Thursday 14 March 2013

Interview with Lucy V Hay

Lucy V. Hay is a qualified teacher, novelist, script editor, screenwriter, a blogger who helps writers, and one of the organisers of the London Screenwriters' Festival (LSF), where she currently holds the position of Director of Education. She is the associate producer of the British thriller Deviation, and the author of the books Bauchentscheidung ("Gut Decision"), and Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays.
    That this blog still exists today is due, in part, to the kindness shown to me by Lucy back in 2011. After a chance meeting on Twitter in January 2013, I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions. ________________________________________________________________________

•  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in the North of England in Yorkshire, but spent the first part of my childhood in The Midlands near Hereford and Worcester. There's lots of history around
those parts relating to The Civil War around the reign of Charles II and Oliver Cromwell, plus some of the Industrial Revolution, so I felt quite struck as a child by the weight of history and was very interested in it all.
    My family moved to Devon just as I became a teenager and, when I had stopped sulking about being stuck in the middle of nowhere, I realised the history there was just as rich: I learnt all about the Highwaymen on Exmoor and how even the Romans were afraid of the desolate moorlands. I feel certain living in such beautiful and historical places made a big impression on me and my desire to write.

•  What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I was the eldest of five children. During the course of my childhood and teenage years—like many others here in the UK—in the recession of the 1990s, we went from comfortably off to NOT, very quickly. Despite being desperately short of money, my mother worked hard to hold our heads above water.
   We lived in a house at the bottom of a valley near a river that was gorgeous but unbearably cold in winter. I used to fantasise about finding secret places like Francis Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.
   I never did, but I did find an endless supply of magic mushrooms in a nearby wood! And, no, I didn't take any.

•  Where did you go to school?

I had an eclectic education, going to three secondary schools as we moved about a fair bit. I didn't like school at all and was always "the new kid", so I never really fit in. I was also bullied a fair bit for being apparently weird or poor or both.

•  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

Always. I remember getting in trouble at primary for writing a "novel" in my maths book instead of my homework. It was eight pages long and called Dustcart George.

•  What was your first paying job (in any field)?

I was 14 and I was Gnorman the Gnome for a local holiday park! It involved dressing up in a big Gnome costume, like the ones you see at Disney, and waving to tourists. It paid £1.70 an hour.

•  What was your first job in the movie business?

My first paid job was for the Lego company, coming up with storylines for their toys. It was great and I also got lots of Lego for my son. It was an awesome job and I'd do it again if I could.

•  What was your first spec script about?

It was a crime drama about a young woman who plotted revenge against a man who wronged her in some way (I don't remember why). Anyway she sent him clues, all in a song by Massive Attack. It was horrendous. I was 17, that's my only excuse! I remember a kind producer read it and gave me feedback. I met him again at London Screenwriters’ Festival and nearly died a thousand deaths because he remembered it. haha!

•  You’ve held key roles with the London Screenwriters’ Festival (LSF) since 2010. How did you become involved, and what is your personal goal for the LSF?

I have known Chris Jones for several years and after a chat at the Cheltenham Screenwriters' Festival 09, he invited me to hold a script reading workshop at Ealing Studios. Not long after this we heard SWF 09 had folded and Chris said, "Why don't we do our own festival in October?" I said, "Sure!" thinking, he meant in October 2011. But no—he meant October 2010!! After coming down off the ceiling, I thought, "Why not?" and sought to help him set it up. I think sometimes you just have to go for something. It's what Chris is all about and he's changed my life in that regard.
    My personal goal for LSF is to be as inclusive as possible. I've been very vocal about including female delegates, in particular, and I won't apologise for this, especially when such a small amount of our media output is from women, particularly in film. I want to include ethnic minorities and disabled delegates more on this same basis. We're working very hard behind the scenes to try and ensure no one is "locked out" of the industry.
   I also want to make people realise it's all in OUR hands. Ten years ago I was a single Mum working out of my kitchen. I want to give people the tools to realise the only thing standing in their "way" is them. Make a choice: get going or stay put.

•  What are three things you wish someone had told you about screenwriting when you were starting out?
Everything takes forever.
Concepts sell, so make them bombproof.
There is no destination, so enjoy the journey.
•  Who was the screenwriting teacher who had the biggest influence on you?

Not a screenwriting teacher per se, but my friend and collaborator J.K. Amalou has taught me more about screenwriting and indeed life than anyone else.

•  You’ve had a Young Adult novel published in... German. How did that come about?

Because a German publisher bought it first!

   You can sell your manuscript in any language. 
   The likes of Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, Stephen King, et al, have sold their novels in just about ALL languages. That's why they're so rich and why novel writing is so cool. You write one manuscript, yet get the opportunity to sell it multiple times.

•  You’ve written a screenwriting book—Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays—that’s due out in September. Why did you choose to write about thrillers, rather than, say, rom/coms or family dramas
Because I love Thriller; it's why I got involved in Deviation years back. Thriller is so malleable, it can link up or cross over with so many different genres—it's a real chameleon.
    It's also the one genre I see do consistently badly in the spec pile, with writers telling me they're writing a Thriller ... only for me to read it and discover that it's actually a drama!
    Loving Thriller as I do, I feel I need to do my bit to help rectify this issue, so when Kamera Books approached me, I bit their hand off when they asked me which genre I'd like to do!

•  If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book (not your own) to a newbie screenwriter, which one would it be?

Writing Drama, by Yves Lavandier. It's quite heavy going but not a "how to" book; instead it approaches how to wring conflict out of your writing and make it the lifeblood of your scenes. I read lots of screenplays where not much happens, or on the other end of the scale in that they're completely hysterical. This means Yves' book is really relevant and a worthwhile read for ALL writers.

•  What are your ten favourite movies of all time?

I love Hollywood movies, 'cos they're so fun. I think British output could learn a lot from them; we don't have to be "worthy" all the time, though I would love some better heroines in general. Where are the Sigourney Weavers and Jodie Fosters of the One Direction generation?

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Tremors (1990)
Psycho (1960)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Alien (1979)
Sexy Beast (2000)
Dust Devil (1992)
Panic Room (2002)
Con Air (1997)
Die Hard (1988)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Lucy Hay interviews like a hard working woman who doesn't wait for opportunity to come knocking. She is generous and open with her help and advice, and seems to have an intelligent view of her own experience. It's great to see a woman supporting other women. In my experience in a few-women field, the ones that get to the top make a career of keeping the other ones down.