Interview with Winning Screenwriter Shane W. Smith (BLACK MIRROR)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Shane W. Smith: Matchsticks 2.0 is a Black Mirror spec script about a family caught up in a government push to genetically normalise its citizens, using biometric user data gathered from a popular game to target imperfect subjects.

But at its heart, this is a story about the dangers of allowing advanced technology to drive social change, and the dehumanising ways in which people with disability and other vulnerable people are too often treated in public discourse.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

In true Black Mirror style, Matchsticks 2.0 is first and foremost a dystopian sci-fi story. Its secondary genre is family drama.

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

Honestly, it probably shouldn’t. At least not until we strip the Black Mirror aspects out of it.

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

Tech-led genocide.

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

I’ve got four kids, so it’s no doubt something Disney. But if we’re talking by choice, it’s probably a three-way tie between Star Wars, Children of Men, and the M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen movie-length finale.

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

The first words of this story hit the page way back in 2016, but other projects took over. The bulk of this screenplay came together in the month of August 2019.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m a lifelong writer, with around ten published graphic novels and a number of shorter published stories under my belt.

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

Tricky question, and so many viable contenders! Edging out the others, partly because the dystopian sci-fi angle is tonally in line with Matchsticks 2.0, I’m going to go with Save Yourself and I’ll Hold Them Back, by My Chemical Romance.

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

One of the options presented to us when my son was diagnosed with ASD and ADHD several years was a regimen of powerful medication that would radically change his personality, an option that – after careful consideration – we turned down in favour of a more involved road of occupational therapy and intensive one-on-one time. Being presented with this choice triggered a range of conflicting feelings, and this conflict was absolutely central to the concept of Matchsticks 2.0. In comparison to the real-life issues that underpinned it, the actual act of putting the script together was practically a non-issue.

From a technical standpoint, Matchsticks 2.0 was one of my first attempts at a TV script and as such, earlier drafts of the script were a bit overwritten. Thankfully, my local screenwriting group helped me smooth out the narration and tone, with a view to keeping things punchy and simple.

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

Apart from writing? Only my family: my incredible wife of twelve years, Katie, and our four amazing children, Annie, Liam, Nella and Molly.

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

I have a complicated relationship with Coverfly. I love the convenience of having information centrally available, and how easy it is to locate festivals and competitions. The homogenous layout for each event makes it really easy for writers to find key dates, prices, and eligibility rules, as well as tracking updates for submissions.

At the same time, however, the ease of the platform also contributes to it being quite addictive and, if a writer like me gets a rush of blood to the head, it can be worryingly easy to spend a small fortune on competitions in a very short amount of time.

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

Although I’m a lifelong writer, I’m a newcomer to screenwriting, and I was looking for some indication that I was on the right track. There were several reasons I chose to submit Matchsticks 2.0 to this festival:
reader feedback for every entry was a huge draw;
accepting spec scripts for existing shows set this festival apart from most others I found;
and the potential to hear my words brought to life by a cast of professional actors was an incredibly enticing prize too.
The feedback I received was very positive in nature, and mirrored the positive reaction I’d gotten from my local screenwriting group. It was tremendously heartening and encouraging to feel like I was indeed on the right track.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

“Perfect is the enemy of special.

When the government starts to use data mining software in order to identify genetically imperfect citizens, the software’s lead designer must come to terms with what it means to be perfect, and decide what kind of life he wants for his children.

CAST LIST:

Sally: Rebecca MacDonald
Brad: Peter Valdron
Narrator: Justine Christensen
Daniel: Nick Hendrik
Mara: Georgia Grant
Tag: Thomas Fournier