Our latest script competition winner, 'Birds Of A Feather', a well-structure, layered and intricate story, where both plot and characters feel real and organic.
The story is about a 6-year-old girl struggling to find her place within her family, through the life and death of two baby birds. The relationship between the two young sisters, Elizabeth and Melanie, successfully grows and develops throughout this 15 page script about a fallen nest of helpless chicks.
We caught up with the first-time screenwriter, Nicole (Nick) Ann Redmiles, to ask about inspiration, her writing process, and her plans for the future – all of which she had insightful and exciting responses for...
What inspired the story for 'Birds of A Feather'?
This story is actually loosely based on a real memory from my childhood.
The character of Elizabeth is modelled on myself, and Melanie is a combination of my older siblings. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and I'm ashamed to say I did knock down a bird's nest just because I wanted the chicks. I dragged my siblings into it and all of the chicks ended up dying. This loss stuck with me and I learned a very valuable lesson from it. I started writing this story for an assignment when going to college a couple of years ago and it has evolved since then.
Where else did you find inspiration for the story?
I find inspiration in music and nature. Taking walks or spending time alone with a playlist usually gives me a lot of inspiration. Being alone with my thoughts and exploring my own imagination and memories has always helped me to generate new ideas.
Every writer is different and it took me a while to find out what works best for me. I think the main thing is to be true to yourself and style and to not shy away from digging deep into emotions. Finding the emotional motivation of a character and really understanding it is what brings them to life.
There are some really lovely details and moments in the script, but they’re not over indulgent and just add a bit of flavour and realism to the story. Is this something you cut down in the edit? How do you find the right balance?
I try to leave a lot of subtext in the stuff I write. This definitely is a process and requires a lot of editing from the first draft. My first draft was very long and wordy. When editing the proceeding drafts, I spoke all the dialogue out loud and played certain songs during certain moments. I follow this process for everything I write and it helps me create a certain flow and tone while creating (hopefully) believable dialogue. I often like to write characters that may not understand their own feelings and end up only revealing their wants through action instead of dialogue. I tend to rely on symbolism and subtle movements to reveal these truths and complexities.
How many drafts do you usually go through?
I don't know if I ever think a script is done so the drafts would go on forever if I let them. I usually do 3 drafts before I force myself to move on to the next project. I then come back during a break from another project to do more rewrites. This particular script is probably on it's 10th draft.
How did you get into screenwriting in the first place?
I've been writing since I was a kid, but I didn't know I wanted to be a screenwriter until I went to college in 2009. In high school, I wanted to direct music videos and I had a journal where I wrote out music video ideas for popular songs. This slowly morphed into wanting to direct movies/TV and finally wanting to write scripts.
Is writing what you do for a living?
Most of my free time is spent writing, but it isn't my day job. To pay the bills, I work for a freight forwarding company, and film weddings, but I hope to one day write for TV.
Whats next for you?
I plan to keep tightening 'Birds of A Feather', and I would love to get it produced. I'm currently writing several TV pilots and I am pursuing a career in TV writing, with plans to move to LA in the spring. For now, I'm continuing to hone my writing skills and collect a solid foundation of scripts.
What's the plan for LA?
I know a couple other filmmakers who have relocated to LA, and I will be connecting with them when I arrive. I don't have work lined-up yet but I'm on the lookout, and will be sending out query letters soon.
I plan to stay in LA until I'm writing for TV.
I've avoided moving to LA for a while because it's a big step and scary, but I've joined many screenwriting groups on Facebook and I've found the screenwriting community to be incredibly supportive. I'm glad I didn't move there right away and spent the last several years learning about story and working on my writing, but I feel like I'm finally ready to take the pledge. I love telling stories and I couldn't imagine doing anything else!
If you would like to read 'Birds of a Feather', you can request the script from Nick directly here.