On Creative Writing - Neil Chase, Screenwriter/Actor - Edmonton Short Film Festival

What’s your writing process? Do you write at particular times, places, or use outlines?
My writing process tends to be varied in terms of developing ideas, which come pretty much
from anywhere, anytime. In terms of putting pen to paper that’s at home, I usually work on my
home computer, sometimes my laptop. I find I do my best thinking in the comfort of my own

Is there a specific moment or an influence that made you start screenwriting?
No, there is no particular moment I can think of that compelled me to write. I’ve been writing
since I was a little kid, so I think screenwriting was just a natural progression, just a new
medium for me.

What do you wish you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out?
How difficult it can be. That’s something I wish I knew. Writing itself is not difficult, getting your
stories out there and getting your scripts made, that can be very difficult. Take every
opportunity. People think they come all the time. It’s simply not true. Opportunities come once
in a blue moon. The key to success is to be able to recognize an opportunity for what it is and
then seize the moment. If I could tell myself anything it’d be: when the opportunity comes just
say “yes”, figure out how you’ll do it later, but just say “yes”.

What influences you? TV shows? Films? Theatre? Books? Blogs?
My influences in my writing are varied. I’m a movie junky. I try to watch as many films as I can.
Read as much as I can. Read as many scripts as I can. In terms of writing, I find the Coen
Brothers fantastic because of the incredible variety of their work. I love Tarantino. I love Shane
Black. In terms of some of the classic stuff, in terms of directing styles, Sam Peckinpah and
Alfred Hitchcock, guys who really knew their craft.

What is the most difficult thing about screenwriting?
The most difficult thing about screenwriting. That would be for me, powering through the work.
I find I get so many ideas, sometimes all at once, it’s hard to stick to just one. Deadlines help a
lot with that. Making sure I finished what I started.

What is the most enjoyable part of screenwriting?
Being able to create an entire world. I get to create people, places, a situation that has never
existed. It can be as fantastical or realistic as I want it to be.

What should the film/TV industry be doing for screenwriters that it isn’t?
I never thought about that before. Writers tend to be fairly low on the totem pole in terms of
importance for film. Which is interesting because nothing gets done without a story, that’s the
building block for any film. Yet writers are treated as an afterthought in a lot of ways. So, for
me, I think a little more respect for the art of writing would go a long way.

What’s your advice for new filmmakers?
Make sure you have a really, really solid script. I don’t mean in terms of story, that is, of course,
the most important thing. In terms of format, grammar, spelling, make sure the script looks
right. Nothing sets you up to look like an amateur more than having a script that looks like
someone wrote it in their spare time without any kind of education. So, make it look good, and
make it good.

What’s your most prized accomplishment (you’ve won many awards)?
I’ve been lucky enough to win a couple of sizable awards. My first really big award was the
Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards. That had a couple of thousand people enter it
worldwide. To walk away with the grand prize was a pretty big deal for me. It is kind of what set
me on the path of doing screenwriting full-time.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully, I’m working on the next big feature. It’s just getting bigger and better. Hopefully,
some TV work as well.

What’s a surprising non-writing fact about you.
I guess a fun fact would be I don’t come from a writing background necessarily. There was a gap
in my life I was an engineer. An electrical engineer.

What’s something you are currently working on?
One of the things I’m working on now, my producing partner, Dylan Pierce, is in the Whistler’s
Producers Lab. It’s part of the Whistler Film Festival. He is going through an intensive program,
that lasts from June to December, when the actual film festival takes place. There have been
only six producers that have been invited from all over Canada. So, it’s a fairly great accomplishment, I think.
He is attending it with my script, called Terra Alpha One. It’s kind of a Men in Blackesque, fun, PG rated,
science-fiction film for kids of all ages. The premise is a man wakes up one day. His life is in danger.
Through a series of events, he finds out that the earth is a giant space prison and he is really an alien,
and he is a notorious convict with a bounty on his head. So, a mystery unravels as the story goes on. It’s fun.