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Shannan Leigh Thompson
Grand Prize


Shannan Leigh Thompson

The Myth About Roses is Shannan Leigh Thompson's first screenplay. She 
began writing four years ago when the inspiration for The Myth About Roses was born from a daydream. Since then she has written several short stories and a children's book. A graduate from the University of North Carolina at 
Greensboro with a degree in art, she currently works as an art director for a 
ceramic tile manufacturer.
FilmMakers Magazine: What can you tell us about yourself?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I'm a twenty-nine-year-old art director for a ceramic tile company.

FilmMakers Magazine: Tell us about your job?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I'm an artist. I do hand painting on ceramic tiles. A lot of repetitive patterns, flowers and fruits, and such. But its great because it's like driving, I can work but my mind can also wander. I've gotten some of my greatest ideas at work.

FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to be a writer?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I've always had a vivid imagination. I spent more time in school daydreaming than studying so I think it's just in my nature. I literally live in my own fantasy world. 

FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write and ultimately motivated you to write your first screenplay?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: Actually when I got the idea for the script I decided I was going to write a novel, but I kept seeing the story as a screenplay. At that point, the lights came on and I realized what I wanted to do with my life. It was always there I just didn't see it. 

I learned more just by writing. When you read books it's all foreign if you haven't written anything. I learned more just by writing, also I joined a writing group. The feedback I got from that was invaluable.

FilmMakers Magazine: Tell us more about your experience with this writing group?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: We spent a lot of time giving each other feedback on the scripts we were working on. Which was great to hear what people had to say about what was working and what wasn't working. Sometimes it's so easy to loose perspective on your work.

FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I took a lot of notes on index cards and carried a notebook around with me everywhere. I thought about it day and night. Music helped me a lot too. I would just sit in a dark room and let my mind wander with some exotic film score in the background.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing? 

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I didn't put too much pressure on myself to come up with certain ideas. I just let my mind go wherever the music would take me. Whatever I'm writing at the moment is always on my mind. I write wherever and whenever the ideas start flowing. Sometimes at work, sometimes in the middle of the night.

FilmMakers Magazine: Can you tell us how much time did you spend on getting the script done?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I spent about two years planning on writing the script. reading books, taking notes. Finally I got sick of that and started writing the script. I worked on it about a year, took a year off after I finished the first draft. Then I started a major rewrite that took another year. That was when I felt it was truly finished. I would rather take the time to write one great script rather than ten bad ones.

FilmMakers Magazine: When you began to write your script how many hours per day, week, etc was spent on writing your script?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I spent more time working on the weekends than anything. And often in the evenings after work. I worked on it constantly so it wasn't like I would work on it a couple hours this week and a couple hours the next. I spent probably twenty hours a week writing.

FilmMakers Magazine: Did you ever have any doubts about completing the script? 

Shannan Leigh Thompson: Oh yeah plenty of times. Luckily I had a good friend who is a screenwriter who encouraged me to keep going. There were times where I thought it wasn't any good and then there were times when I would read it tears would come to my eyes. I think the balance of insecurity and ambition helped. If I was too secure I wouldn't have worked as hard.

FilmMakers Magazine: How often did that happen?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: It happened more times than I would have liked it to. Usually I would take a few days to gain perspective and read what I had already written. I kept seeing the story as a movie and knew I had to keep going.

FilmMakers Magazine: At what stage did you decide it was finished? 

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I don't think I can even say it's finished now. I'm a perfectionist and I still get ideas for it. Minor things of course. But I got so attached to it it was hard to let it go. It had become such a part of my life. I started working on the next script. I'm ready to fall in love with another story now. I think there's a time where you have to step back and say "It's good the way it is" 

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you ever write treatments and how did you learn? 

Shannan Leigh Thompson: No I didn't with this one. I just wrote an outline. But on the one I'm writing now I think I'm going to have to. The first script was such a learning process, so I'm approaching this one with a little experience.

FilmMakers Magazine: How many contests would you say you've entered prior to FilmMakers?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: Actually only four, including FilmMakers.

FilmMakers Magazine: What prompted you to enter the first contest and why?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I had finished it around the time that the deadline was. More than anything I was curious to see how it would do. If I didn't do well then I would work on the screenplay some more.

FilmMakers Magazine: What was the name of the first contest you entered?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: The Nicholl of course.

FilmMakers Magazine: What can you tell us about the experience?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I entered it this year so I haven't heard anything yet.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for screenwriters and why?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I do think they are important. It's nice when you can say in a query letter to an agent that you have won a screenplay competition. I think they view them as a filtering system. Filtering out the good scripts from the bad ones. 

FilmMakers Magazine: What made you decide to enter our contest?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I was interested to see how it would do in contests. So I entered yours. I entered the major contests then this one. Maybe it was just meant to be.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: As far as scripts to encourage writers to read. I personally liked "The Sixth Sense" script. It was thought provoking and well paced. Also it has hidden meaning. The story is ultimately about communication. Communication between Cole and his mother and Cole and the doctor. I like stories that have an underlying meaning

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I'm fascinated by mythology from different cultures. And having studied art in college, I'm passionate about art. It all comes down to human emotions, expressed in different ways.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Shannan Leigh Thompson: I think personally for me, trusting your instincts is important. Even if it means abandoning the basic "rules" of screenwriting. After all your script is an expression of your creativity so be creative with it. Don't feel you have to follow the formula. As a writer you have one thing over anyone else, your own voice. Thanks a lot. It's been great!


Second Interview

I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter when ....

I came up with the idea for "The Myth About Roses." I've always had an active imagination and thought many times I should write some of my ideas down, but I was a bit insecure about my writing abilities. When I got the idea for "The Myth About Roses" I knew it was too good to dismiss it as another one of my crazy daydreams. When I started to write it I realized I had found my calling.

I know I've succeeded when ........

I can sit in a darkened theater and watch my screenplay come to life on the screen.

When did you write THE MYTH ABOUT ROSES? What inspired you to write it and how long did it take to write?

The inspiration for The Myth About Roses came after I saw The Crow some years ago. The dark romanticism of The Crow sparked philosophical questions of love, death, afterlife, and later, predestination. From these questions a story began to form in my mind, a story that would take four years to convert into a screenplay.

Tell us about your first writing experience (screenwriting).

The Myth About Roses is my first writing experience. The first couple of  years I studied the basics, structure, format, character development, etc. When I finished the first draft I felt that it was as good as it could be and I had done my best at exercising the basic rules of screenwriting. After being away from it for a year I read it with a fresh pair of eyes and realized that something was missing. This was when I learned the things that screenwriting books don't teach you. When I started to rewrite it, I began to see that I was not a God to the story and by having a strong well developed characters, they do have a say in what they do and don't do. I stopped trying to dictate every action of the story and began to recognize the story had it's own ebb and flow, as well as tone. At times it seemed the story was writing itself. So rather than control what happened I started to see what was inevitable. Rather than argue with what wasn't working with the story, I tried to listen to what it was saying to me.

Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Currently I'm fascinated by M. Night Shyamalan. I like the fact that The Sixth Sense was subtle and thought provoking without being in your face.

What are your aspirations?

My aspirations are to find time to get my other screenplay ideas down on 
the page and hopefully see them realized on the screen.

When the creative juices stop, what do you do to get yourself on the
right track?

When I get stumped for ideas I usually go out and buy myself a new CD. 
Music has an incredible effect on my imagination, especially film scores. 
The right music with the right mood can spark emotions that I can incorporate 
into my writing.

Where will you be in six years from now?

In six years I hope to be making a living as a screenwriter.  I may only have one screenplay under my belt, but I believe that it doesn't take experience to write a great story, it takes passion. If a writer  doesn't have passion for the story he or she is telling how can you expect the audience to be passionate about it?

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