Interview with Screenwriter Faye Upton (OUTRIDER)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Faye Upton: In the fictional world of Panthé, mankind has toppled the gods. Now,
centuries after the Overthrow, magic and science have become
indistinguishable from each other. Technology from artillery to airships
runs on a mysterious toxic substance called floxx. The titular Outriders are
a quasi-military order of diplomats, investigators and peacekeepers, trusted
as neutral parties in conflicts and negotiations, and drawn from successive
generations of a small number of powerful families.

A catastrophic accident abord a floxx-powered train devastates the Steles
dynasty, leaving it unable to meet its obligations to the Outrider Corps. It
falls to Robin Steles – long estranged from her domineering mother, and
haunted by her own history with the Outriders – to save the Steles name from
disgrace. Along the way, she’ll clash with her obstinate ex-husband, fight
for the future of her disabled son, and discover an ancient and terrifying
conspiracy that threatens not only the Steles family and the Outrider Corps,
but all of Panthé…

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Fantasy and drama.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

Panthé, the world of Outrider, occupies a place between traditional
swords-n-sorcery and contemporary urban fantasy. It’s neither modern nor
medieval, but somewhere in between, with steam trains and stagecoaches,
Victoriana-flavoured cities and frontier towns that wouldn’t be out of place
in Deadwood. In genteel company, ‘magic’ is a childish word for science, and
an uncomfortable reminder of pre-Overthrow times, when Panthé’s tyrannical
gods still walked the earth. But at the fringes of civilisation, old magics
left over from the war between gods and men are still a terrifying reality.
The eponymous Outriders live in both worlds – some brokering peace treaties
and advising governments; others investigating ancient ruins and hunting
down the creatures that still prowl the wilderness. But for all their
reputation for non-partisan service, the Outriders are mired in their own
internal politics. The old families whose children have gone into Outrider
service for generations feud and bicker and inter-marry, all the time
guarding their status and privilege jealously.

In the centre of this is Robin, the heroine of Outrider – though she’d
rather not be. Robin’s had the bad end of every deal as a Steles and an
Outrider. She fled a toxic family environment, first into service with the
Outriders that ended in tragedy, and then into a marriage that started out
political and became loving. At least, until she failed to give her husband,
Harrier Marburn, a healthy child. Their only son, Serin, is disabled, and
will never follow his parents into the Corps. Harrier, duty-bound to provide
heirs for his own dynasty, divorced Robin and remarried. Robin’s relegated
to a cottage on the Marburn estate, raising their son and taking care of
Harrier’s elderly father.

So she’s an unlikely saviour when the train crash wipes out half the Steles
Outriders. She’s a middle aged, divorced, single mother of a child with
special needs, estranged from her own family and exiled from her
ex-husband’s. She’s a far cry from the teenage protagonists of most fantasy
stories! But she’s a uniquely identifiable female lead whose strength is in
resilience, wit, and self-sacrifice, not fighting badassery, and she
deserves a place alongside Buffy and Black Widow and Daenerys Targaryen!

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Dynastic magitech!

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Labyrinth, dozens of times as a child, and dozens more times as an adult
with my nieces. (And, not infrequently, without them).

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve been developing Panthé, the world of the Outriders, for many years, but
I first put it down in screenplay format in late 2018.

7. How many stories have you written?

Hundreds. I cut my teeth on fan fiction (who didn’t?), and I have a 600,000+
word Dragonriders of Pern fanfic that’s been described both as a gritty
reboot of Pern canon and better than the original. I’m also a regular
competitor in the NYC Midnight screenplay, short story and flash fiction
competitions, with multiple heat-winning stories and scripts, three finals,
and placing 5th, 8th and 11th out of fields of 3000+ writers.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Station to Station, David Bowie. (I’m developing a theme here aren’t I?)

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
I first envisaged Outrider as a novel – it was only when I started dipping
my toe into the world of screenplay that I realised it was crying out for a
visual medium. Then, of course, adapting a novel for the screen is never
easy – so much has to be left out, or rearranged, or taken apart and put
back together. Figuring out what belonged in the pilot and what could be
saved for later was tough – as was planting the seeds of multiple plots and
mysteries for later episodes and seasons!

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Horse riding and racing, David Bowie (you may have gathered that already)
and my silver tabby cat, Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens.

11. You entered your screenplay via Coverfly. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

I love how it consolidates all your competition results to give an overall
picture of how a screenplay is being received. Outrider is currently the #1
rated fantasy TV pilot of the year on Coverfly’s Red List. (That being said,
its Wildsound Sci fi Festival win isn’t yet appearing!)

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on
the initial feedback you received?

It was exciting to envisage my screenplay performed as a table read, and I’m
very much looking forward to the complete read once the Covid-19 situation
allows! The feedback was very gratifying to read, as Outrider has been my
creative baby for many years now.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

When a mysterious train crash devastates the struggling Steles dynasty, estranged daughter Robin Steles must resume her long-abandoned role as a warrior-diplomat Outrider to keep her family’s reputation – and finances – afloat.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Allison Kampf

DOVEKIE (F): Hannah Ehman

AUK (M) Scott Beaudin

TRAIN GUARD and PASSENGER (M): Geoff Mays

OLD LADY and INJURED WMAN (F): Val Cole

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