’t know a lot about these things, but that was how Night Has Fallen started. I had a desire to know more and to write about it. Then I added depth and character by adding what I do know; a road trip. Friendships strained by the onset of responsibilities. Then I started filling in the blanks.

8. What would be your advice for aspiring authors or screenwriters?

Don’t talk about writing. Don’t tell people that you dream of one day becoming a novelist. Don’t tell people (ESPECIALLY me) that you’ve got a great idea for a movie, but you just haven’t gotten around to writing it yet. Just write. If there’s one thing that most aspiring writers have in common it’s that they just don’t work at their craft. There are a million excuses and reasons not to write—they’re always going to be there. If you want to do it, if you want to make a living at it and make it your profession, you have to put in an honest effort.

An hour a week isn’t an honest effort. Ten pages a month isn’t an honest effort. Writing for four hours a day, shutting out all the other distractions and working at it with all you’ve got—that’s an honest effort. All the books, the seminars, the pep talks, the advice, the groups, the workshops—they’re not going to help you if you don’t write.

9. Finally, why do you personally feel people should pick up your book or go and see your movies when they've been released?

Because I write with my audience in mind. My goal is to entertain. If I write a comedy, I want people to laugh. If I write a thriller, I want people to cling to the edge of their seats. If I write a book, I want to win the Man Book Prize (we all have to have dreams, right?)

I like to think that I have a fresh, distinct voice and that I’m brining something new to everyone gracious enough to take a look at my work. You’re going to have fun, and you’re going to react. What more could you want from a movie or a book? Plus, you’ll get to say you knew me before I wrote a summer blockbuster or a New York Times Bestseller. Hurry, there’s not much time!

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