Interview with Screenwriter Russell Knight (HORIZON CALLING)

1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s about a young man called Jim who lives in Melbourne, Australia. His life is pretty tragic following the death of his older brother, the shining star of the family. He holds himself accountable for the death as he feels he should have done more to save his brother when he slipped from a cliff whilst out hiking. It was too much for their father who soon left and his mum turned to the bottle. Life is bleak and Jim’s clearly tragically low in mood when two years later his dad contacts him out of the blue to invite him on a sailing trip from Australia to Indonesia. Little does Jim know of his father’s twin motives for inviting him along. One is genuine and heartfelt, but the other is the ominous mystery which reveals itself as we go along. He meets Emma on the bus journey to Darwin who provides far more to the story than just being a love interest. Together they learn the dangerous truth which culminates in them fighting for their lives against international smugglers.

On the face of it is a reluctant adventure story, but the subplots, metaphors for Jim’s guilt, and messaging about the importance of fatherhood, hopefully give it more depth and soul.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I’d say it cuts across a few – adventure/drama/thriller/mystery, and one script consultant suggested it falls under noir too.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

I think it has quite a broad appeal and a reasonable message underneath, could be very cinematic, and with a small cast and isolated set pieces, could be quite tense until the big bang third act. It’s about that regular guy who doesn’t seek adventure, romance, and danger, but it finds him. All he wants is acceptance from his estranged father and by taking the trip, he hopes for some kind of forgiveness from his dead brother. The guy is broken, and hopes he can be put back together again. Clearly the money is the external factor which drives him on the trip. Also, it has some clearly different visual stimuli, starting off in a city, then the outback, then the ocean, then a tropical island. All places that can be eye candy. We go on that external and also internal journey with Jim and we have some interesting characters, all with their own agendas for being on that boat which we only really find about when it’s too late to get off!

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

Danger & Romance (ok, I cheated with the &)

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

Probably Training Day. I love the journey officer Jake Hoyt goes on. So tense, and Denzel is clearly awesome in it.

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

I started at the beginning of lockdown in April and the first draft probably took 8 weeks and I’ve been refining on and off since. The actual concept for the story came to me 20 years ago whilst I was backpacking around australia with my guitar. I was on a boat sailing around the Whitsunday Islands and ideas started formulating.

7. How many stories have you written?

This is the first thing I’ve ever written.

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

Wow, that is too difficult! There are so many, but a song which has inspired me a lot is Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The main one was ensuring that my wife didn’t feel second best to the writing. I specifically bought a laptop so that I could write whilst sat next to her on the couch on an evening when she watched Netflix or similar. If I hadn’t, our main computer is upstairs and I just know I would have got it in the neck for never being present. Making the decision to get the laptop (which I didn’t really need otherwise) was what made me not only start, but finish the script. It actually turned out to be a great investment as most evenings I would ask her to read the 2 or 3 pages which I had written so she came along on the journey with me. She turned out to be a pretty good critic and barometer of what was working and what wasn’t.

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

I don’t know about passion, but my other hobby is songwriting and music production. I have music released on record labels and a lot of online followers who have provided lovely comments, but after the initial creation of the composition, the hard work of production, layering, mixing, mastering, etc. gets pretty tedious. I found writing this script to be freeing. It was just my brain, my fingers, and the written word.

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

Mixed if I’m honest. I think the platform itself is great, but the responses of some of the competitions arrive way past the notifications which is a little disappointing. Thankfully that wasn’t the case with you guys!!

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

Receiving the email from you guys was awesome, truly. I specifically entered your competition as it was genre specific which I guess a) narrows down the field of competition, but b) means that the people reading and judging want to read your type of story and will likely be more passionate for what is to come. In other competitions it might be that the person reading your script is a huge sci-fi fan and doesn’t really want to be reading your drama/mystery/thriller.

Yours was also the first competition to provide written feedback, and I can’t tell you the amount of times I read it back. Over and over. I’m guessing that most people who enter a competition love their story, and to have someone else love it too is extremely rewarding. I loved how the feedback was specific and really demonstrated that time had been spent getting into the theme, characters, etc. A lot of thought and reflection went into those comments and I truly appreciate it. Winning has just been the icing on the cake and gives me great confidence and encouragement that the story is worth pushing and pursuing. It also won the Best First Time Screenwriter Award at the Festigious International Festival in August so to have it recognized twice is humbling.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Following the death of his older brother, a dismayed young man travels through the outback to go on an ill-advised sailing trip with his estranged father and finds himself caught up in the violent world of international smuggling.

Narrator: Steve Rizzo
Jim: Geoff Mays
Neil: Bill Poulin

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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