Friday, 8 November 2019

The Queen of Indie Horror: An Interview With Screenwriter, Director & Producer, Lou Simon

Our guest today at Into The Script is a very talented Screenwriter, Producer, & Director. She released her first feature film, the indie horror hit Hazmat back in 2013, and hasn’t stopped cranking out amazing indie horror films ever since. 

Hazmat went on to win Best Horror Film at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival and the Berlin Independent Film Festival. She also won Best Director at the 2016 Super Geek Film Festival for her film All Girls Weekend. 

And her 2015 film Agoraphobia won Best Florida Film at the 2015 Spooky Empire Horror Film Festival, and starred legendary horror actor Tony Todd. So, if you are interested in creating independent films, she is the one you want to listen to! We’re super excited to welcome to Into The Script, Ms. Lou Simon.

1. First off Lou, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and for giving our readers at Into The Script an opportunity to hear your story and learn from your valuable insight and experiences in the film industry!

Can you tell us at what age you knew you wanted to be a writer, and what was your path to making it a reality?  

Thanks for speaking to me.  It's truly my honor.

I started telling stories when I was very young when playing games with my sisters, but it wasn't until I was ten that I actually started writing them down. 

I had to write a short story for a class, and I was hooked. By the time I was in high school, I'd written two novels. Not sure how good they were, but it lead me to pursue a degree in creative writing. 

Then I took a long detour and went into a career in law. It was many years before I returned to writing and, at that point, realized that writing scripts was more my strength. After writing many scripts, I decided to actually make one into a film. 

Five films later, I'm a very happy screenwriter and filmmaker.

2.  And what advice can you give to someone who knows they want to write for a living, but aren’t quite sure how to get started?

I don't make my living from writing yet, so I don't know that I have the best advice to give on this subject.  All you can do is keep writing.

If you're a writer, you write. Even if you don't ever make a penny from it, it is something you have to do to feel complete.

3. As writers, I feel like we are constantly learning and fine tuning our craft.  You started writing screenplays in 2010, including your 2013 indie horror hit, Hazmat.  What would you say are some of the most important things you have learned in the last nine years, when it pertains to writing scripts?

That your talent is a muscle you have to exercise. 

I read stuff I wrote nine years ago, and I can see how far I've come. 

You just keep writing and writing, and it gets better and easier.

Reading successful scripts by acclaimed writers really helps.

4. Nearly all of your films have been in the horror genre, however, I understand your most recent film is actually a romantic comedy.  Can you talk about the transition, going from writing thriller/horror films to the opposite end of the spectrum with a rom-com? What were some of the challenges you faced in stepping outside of your comfort zone?  And how did you go about overcoming those challenges?

I normally like mystery and suspense.  I really love twists in stories, and that's about 95% of what I actually watch as well.  But, we have life experiences that still shape us, and it's fun to write about them.

While lamenting with my friends about the woes of dating in modern times, I got an idea for what seemed like a very funny premise.  My initial response to my muse was to say "that's not me." But it nagged me and nagged me until I had to write it.

I actually turned that into two separate scripts, both anti-romantic comedies -- love in modern times for those of us who are tired of the rom-com cliches. 

Neither one of them ends with someone running to the airport to stop their love from leaving. I found it surprisingly easy to switch, and now I'm looking forward to flexing my talent muscle some more and write this very heavy drama that's been nagging me for the last few weeks.

5. I know from following you on social media that you have a knack for completing your first drafts very quickly.  You wrote your romantic comedy, Female Eye For The Clueless Guy in two days, and if I remember correctly, you actually finished an entire first draft in a single day at one point!  Can you please give us some insight on what kind of planning and preparation goes into successfully accomplishing such a feat?

Two days is my record, but that's actually just writing. 

It takes me at least another day to do the breakdown of the script. 

The breakdown has taken me months before with other scripts. I let the idea simmer in my head, writing down any ideas that pop into my mind (good or bad) on an app on my phone. 

Once I'm pretty sure I know what's going to happen in the story, I do a breakdown of the script with the beats of the story.

I'm a very big believer in Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Beat Sheet. 

I don't follow it religiously cause I don't think it fits all genres well, but it's a great tool to start. Once that's done, I know I can start writing.

Every scene is pre-planned so it keeps you from getting blocked.  Sometimes, the story or characters deviate a little bit, and I just go with it.

By the time, I'm ready to write, I just want to unload it all as quickly as possible.

6. In addition to writing screenplays, you also produce and direct most of your own films with White Lotus Productions. 

Can you talk about some of the advantages to writing a script that you know you will be producing and directing yourself?  And what advice would you give to screenwriters that are thinking of going down that path?

The biggest advantage is that you know what budget you have and what your limitations are.  I know I'm not going to write a scene with a thousand extras, because that would cost too much to film. 

All my films are in contained locations and have small casts. If you're just starting out and have a limited budget, that's the way to make the money you have go far. 

I save the scripts with several locations and big scenes and effects for pitching to other producers.

7. Are there any tips, or words of wisdom that have been given to you throughout your career that you always revert back to, or any advice that you have, based on your own experiences in the industry that you feel are invaluable?  And would you mind sharing them with us?

That you need to reach for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground.  I'm chasing the dream with a ton of other people, but so many things are out of our control. 

Making it in any creative career is a bit like winning the lottery.

So you have to enjoy the journey, do it for the love of the art, and if it's meant to be, it'll happen. 

But you can't let your happiness and peace of mind depend on that. Seek happiness and pleasure in your present life, so that if it never happens, so what.

You've still had a balanced, meaningful life that you've enjoyed.

Kevin  Wilde is a Feature Writer at Into The Script and a Screenwriter who has a passion for everything horror. 

Though he does currently have projects in the works in a wide range of genres. His horror short, Out of Body, was the winner of the Ink2screen screenwriting competition. 

It is safe to say you can expect big things in the near future from Kevin, many of which will have you sleeping with the lights on.

You can find Kevin on Instagram and Facebook.


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