Interview with Screenwriter Paul Harker (RAT)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Rat is about family; the idea blood is thicker than water, and what happens when familial love becomes twisted beyond recognition.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I call it a rural psychological horror, though elements of it play like a thriller, especially in the action heavy farmhouse invasion scenes.

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

I think Rat’s strength is the sense of place, which is a distortion of where I grew up in the 70s and 80s; a small English farming village on the edge of the North Yorkshire coast and the moors further inland. Place is very much a character in the story and the arrival of the black, educated, city girl protagonist into a closed, white farming community is the intrusion which sparks the narrative. From there, the foreboding atmosphere erupts into obsession, kidnap and violence among a set of compelling, yet flawed characters.

At the time of writing Rat has won four international screenplay competitions, which hopefully is also a recommendation!

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

Atmospheric. Brutal.

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

A friend and I used to watch the 80s classic Time Bandits at least once a week for a period when I was about 14/15. We had it on VHS tape but the obsessive viewing habit ended when my friend’s house was burgled and the VHS machine stolen – with the Time Bandits tape in it! I haven’t seen it for years now.

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

On and off, for about 5 years. I started Rat in the summer of 2016, then started a screenwriting MA, and once I finished that picked the story up again in 2020 and applied all that I’d learnt. From there, a set of development notes from a script consultant I work with focused the script and elevated it several levels. I’m a big believer in keeping working on screenplays, putting them away then coming back to them. And notes. Screenplays improve when you get lots of notes! Rat has been read about 10 times by various readers.

7. How many stories have you written?

Seven feature scripts, six TV pilots and ten short films.

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

I’m a big Beatles fan so would have to say A Day in the Life. No other band could have done it, and 50 years after recording, it’s still remarkable.

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

As mentioned, I did a screenwriting MA between the first and second draft, so that was one thing which put it on hold for a while. One issue with writing horror and getting notes from readers is that the stories I write aren’t for everyone. Some hated Rat. Some were repulsed. But enough people have loved it to convince me I had a compelling story. As a horror writer, every now and then you will get notes from readers who hate your screenplay because it scares the shit out of them. When you get notes like that, file it under ‘Whatever’ and move on.

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

I’ve played amateur league cricket for 30 years. I also watch it constantly. I’m what they call, a ‘badger’.

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

It’s a mixed experience. I’ve entered over 60 times via Filmfreeway, submitting short films and screenplays. You need to do your research, but even then you get good and bad competitions. Some take your money and run. But then the ones who actually care about film and screenwriting, go the extra mile with excellent feedback. When you find them, cherish them and support them, like this one.

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

I can say, in all honesty, that Horror Underground is at the right end of the spectrum and in the top few screenplay competitions I have entered. The notes you get are excellent – considered and insightful – and more than worth the entry fee. After winning with Rat, the audio recording of the screenplay they produced was superb – the professional production was exceptional. I would recommend Horror Underground without reservation, and I am lining up my new work to enter it again in the next few months.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

In a coastal backwater, a pregnant newcomer becomes the object of a lonely Ratcatcher’s infatuation, but the arrival of her arrogant ex-lover triggers pest control of terrifying proportions.

CAST LIST:

Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Alex: Sean Ballantyne
Mother: Hannah Ehman
Father: Kyana Teresa

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