Writing Powerful Subject Matter In Film: An Interview with 'The Flood' Screenwriter, Helen Kingston

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Our guest this week at Into The Script is screenwriter & actress Helen Kingston. Helen's most recent film 'The Flood' - starred Game of Thrones stars Lena Headey and Iain Glen, and Humans and Black Mirror actor Ivanno Jeremiah. Jenny was fortunate enough to speak with Helen about writing about socially topical subjects such as immigration, as well as how to attract talent to your script, and Helen's top tip when it comes to pursuing a career as a writer. 

1. Your film The Flood has been really successful and even made it into the screenplay top 50 in the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Congratulations! Would you mind sharing with our readers any tips you may have on how to get this far in highly prestigious and competitive screenwriting competitions such as this one?

Thank you! 

I had't entered contests before but I'd heard the Nicholls are very respected and give good feedback. In terms of advice I’d say write whatever you want, whatever interests you. 

I imagine most contests, like producers, are after unique scripts with a good story and a distinctive voice. Genre-wise the Nicholls are open to everything. They flew the top ten female writers out to LA so we got to spend some time together and talk about our scripts and there was a complete range of genres and subject matter. 

So all I would say is just write the story you want to write and get it as good as you can before sending it out. 

Definitely don’t try and guess what people are looking for.

2. The Flood deals with the refugee crisis, a very important, and sometimes controversial topic. You have managed to portray it in an incredibly moving way without romanticising anything. Do you have any advice on how to write about sensitive, political topics like this one where so many different points of views are tied into the narrative?

I still feel the crisis is not talked about enough, there’s over 70 million displaced people worldwide, with thousands having to leave their homes and livelihoods every day. 

I didn’t set out to write something controversial, I heard about the shipping container of people found at Tilbury docks and started to research the journey people were making to the UK and what happened when they got here.

In terms of writing something based on a real situation, the research stage becomes even more important. 

Before writing The Flood I spoke to immigration officers and to refugees who had made the journey, as well as journalists and people with expertise on the crisis. 

Talking to people was the most helpful part of my research.

3. You have secured some major talent such as Lena Headey from Game of Thrones for your projects. Can you talk about how you were able to secure such recognised names to your feature, and any tips you may have for our readers when it comes to attracting talent to their own projects?

It was incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a better cast! 

The film’s producer and director worked with the brilliant casting director Manuel Puro to cast the film, and Lena was the first to come on board. 

She liked the script, and she is also passionate about humanitarian causes so I think the project appealed to her in that regard too. 

In terms of what a writer can do to attract good cast, if you write characters that have depth and complexity there will always be great actors who want to play them. 

I'm writing a tv show at the moment and I think an actress will have a lot of fun playing the deeply flawed main character.

4. You have a rather big following on Twitter and post regularly on there. Nowadays, how important do you think it is for writers to have an online existence and how do you use social media to your advantage, for example when it comes to networking?

Ha! That’s a very nice way of saying I waste a lot of time on twitter, which is... true. 

It's mixed because you can of course be a hugely successful screenwriter and not be on any social media platform. But there are a lot of great writers on twitter. 

It's a fun place for writers, you can kind of find your voice and get instant feedback on your writing, even if the writing is an experimental poem about your cat.

I have instagram too but instagram is more the domain of personal trainers and wellness bloggers so nothing much useful has come from that.

I've connected with some brilliant writers and producers and made good friends in the industry through twitter. 

Just follow people you find funny or interesting and other people will find you too. 

I do think it’s important to get to know other writers any way you can, being able to talk about the work and the industry with people who understand it keeps you sane. 

Plus, writers are the best company.

5. For the last question, could you share with our readers what you would say has been the best piece of advice you have received when it comes to working in the industry?

The best advice I ever got came from Ivanno, the insanely talented actor who played the lead in The Flood. 

I first met him on a set visit and he said something to me which I think is pretty much the best advice you can give to any writer. He said: “Don’t put your pen down". 

That's the key. 

Just keep writing and don’t stop.

Jenny Schwender is in her second year of studying Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University. 

She is currently working on a dramedy pilot episode and various short scripts while exploring life on set through different film productions in Germany. 

To know what she’s up to, you can follow her insta @jennyyy_000.

Post a Comment