Competitions: NYC Midnight and the Challenge of Writing a Screenplay

After my overwhelmingly positive experience with their Short Story Challenge I decided to enter NYC Midnight’s Screenwriting Challenge. I’d never attempted to write a script before, and as I’d like to adapt my novel into a screenplay at some stage, so I saw this as an opportunity to learn something new.

I was surprised to discover that there are numerous very strict rules around writing a screenplay in terms of formatting and headings etc. This felt alien to me, as other than a specific font size or type, formatting was something that is generally left alone in creative writing. Thankfully NYC Midnight set out some really helpful guidelines on their website, in their post: How to Write a Screenplay. In terms of the formatting, at first I had a nightmare trying to draft the thing in Word, but eventually, I found an excellent screenplay template on Scrivener. I had to play around with it to get used to it, but once I had it, it meant that I could focus on writing the story, instead of tricking around with tabs on my page.

As with the Short Story Challenge, I was given an assignment:

Genre: A Crime Caper

Character: A Barista

Subject: A delivery service

Another tough assignment, but a fun challenge. I really enjoy crime capers, and the story came to me fairly quickly. The barista was a hard one to incorporate, but I got it in the end. The story is about a pair of losers living in a dead-end town in Ireland. They dream of money and a new life in Sydney. They decide to commit an armed robbery to get the money to travel to Australia, but it doesn’t go as planned.

Here’s a short excerpt from the middle of my first screenplay:

DREAMING OF THE EMERALD CITY

AIDO

I can’t even get a loan of more than a fiver off my Mam, I’ve such a bad credit rating. We have to get to get to Oz, man. Sydney is like the Emerald City with all the Irish over there since the crash.

JONESY

Conor is having a great time over there, the prick. Look at this sickening shite on Facebook: #coffeebeanguru, #funinthesun, #livingthelife. I’m about the puke me ring up reading about it. The smug, beardy head on him. And can you believe this, he’s working as a barrister. That fella is so thick I’m surprised he manages to breathe and blink at the same time!

AIDO

Show me that.

(looks at J’s phone)

He’s a barista, not a barrister, you dope.

JONESY

What the fuck is a barista?

AIDO

A fella that makes coffee.

JONESY

A fella that makes coffee? Are you for real?

Aido nods

JONESY

So you’re telling me that if I go downstairs now and make you a cup of Nescafe Gold Blend that makes me a barista now does it? Well hasn’t he the fucking life. Sitting on his hole making coffee. Why aren’t we in Sydney being baristas? Sitting on our holes?