16 June 2021 The Irish Film & Television Network
Owen McCafferty on Writing
2020-09-10 : News Desk
With the nominations for the IFTA Awards announced, we continue to shine a spotlight on Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry.

We find out what they look out for in the projects they take on, what their approach is to filmmaking and on-set collaboration; what inspires them; what current trends and techniques they like, and dislike in the industry.

We spoke with screenwriter and award-winning Irish playwright Owen McCafferty, who is IFTA nominated this year for the highly-acclaimed Ordinary Love starring Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson. It's an honour to be nominated for an IFTA especially in the company of such esteemed writers,” said McCafferty when speaking with IFTN.

The award-winning playwright’s first screenplay, Ordinary Love world premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2019. It was screened at the London Film Festival in October 2019 and was released in the UK and Ireland to strong critical acclaim in December.

McCafferty’s  Scenes from the Big Picture, originally produced in 2003 at the National Theatre in London, earned him the John Whiting Award, the Evening Standard's Charles Wintour Award for New Playwriting and the Meyer-Whitworth Award. It was the first time any playwright had won all three awards in one year.

McCafferty is currently working on his second screenplay Breathing

How did this project first come about?

“I am close friends with David Holmes and we both had experiences of cancer in our families and he asked me if I wanted to write about that – initially I said no, but then on reflection I thought maybe that’s a story I should tell.”

What is your writing process like? (Mornings/Evenings; Writing every day/in bursts; Editing as you go or at the end, etc.)

“If I am going to write I tend to write in the morning and what used to be every day has now turned into bursts – although I have a feeling I will move back to every day ate some stage.”

Architect or Gardener: Do you plot the story out beforehand or write as you go?

“I plot the story out and follow that for the first draft – after that I change it as I go – normally the final thing is about 3 drafts.”

What differences were there between the initial script and the completed film?

“To be honest not very much – from the start I knew what I was going to do – the obvious difference is the movie is a bit shorter than the original script – I imagine that’s normally the case though.”

How did you first get into writing professionally, and what have you learned through your experiences that would be of use to aspiring writers?

“I was writing bits of prose for the want of something to do and someone read them and suggested I write a play and here I am – always finish what you are working on, its only then that you know what you’re dealing with.”

What was your first paid writing gig, and how has your style changed over the years?

“My first play was Winners Losers and Non Runners – it was so long ago I can’t remember what I got paid – to be honest I don’t really think my style has changed – although there are times when subject matter has pushed something in a different direction.”

We often are our own worst critics. What is your approach to constructive criticism and inward reflection?

“There are some people I listen to and there are others I don’t.”

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career thus far that you would share with aspiring writers?

“Don’t be afraid to get rid of things that don’t work.”

Writers are often told to kill their darlings. How do you learn when to let something go or to fight for it?

“I can’t answer that other than you just know.”

How have you channelled your creativity during lockdown?

“Not as well as I thought I would.”

Click here to read more of our interview series.

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