This time Hamish chats with an author, Screen writer, and film critic, and from the UK.
Let’s see what five questions are asked and the answers received.
Let us know in the comments below what you think of this new series and this interview.
5 Questions with… Chris Watt
CW: Certainly. My name is Chris Watt. I’m an author, screenwriter and film critic, based up in the North East of Scotland. I contribute to various websites and magazines in a freelance capacity, and….God, this sounds like a Tinder profile, doesn’t it? My favourite colour is blue, I love long walks….and so on!
TGG: So, can you tell us all about your new book of poetry?
CW: The poetry book really came about through frustration. I had completed my first novel, Peer Pressure, back in 2011 and it published in 2012. I had loved the process of writing a novel, but it was so time consuming that I knew if I ever wrote another book, it would have to be either a collection of shorter work or a novella. In the end, it turned out that I had accumulated a large amount of poems, without even realising it and so I went about trying to figure out a way to structure the writing around an idea, rather than simply ‘another’ poetry collection. Not to sound disrespectful, or deliberately edgy, but I don’t actually own or read a huge amount of poetry myself (Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney are about as far as I delve, really), so I was acutely aware that I had to try to find a new angle, something that would convince me that my work had any validity. I know there are thousands of writers, infinitely more talented at crafting poetry than I am, but I also felt blessed by having nothing to lose. In between Peer Pressure and the poetry collection, I had experienced a huge amount of personal drama, including a child, a divorce, a breakdown and the joy of falling in love again, and the poems are all a reflection of that time. If the book has a thru line, then it is probably love, which is a concept and an idea that I return to again and again, in all my work, including the screenplays. So, in terms of the poems, the work was there, waiting. I just needed to shape it.
TGG: I hear that your poetry is inspired by your Twitter followers, I think you’ve got one of the best communities of followers on Twitter. How did you cultivate it, and what’s your tips on making social media a fun place to be around?
CW: That’s right, that’s the shape I’m talking about. I had been asking my followers on twitter, every night, to give me a word, or a concept, that I could write a poem about. It was just a little game to try and keep my wordplay sharp, kind of like an athlete jogging every morning, only with less sweat. That really gave me the inspiration, and moulding that the book needed. A structure that made it not only interesting, but relevant. That’s also where I got the title: On Lines, which had a nice double meaning for me. I’m extremely proud of the followers I have on my twitter feed. You see a great many argumentative people on that site, and they can be remarkably cruel to people, but if you are willing to treat the whole experience as if you’re confined to a fishbowl, you’d better make sure that you populate that fishbowl with beautiful fish. My community is made up, primarily, of artists (writers, film makers, freelancers, etc.) and it’s extremely stimulating to log on every night and be able to dive into a conversation, or get involved in a debate, or just have a good time, with good people. Most of my followers have connected with me through my work as a film critic and interviewer (indeed, that’s how you and I first got in contact), and I love the one on one experience. It’s far more immediate and satisfying. There is nobody on my twitter feed that I don’t want to be there, and that’s the only secret I’ve found to that experience, I don’t chase after follower numbers like a lot of people. I don’t need that little white tick to ‘verify’ who I am, and I don’t feel that having a million plus people hanging on your every thought makes you a better, or more interesting person than, say, someone who has 40 followers. As John Cassavetes once said; “what you are is enough.” And, personally, I have managed to cultivate some really beautiful friendships through that site, not to mention opportunities to collaborate, work and play. It’s not everyone’s experience, I’ll grant that. There will always be some ass hat that wants to make an impression, or be controversial, in the name of numbers, or just to cause trouble. I have no interest in those people, I cannot stand bullies, and, because I’m quite laid back, and choose my words very, very carefully, I always approach any interactions with them as an opportunity to simply balance out their vitriol with a bit of reason and optimism. Positivity always knocks them off guard, ha ha.
TGG: Your also a film reviewer. What do you think makes a great film? And what is the best and worst film you’ve ever watched?
CW: Cinema will always be my first love. I went to film school, and got my honours degree as a screenwriter. I worked as a projectionist, an apprentice film editor and a photographer for a while, but the writing was always where I felt my most comfortable. I’m no director, so I’ve only ever focused on what should go on the page. The film reviewing was a natural extension of that, and in the last 10 years it has really taken a jump up. I started writing small pieces for various sites, jobs I got mainly because my first book was out, and I had a little exposure. Then I was fortunate enough to get work as a senior film critic for a website called Watch This Space, which sadly no longer exists. Ever since, I’ve been getting steady work as a freelancer, with various sites and publications. In fact, I’m about to have my first piece published in Total Film magazine, which blows the mind a little. I’ve been reading that since issue number 1, when I was 15! But that sort of writing, the dissection of the artform, does tend to give you a little less of an escapist attitude to cinema, so I try as much as I can to embrace my inner child and allow myself to be overwhelmed by any film that I see. With that in mind, what I always look for, in any film, is story, story, story. I want to be swept up, compelled by what I’m watching. I want interesting characters, something that looks a little into the human condition, but we all just want to be entertained, really. I have no snobbery, I like all facets and genres. I like indie films and blockbusters, provided both tell a great story, I’m all set. I’m also looking for film makers who really know how to use the medium. So few directors really embrace it. Cinema, as an artform, is incredibly specific, you have to work very, very hard to show the audience why they’re seeing this as film, and not as tv, or a stage play, or a painting. If you aren’t going to use all the tools at you disposal, then you really shouldn’t be telling the story. Good examples of these would be my best and worst choices. Worst: Boxing Helena. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but it is an abysmal erotic thriller, masquerading as an arthouse picture. A dull story, badly told. Best: it’s a tie for me: Jaws and 2001: a space odyssey. The two films are poles apart in terms of theme and story, but the film making is immaculate. Spielberg is a master of set up, of show and don’t tell, and of editing, while Kubrick was, for my money, the greatest film director of the 20th century. There really was no other film maker who was able to bring something new to the table with every film, the way he could. Films just haven’t been the same since he passed.
TGG: Finally, how can we support you? (Social media, where can we buy your stuff)?
CW: I think we all appreciate all the support we can get, so this is very kind of you to provide this platform for artists. I can be found on twitter @thechriswatt. Please don’t be shy, I love meeting new people.
My books, Peer Pressure and On Lines, are available via amazon, here:
I am interested in connecting with producers and directors looking for a screenwriter. Collaboration is not, for me, at least, a dirty word. Also, as a freelancer, I am always looking for any and every opportunity to contribute to new publications, to expand my portfolio, so any work going, drop me a line. I have a child to feed, haha!