Interview with Screenwriter Peter Noel (BLACK MO)

1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s about slavery. It’s about human oppression and discrimination that should never have happened, and that still exists in many places in the world today. The script is about the fact that it is always our duty to stand up for freedom, because it is not the colour of our skin that makes us different. It’s about an African girl in the 1800’s who is made a slave but she can still stay human in the midst of the loss of humanity.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, Adventures, Biography, History.

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

Let me quote a feedback, because I think it’s more credible if I don’t write good things about the script. 🙂 „With a revitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent year due to police brutality and the COVID-19 Pandemic stories about black history feel more relevant and needed than ever before. The particular strength that comes from this specific narrative is that despite the incredible suffering and loss that Mo’s experiences, she still manages to build an amazing life and legacy for herself. This tale of survival and prosperity in the face of immense hate and degradation is a much-needed reminder for so many out there that they can overcome systems of oppression, despite obstacles. The script is definitely for a studio-produced big-budget picture given the period setting and extensive length. The writing shows enough talent and competence to be made that give the script a future of promising commercial viability. The vitality of the current Black Lives Matter movement across not only the United States but the entire world at the given moment is an important consideration to make when examining a script such as this one. Learning from our past changes how we may perceive the present. White people will hopefully be inspired by the actions of characters like Cameron to try and do their best to end systemic racism still prevalent in these modern times. The script does not fetishize the violence and humiliation and approaches these horrific injustices consistently from the perspective of the oppressed, not the oppressors, an important distinction to be made that potential future audiences will likely be appreciative about regardless of skin color. This is especially considering the numerous sexual assaults that occur. Those who have suffered this kind of violation will hopefully find these scenes to not be egregiously traumatic but rather authentic representations of these indignities that have been enacted upon women for centuries, including in modern-day. The script has strong production value not only because of its vital and relevant subject matter but also its elaborative settings from African jungles, to the harrowing seas of the Atlantic and even the stuffy plantations of Georgia. The audience’s appetite for visual spectacle will no doubt be satisfied by these striking locales that the characters travel to throughout their journey.

Overall, this draft is a relatively impactful piece on slavery and how one woman can thrive despite brutality and intolerance.”

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

Beautiful monster.

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

The Shawshank Redemption… I think… 

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

I wrote this script in three weeks. I was born with the gift of writing fast luckily.

7. How many stories have you written?

I currently have 26 feature film scripts written. I have won 51 international awards in screenwriting competitions. 13 of these are first prizes.

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

I like many songs. I can’t choose one. Sorry… 

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

I did a lot of historical research to make the story believable. So, when I’m writing a historical script, like Black Mo, reading into it inevitable. Before I start to write, I do research.

To anybody preparing to write a historical screenplay, I advise them to do this. Preparation beforehand is very important, to make sure you’re writing facts, to be sure all the dates, technological inventions, every detail of the era, that is to say the historical background is in order. And I always ask to myself one question… How can we give new life, a new point of view, how can we present historical eras from different perspectives? The most important thing is to believe it’s not impossible. The writer has to find a basis that hasn’t been discovered yet. In my case with „Black Mo”, the story is about the love of a British soldier who denies slavery principles and a black girl, Mo, who are both the beacons of light and humanity in the darkness while the war – history – plays out in the background. This made a very interesting mix since we see character drama alongside the action-packed and historically correct tale. Nobody has ever put slavery in a light like I had. So I think we can and must dare to tell stories historical stories over and over again. It’s simply just our duty to present them from a new perspective. So, when I’m writing a historical screenplay, I need to do very thorough research. All the facts need to be in there. I think the only ethics involved are that we must never lie about an era, to stay authentic every moment of the way whether we’re writing about human relationships or historical backgrounds. Because of this, I thought two things to be very important… I have to have the courage to speak about war crimes and a British soldier who doesn’t believe in slavery principles. An enormous number of white people didn’t agree with the horrors of the time. And that’s how I think the story is authentic.

I need to show people that kindness of heart and humanity are independent of where we are born, what color our skin is and what our nationality is. The friendship of the British soldier, Cameron and the African girl, Mo, and finally their love tells the beautiful tale that human nature has heartwarming sides even in the darkest of times. And their developing relationship, their love for each other touches everyone because they have to stay human and survive in hell. The most important thing is to respect the memories of the survivors so we must be careful to be as accurate as possible when telling the story of what happened to them.

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

Playing guitar, singing, and working as a director. My first feature film, which I wrote and directed, will be released in cinemas next year, called ‘129’. Sci-fi drama.

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

It works well. It has helped me a lot in my career.

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

I submitted the script for festivals where I can get feedback from people whose ancestors were involved in slavery. Only they can tell how authentically I’ve written this story. Because I’m a white man, it is very important to me to hear what people whose ancestors were enslaved have to say about this story. Because if they feel ’Black Mo’ is
authentic, then I wrote it well. My hunch was that I had written a strong script, but obviously I needed validation. ‘Black Mo’ has won three Grand Prize awards so far, so it confirmed to me that maybe I was on the right track and maybe I had become a good writer.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

By matthewtoffolo

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

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