Before the dark ages of the 2020 Covid-19 apocalypse East Midlands screenwriter Tommy Draper agreed to a chat.
Although it was brief he was kind enough to talk about his career, writing habits, and goals as a screenwriter and filmmaker.
We first met at the BAFTA Crew 2019 networking event in Leicester but for the sake of everyone reading would you like to introduce yourself?
I’m Tommy Draper, and I’m a writer based in Derbyshire. I write short films and features and like to work with different genres as much as possible.
You’ve worked closely with Sophie Black in the past and have completed a number of projects together. How did you two come to work together?
Me and Sophie first met on the set of short film ‘Shelf Stackers’ and became friends. Then we crossed creative paths soon after on both ‘Wasteland’ and the Triskelle Pictures produced ‘Stop/Eject’.
While being on set we talked about ideas for films and teamed up with our first writer/director collaboration ‘Night Owls’. Since then we often make films together or are developing new scripts. I think we currently have 3 or 4 projects for the future.
So you have a collaborative writing partnership? That’s interesting to hear especially as writers are often portrayed as isolated creatures fiercely protective over their ideas.
How does that partnership work in terms of idea generation and the process of giving and receiving notes?
I am an isolated creature, even more so these days! But, I’m not protective over ideas and my work, I’m very open to collaboration. That’s what I love about filmmaking, so many people involved with amazing ideas!
Mine and Sophie’s collaboration goes a little like this: whoever has the idea writes the first draft. Then we hand it over to the other person. More ideas and comments are made and another draft is written, usually by the other person. In a way we both write our version of the screenplay. Then we go back and forth, mixing them up, adding and taking away until we have the script the way we want it.
Then there’s bringing the actors in and further rewrites as we head into production. That’s the smoothest way to work for us.
And with multiple projects under your belt, including Songbird winning awards, that collaborative relationship seems to be doing well for you.
Many filmmakers at the start struggle with the idea of sharing their work. What was the most difficult thing about screenwriting when you first started?
As far as sharing your work, I never feel confident in that, even now. But if I didn’t share my work I wouldn’t have any films made. My first film was made because I posted the screenplay online. A director saw it and wanted to make it.
I remember reading a screenwriting book by Syd Field, he said something like ‘you don’t write screenplays to wallpaper your room’ and that has stuck with me since.
I think the most difficult thing is to get the dialogue flowing. That’s so hard to do and it takes a while to get used to. You can write the lines so many times on paper to perfect it, but you can’t judge it until an actor says it out loud. It takes practice, but you can get there.
And finally, looking back on your work and accomplishments so far what has been the highlight, and what do you think you’d like to accomplish going forwards in your career?
I can’t pick out particular highlights, I’ve had so many moments that I’m proud of. If I’m honest, I feel proud every time one of my films is screened and I hear good things from the people who saw it.
Going forward, I want to make films that are more personal. To be more honest and connect to people who see the films I write. I definitely want to make a second feature film and have a few of them in early stages of writing.
Overall though, as long as I’m making films with a talented crew and enjoying the process, I’ll be a very happy writer.