Interview with screenwriter Clarence J. Boyce

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I ever wrote was about a time traveling kid that hangs out with dinosaurs. I watched a lot of Jurassic Park as a kid.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

I was practically raised on horror films like Halloween (1978), JU-ON (2002), Pulse (2001), The Thing (1982), and Scream (1996). They instilled a deep love of scary stories within me. I eventually expanded my viewing habits to films like Atonement (2007), Chungking Express (1994), Drunken Angel (1948), and Mulholland Drive (2001). All of these films not only made me realize that stories have no limits but we all are storytellers with our own unique voices.

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

It may not be easy but screenplay competitions are the best way to get your work seen on a large scale. Also sharing it as much as possible with fellow cinephiles/bibliophiles always helps. We can never keep our mouths shut when it comes to good material.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

I pretty much use all life experiences, good and bad, to craft my characters. I want them to be relatable and flawed. By injecting personal experiences I’ve been told that my characters feel real. Also, I’ll use some dialogue I’ve either said or heard to add an extra kick.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

I begin with a name and an age; from there I piece together various attributes from people I know personally or have had some kind of meaningful interaction with. Next I work out how they see themselves and the world around them. This informs me of their potential actions and the kind of decisions I could have them realistically make. Lastly, I think about the kind of relationship they have with the other characters.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

I write bios for the main characters, being sure to leave some wiggle room for changes and such. I find that they help me to understand each character’s core personality. Once you have a firm grasp on that then motivations and actions flow naturally.

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

I tend to get really emotionally connected to my characters. Even the less than savory ones are kind of like those shady friends you’ll say hello to but won’t hang around. I still like to put all of them through the ringer though, can’t go easy on them.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

While some form of structure is necessary I’m not a fan on telling someone there is only one proper way to do anything. If a three-act structure works for you then great, if not then write it your own way. As long as the story is conveyed in the way you want it to be then I consider it a success.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

Yes, and for some odd reason I love it. Outlining is like some kind of cheap thrill. I always leave a bit of wiggle room for sudden inspiration and story changes but outlining helps me a ton. Laying out plot beats, character backstory and locations is a joy.

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

I believe the most important aspect of building a great character is how you contrast them against other characters in the film. For instance, Setsuko Hara’s character in Tokyo Story (1953) is defined against both her elders and peers. She shows more love and compassion to her in-laws than their own children. Dialogue and action are crucial elements in creating contrast as they both help to define the character and set her apart.