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Brexit-inspired 'The Exit Plan' wins Script Competition - Q&A with first-time Screenwrit

Ella Cook's latest short script, THE EXIT PLAN, won Sunday Shorts Script Competition this month, and as it turns out, it's also her first.

Her experience is in theatre. Ella's plays have been seen at numerous theatres and festivals including Edinburgh Fringe, Sprung Festival, and Vault Festival.

The Exit Plan

THE EXIT PLAN, is set in an overpopulated future, where an elderly woman has to outsmart a government official sent to 'Exit' her.

The following extract of Ella's statement took our interest in particular:

As life expectancy increases, there is the growing sentiment of who owes what to whom. This has been ever present since the Brexit vote where younger generations feel the elderly have hijacked their future for self-serving policies that will only benefit their few years left on the earth. But is your life worth less just because you have less of it to live?

We had the chance to talk to Ella, to find out more about the story, and what she's learned about writing so far...

Q - How did you get into screenwriting?

I started experimenting with writing for screen a couple of years ago when I decided I didn't want to act anymore; it felt like the natural progression after writing for stage and I was really interested in exploring the possibilities of longer-form storytelling that TV offers.

Q - What inspired the story of ‘The Exit Plan’?

The idea for The Exit Plan came from many different directions. Firstly, I was looking to write something that could be filmed on location at my friend's property and used an 80 year old woman and a young man. Initially I set out to write this as a feature, and still may do so, but I also enjoyed the challenge of trying define this world within such a short period of time. The central idea for The Exit Plan really stemmed from wanting to provoke the question ‘Who has the right to choose whether one life is worth more than another?’

Everyday governments are making decisions for the ‘greater good’ at the expense of a minority, and the world in this film is no different, with Zeke blindly believing that sending the elderly to be ‘exited’ is to their benefit.

Q - Are there any screenwriters/ directors who you look up to?

There are so many good filmmakers out there right now! Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her sense of play and unapologetic dark humour; Mike Bartlett for his absolutely brutal characters and cutting observations; Laurie Nunn because I wish I'd written Sex-Education and of course Baz Luhrmann because he's a fellow Aussie and creates such incredible films that still manage to tug the heartstrings despite all their opulence.

Q - How did writing for stage prepare you for screenwriting?

Writing for stage really helped me to develop characters and experiment with dialogue in a way I don't think I could have had I jumped straight into screenwriting. While the same for both is true in that you need to show not tell; on the page a stage play relies more heavily on dialogue to convey everything as most actors ignore stage directions. On screen the challenge is now making sure the action I write is clear and considered.

Q - What was the most difficult part of finishing your first short script?

The thing I find most difficult about writing is that there are a million ways you could write the one story and a million stories within that story. It's about making a decision and sticking to it, but also being open enough to throw it all away and start again. To be honest, until it's in the grade I don't think I'll feel like I've finished writing it.

Q - What would be your advice for beginner writers to overcoming that?

My advice to writers is don't be afraid of getting it wrong, just make a choice and run with it. This is especially true when you get into a development process - you can ruin a script by trying to make everyone happy and taking on every single note, in the end you have to write the story YOU want to write. The best notes are questions and you have to learn to answer them rather than take them as a criticism.

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