Interview with screenwriter Cellan Thomas

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

I actually remember the title of the first story I ever tried to write. I was about 8 and I had recently been reading Harry Potter. It was called Scott Wade and the secret werewolf. I had no idea how to write or what the story would involve. I just like the title. I did about 3 paragraphs before never touching it again.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories ignited your creative passions?

Definitely Harry Potter as I just said. There was also Percy Jackson. I loved these stories so much and they gave me an urge to make stories myself, even if I didn’t realize it then. When it comes to films I absolutely loved Star Wars and the Raimi Spider-Man films. I remember just thinking they were absolutely amazing and asking my father how they did certain things. I think even if I didn’t know it then I was always destined to go into this amazing industry.

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

As a very unknown writer myself I would say do what I’ve done to get this published. When you’ve reached a point with your screenplay where you really believe in it. Just send it out to people, to festivals, to anyone willing to read it. The more eyes the better. There’s so many forums online of people willing to read and give feedback for free. And all that feedback is so helpful to getting better.

  •  What experiences from your life influence your characters?

As someone who comes from a very Welsh town I think my characters naturally have the Welsh humor and way of thinking. One of my biggest aspirations is to show more Welsh people on the screen without following the usual stereotypes. I think you can see the seeds of that with Karl in this script.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

I often think of the general story I want to tell first. Then I move onto what characters might be involved. What points of view and different ways of looking at this particular story would be interesting. Then after having the general characters I will bring them to life through exploring them. Their interests. their pursuits, their thoughts on the world they inhabit. For example with Action Karl we knew we wanted to have a unique spin on the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of a child. At first we didn’t know anything about Karl. Then he became the mischievous, funny, adventurous boy that became Action Karl just by talking about him and asking why he would want to go outside during lockdown.

  •  Do you write bios before you start writing?

Yes I do definitely for the main characters. It really helps me to know the characters before I start writing the script. It helps bring the world and characters to life to me. it then feels less like I’m writing a character and more like they’re talking and acting through me. If I feel like I don’t really know a side character while writing the script I will pause with the script and just write about the character until I feel ready to go back to the script.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

I think it depends. But ideally I would like emotional involvement because that means it’s more likely other people will care about the character. When it comes to Karl I absolutely loved him. Every line we wrote I adored him more and more. It was weird and different to other scripts I’ve written. It’s definitely the most I’ve cared about any of my characters.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

I think structure is important but sometimes too much is made of it. If the content is good then people will read. To me story comes first, then structure second. But many people will just stop reading if they don’t like the structure. So it is definitely important to understand structure. And through that find your writing style.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

I know many writers will hate this answer but typically I don’t. I obviously have a general story and I know my characters. Then I just go for it. I find it far more freeing and creatively rewarding to see where the story goes as I write it. I find that if I outline, the writing process becomes more of a chore and I will probably give up on the script all together. But some writers really need that outline. I think it just depends on what works best for you.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

I think by far the most important aspect of writing a character is knowing as much as possible as you can about them. The more you know about them the more real they become. Imagine your character has their own facebook page and you’re going through their interests, past jobs, where they studied, their friends, their aspirations, their thoughts and opinions on all kinds of different subjects. When the character feels real to you, they’re going to feel a lot more real on the page.