Kate Shenton is a talented, London-based screenwriter and filmmaker. Her edgy teleplay "Savage" recently won Season 5 of Filmmatic's Horror Screenplay Awards. Kate was kind enough to take time away from her writing efforts to give us some insight into the life and methods of a prolific writer.
1) How long have you been writing?
A few years now… I started out writing because originally I wanted to be a director, and therefore needed some projects to direct. However the more I got into writing the more I realized it was the right path for me. I love getting lost in my imaginary world, inventing characters and then taking them to hell and back. I think it’s one of the most exciting things you can do.
2) What screenwriting training have you received?
I haven’t received any proper screenwriting training. However, I do work part time on a filmmaking BA and MA teaching screenwriting and in many ways this has been my training. Working with students can really help you improve your own work.
Also, I found the biggest learning tool for me has been getting as much feedback as possible. I really feel that if you embrace feedback, particularly blind feedback as friends and family are always going to be a little too gentle, it will help really improve your work. You can learn a lot from it.
3) What genres do you lean towards? Are all of your works thriller/horror?
I do have a massive soft spot for the horror genre, particularly horror comedy. I naturally have a very dark sense of humor, and a lot of my early work has been within this genre. However, I’m now branching out into different genres. My latest script is more of a rom-com, which I’ve been having a lot of fun writing. Really, I want to develop my writing in all genres and be as a versatile writer as possible. But there will always be a special place in my heart for a little bit of gore!
4) Our judges loved "Savage", how would you describe the pilot to our readers?
Savage is the story of two rival serial killers battling it out on a university campus. One is an arty, hotheaded sociopath who suffers from panic disorder, the other is a cold blooded psychopath who desperately wants to feel an emotion. They have a love/hate relationship. One minute they're best friends, the next they are trying to kill each other. It’s been a hugely fun script to write, and I really hope I get the opportunity to further develop the world. I have so many ideas for it…
5) What horror TV/films inspired you, and your work on this project?
There are a number of them. ‘End of the Fucking World’ was a huge inspiration, particularly in terms of tone. The UK show ‘Fresh Meat ‘was also another inspiration, mainly for its depiction of university life. I was very inspired by the anime series Death Note (NOT the American film!) mainly because of the complex friendship/sworn enemies/rivalry relationship between ‘L’ and Light. I’m also deeply inspired by old school British comedy (Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Victoria Wood,) which have had a huge influence on my sense of humor.
6) What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short or long shifts, binge writing or scheduled sessions?
I’m very much a morning writer. A number of times I will start writing at 7am, just because I tend to find my writing is best before 12pm. The second it goes after 12pm, it always seems to take me double the time to do the same amount of work! This doesn’t mean I’m up at 7am every day, but I do try my best. I’m an early morning writer, trapped in a night owl’s body.
7) What are you working on now? Where would you like to be career-wise in 36 months?
Well, the dream is to have my own show on Netflix! Whether that can be achieved in 36 months, we shall see… but I think for me the main goal in the next 36 months is to become a full-time screenwriter. I love writing, and getting lost in my own little world, and I want to do this everyday. I also want to continue improving and building on skills I already have.
I have a couple of projects that I'm working on at the moment. One is a TV show with an asexual protagonist, determined to find love. I’m also working on a project set in the esports world, something which I’ve become increasingly fascinated by.
8) Any advice for those about to write their first TV pilot or feature?
Don’t be afraid of big rewrites. I think it’s natural to become precious about our work, but sometimes big changes lead to big improvements.
If you’re writing for television, make sure you have lots of hooks, to keep the audience wanting to see more. That was definitely a big learning curve for me when writing my first pilot, and one I am still trying to master.
I think the most important thing though is to keep pushing yourself to improve. There is always something new to learn, or an area of your writing you can get better at. Never get complacent, even if you’ve won a competition or sold your first script. There is always more to learn!
Congratulations once again to Kate Shenton, the Season 5 Filmmatic Horror Screenplay Awards Winner. All contact requests for Ms. Shenton will be forwarded to her attention.