Interview with screenwriter Connor J. Brennan


Being born in Béal Feirste (Belfast), I was lucky to grow up in a city steeped in Irish folktales. These ancient stories of the Fianna, Tír na nÓg and the Druids ignited my love for stories and storytelling. Within these stories I always found the characters to show great strength and above all unwavering hope, and this hope is something that I would like to offer through my writing,

Since graduating in Film Studies from Queens University Belfast in 2015, my graduation script ‘The Mountain’ won a Royal Television Society Award for Best Student Drama N.I.  Also my debut script ‘Perfect Strangers’ was produced as part of Cinemagic’s Dublin Festival. Since then I have been living and writing in Berlin, continuously working to improve my craft.

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

I come from a culture that has a rich tradition of oral storytelling, focusing around Irish myths, history and legends. My childhood consisted a lot of me trying to contribute to this tradition by making up my own stories as a way to entertain or scare family and friends. However, I am not quite sure when I actually began writing them down.

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

Growing up, my favorite movie was Darby O’Gill and the Little People directed by Robert Steveson. I think this was the first time I had seen the characters from my stories come to life and I was hooked. I loved how it showed all aspects of Irish folklore, the parts we love like ‘Leprechauns’ and the parts we fear like ‘The Banshee’ and also revitalized these stories for a new generation. As I got older, I became captivated by the works of David Lynch. His unique insight into film and storytelling opened my eye to endless possibilities.

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

For me, it was not being afraid to let people read my work. My friends, family and partner are an invaluable resource for initial feedback. Beyond that, I actively search for script contests and showcases the more places I enter my work the more chance I have of it being seen.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

I have always looked at film as a way to immortalize my life, be that a person or a moment. So this varies script to script, but I love being able to look back at my work and still be able to relive those moments that inspired it.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

All my characters begin as a sketch and three questions: Who is this person? What are their wants and needs? What story do they need to tell? Beyond that, I let the characters develop organically alongside the script.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

No, I find it too restricting. In the beginning I only have an idea of who the character is and most of the fun is discovering them as the script unfolds.

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

My characters are inspired and driven by real life people and emotions, so I do become very attached to them. I believe it would be hard to ask a reader or audience to become emotionally attached to a character that you yourself are not.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

I find structure to be very useful tool, especially for when you are beginning to write. I have always followed the Hero’s Journey structure developed by mythologist, Joseph Campbell. In this structure Campbell highlights all the key elements a hero must go on to create a well-rounded story.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

Yes. I find roughly outlining my stories before I begin to be very beneficial. This allows me to keep track of where the narrative is going. However, that’s not to say that I always stick to it.

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

Trust in your characters, give them a voice and a point of view. Allow them to lead you through the narrative and not the other way round.