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British social realism: anxiety & loneliness - award-winning short script 'MOUSE' needs director

Tormented by her ex, a working-class mother battles the pains of separation, inadvertently dragging her son and his new pet mouse along for the ride.

'MOUSE' is a lean script, with only a loose narrative, but it paints a very big picture. It's also a very visual piece, and the characters feel so real they jump out of the page - and the pet mouse was a very nice touch.

We caught up with screenwriter Danny Cotter to find out where his inspiration came from, and what his plans for the future are...

How did you get into screenwriting?

I started taking a serious interest in screenwriting whilst studying Film Production at University. I recall my initial efforts having potential and interesting premises, but often falling short of the mark at the point of completion.

I wasn’t disheartened, however, and instead felt compelled to study the craft further and advance my skills–this hasn’t always been my inceptive attitude towards set-backs or disappointing results, thus it brought about the notion of pursuing a career in screenwriting.

Where did you just graduate from?

I graduated from the University of Gloucestershire. The film school is a highlight of the uni, and the campus is situated in a beautiful part of Cheltenham.

I would highly recommend the Film Production course; it is a real hands-on experience with tones of honest and helpful feedback and guidance from a host of brilliant lecturers.

University of Gloucestershire, film production

What do you do for a living?

Currently, I work as a runner for a TV production company based in Ealing; I also occasionally work on bars for local events on an ad-hoc basis.

A large portion of my earnings are going towards my future studies: having recently graduated, I’m now finalising my applications for an MA in screenwriting.

Do you think TV production is a good environment for an aspiring writer?

Though it may not be the perfect environment for a writer, it certainly feels more healthy and more within the sphere of the creative industry than other jobs.

Do you tell people at work you're a writer?

Every so often I'll have a conversation with somebody–usually another runner–about my writing; I've never been the type to push a script towards someone who might not necessarily be interested.

What inspired the story of ‘Mouse’?

The core inspiration for the screenplay came from my experiences growing up on a council estate, and working-class parenting as a whole.

Though my own childhood experience wasn't dramatic or bleak, I drew from memories of the children around me and how, at times, their parents would be visibly struggling and cracking under pressure.

I then thought about how these moments–if captured and viewed–would likely prompt a spectator to label the mother/father as a bad parent, without necessarily taking into consideration the pressures of a low-income, working-class life.

I wanted to challenge the polarising perception often placed upon parenthood by pushing the character of Hazel as close–and arguably, beyond–the “bad parent” label, before making the reader reconsider.

The relationships and interactions in your script feel very natural and organic. Was there anything that helped you capture this?

Again, my working-class upbringing served as a wellspring of inspiration for this screenplay and helped me add a sense of realism and authenticity to the characters and relationships.

As well as this, I have to credit some of the leading Drama/Social-Realism writers and directors, whose work I’ve studied over the years and who have, without question, influenced my work: Ken Loach; Mike Leigh; Andrea Arnold; Joanna Hogg, the list goes on…

So, 'MOUSE' is For Sale! Who would you like to take it on, and would you like to be involved in the production?

I think a filmmaker who connects with both characters–as ostensibly different as they are–would have a great shot of getting the most out of this script. Somebody who has experienced similar hardships to either/both characters would hold a huge advantage.

Of course, I’d like to be part of the production, if the director required additional information or guidance. I believe in giving people full creative control to achieve their vision, and so wouldn’t impose my ideas on the new owner.

Could you describe those two lead characters in your own words?

A central theme of the script is loneliness, and both characters deal with it in different ways.

Hazel is an over-worked, under-loved newly single mother, who feels forced to isolate herself and her son for their safety. She's tormented by an ominous threat and her anxiety often manifests itself in fits of rage and self-medication through alcohol.

Dylan–at a glance–is a meek, dependent child who often passively endures the worst of his mother's emotions and imposed bouts of isolation. However, given the situations and pressures he's faced with, we learn how strong he truly is.

So, what are you writing next?

I’m currently developing ideas for my first feature: a drama following a fading pop star–which I may save for my future screenwriting MA final piece.

In the meantime, I’m eager to create another short script. Sunday Shorts is the first screenplay competition I’ve entered, and given the positive response Mouse has received, I’d love to make more!

So Sunday Shorts was the only competition you entered, and you went and WON!? How did you hear about it, and what made you choose to submit?

I wanted to have some accolades to bolster my CVs and MA application; I thought a screenwriting competition was the most sensible option, and something I should have done a long time ago.

I chose Sunday Shorts as I wanted to enter a UK-based festival due to the script containing British elements and being set in northern England. It was the first UK festival that appeared on my FilmFreeway search and it had great reviews. I thought I might have a shot of being selected, I didn't expect to win!

Request 'Mouse' and browse other selected short scripts on our Scripts page here.

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