Screenwriter Mark Renshaw resides in the UK. He’s a husband, father, and one heck of a wordsmith.
Filmmatic sent Mark a short Q&A after his Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship win, and he was kind enough to reply…
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: In the late 1990’s I started writing spoof stories starring the people I worked with. They proved very popular. A few years later, a guy at work read a few and asked me if I’d like to write a screenplay for him. We ended up making a short film together which won an award at a film festival. Through this experience I discovered a love for screenplays. However, I only started taking it more seriously in 2013.
Q: What screenwriting training have you received, are you self-taught?
A: I’m totally self-taught. I kind of made it up as I went along for a while and got no-where. Then in 2013 I decided to throw away everything I thought I knew and started from scratch. I bought a load of screenplay books, read lots of scripts and joined a screenwriting forum on the Simply Scripts website. There, writers post their work for peer reviews. I submitted a few, got some honest brutal feedback and started to learn.
Q: What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short or long shifts, in the mornings, late at night…?
A: Due to my day job and family commitments, my writing time is quite limited. I may get a few hours at the weekend at most. I spend the week planning in my head and carrying out whatever research I need. The idea is when I start typing I’ll know exactly what I’m going to write and be as productive as possible.
Q: What genres do you lean towards?
A: At the moment I’m loving sci-fi and seem to have a real natural talent for it. I’m not surprised with the amount of sci-fi books I’ve read over the years. Apart from that, I’ve found myself favouring horror and comedy. I tend to put an element of comedy into most of my scripts. I do love films and TV shows that blend humor with serious tones.
Q: What is your screenplay, “The Survivors”, about?
A: The Survivors is the pilot episode for a TV show I’ve developed called The Nearscape. Set in the not-too distant future, The Nearscape focuses on three unlikely heroes from totally different walks of life, as technology becomes dangerously unstable; in particular anything controlled by Artificial Intelligence.
The Survivors introduces us to these characters. The first is an abused teenaged boy who lives in a rundown area which is so polluted the air is unsafe to breath. Next is a rookie cop on her first patrol. She’s teamed up with a couple of corrupt officers but is secretly working for a resistance movement known as the Light Brigade.
The last of our trio is a normal, nice guy who’s a mid-level manager for the biggest corporation in the world. He’s on a road trip with his family, but is about to lose everything in an impossible accident.
And the backstory to all this, the reason technology is failing and who is behind it all? Well, that’s what the series reveals. The concept is a bit like Westworld meets The Truman Show but on a global scale
Q: How did you get the idea for “The Survivors”?
A: I wrote and produced a short sci-fi movie called The Survivor: A Tale From The Nearscape. This focused on the teenage boy character mentioned above. During production everyone said this had potential for a feature, maybe even a TV show. So I spent about a year writing the pilot and developing the rest of the series in a TV bible.
Q: What are you working on right now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Although The Survivors was an Inroads Fellowship finalist, the script that won was my short script called Cyborn. This is about the final three minutes of an android’s life as he runs out of power. I’m currently developing it into a feature.
In the feature version, the main character is a Cyborg Private A.I. called Braxx Dryden. He’s infected with a virus that is slowly reverting him back to a pre-sentient state; which is effectively a death sentence. Braxx faces a desperate race against time to solve all his open cases to track down who infected him and find an antivirus before it is too late.
As I mentioned earlier, I like to make my scripts both serious and funny, so I’m edging towards a Firefly type vibe with this one.
Q: Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?
A: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! I just dived in and wrote hideous vomit drafts for my first couple of features and ended up writing myself into corners I couldn’t get out of. You have to do the prep; you have to plan the whole feature thoroughly before you even write the title page.
If you are like me, itching to start writing as soon as the idea pops into your head, you’ll find this part frustrating. However, it is much better this way.
Congratulations once again to Mark Renshaw, the 2018 Inroads Screenwriting Fellow. All contact requests for Mr. Renshaw will be forwarded to his attention.