The Aesthetic Of A Screenplay Is As Important As The Story And Characters by Shawn Christensen, CoWriter/Director of THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL

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Film Courage: Shawn, do you write everyday?

Shawn Christensen, Co-writer/director THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL: I do now. I don’t always. I’m working on a screenplay that I’m trying to finalize. So yeah, I write everyday. But I’ll definitely go through phases where I can’t write or I don’t feel like like I have the ability to write.

Film Courage: And when you go through that, do you or did you used to be hard of yourself and now you just accept it as part of the process or how does that work?

Shawn Christensen: No, I don’t accept it. I’m always hard on myself and I don’t accept that as part of the process. I just…I just am sort of always rewriting as I write and never happy with anything out of the gate.

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I guess what I’ll say to you is that I don’t write very quickly in that respect. I sort of inch-by-inch, word-by-word, go through the pages and I think I’m a little bit of a slower writer in that respect and other people because if I give them a first draft to somebody, the chances are it’s more like a fifth or sixth draft, you know? I’ve kind of like go the next day and rewrite what I did the day before, then get into new stuff.

Film Courage: Okay, so you’ll go back and sort of revise, you won’t put in a drawer for three weeks?

Shawn Christensen: No, I never…If I ever blast through pages which is rare for me. Like if I were to just whip out five pages, you can be sure that the next day I will rewrite those pages and then I’ll rewrite them again the next Friday and then I’ll rewrite it. I’ll probably write them about eleven times before they ever see the light of day to a person reading them. I mean, it’s going to take seven years or anything, but I’m always just kind of getting caught up in the polishing and the making sure of the aesthetic of the script is as important as the characters and the story and the narrative. You know, making sure that the pages read like butter is very important to me and to the reader, whether that be a producer or actor or actress or financier. It’s part of it and I have some reason to go down those rabbit holes a lot.

Film Courage: Do you think that comes from being a musician, as well?

Shawn Christensen: Oh…I don’t know where it comes from? I think it comes from…I don’t know? I just…if a word is off or wrong or if something doesn’t feel like, if there’s a rhythm off of the dialogue, I think this actually more comes from improv classes. Because when I was in college, I really just wanted to be an actor and when you do improv and I was in a few different groups and a few different acting coaches (one of them actually passed away a few months ago) but when you improvise, it’s a very empowering, enlightening thing and I think it’s great if you are a writer to have that experience because essentially what you can do then is you can take two characters and really not know where anything is going and let them improvise on the page and that’s how I write really. Is improvise between two characters on me. Well what would I like the next person to say, what would be nice and what’s the good rhythm and then I hate it the next day, you know? That’s basically how it works…(More here via

Question for the Viewers: Do you have the same writing process?

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