Interview with screenwriter Erik van Schaaik

SHORT BIO OF THE WRITER:
Erik van Schaaik started filming at age twelve, creating super-8 flicks that made it to international television. During his study graphic design Erik worked for Dutch television, creating a series of animation films, live action drama and documentaries, using a variety of styles and techniques. After graduation Erik continued in the field of children’s television writing, animating and directing many different shows. For the big screen he created award winning animated short films Vent, The Phantom Of The Cinema and the stop-motion horror comedy Under The Apple Tree and a brand new Badtime Story: The Smile.Erik is now working on animated feature film Nosferatu Reanimated.


  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

Don’t remember. I wrote many tiny, illustrated booklets when I was a kid. Real stuff began when I started working for television, during my study in Arts.

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

Horror stories and blockbusters like Starwars (the original!), Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lots of stuff. I was a sponge. When the Coen brothers made their first movie (Blood Simple) I immediately was a big fan of their work.

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

No idea. Just show your screenplay to TV stations and producers. Start small: Short films, doable films, not million dollar blockbusters. And study hard on writing your logline and doing an elevator pitch! No kidding.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

Every experience I ever had.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

Not really. Sometimes a character springs to life and is great the first time around. Other times you change the character a million times before it comes to life. The only process I have is to not give up. To be convinced that there is always a new angle, a new way that might work. Just bite your teeth in that screenplay and never let go until it is perfect.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

No.

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

Almost all of them become very dear to me. Like friends, or lovers. Yeah, I guess I fell in love with a character once or twice.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

Learn story structure, then use it well. But don’t be afraid to do something different if it feels right. A story structure is not as rigid as it sounds. It should not be. But when you are a novice, learning about structure, you probably should follow all the rules in order to really get to know them.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

Yes.

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

A character must be able to capture the audience in some way, and have the audience follow him or her on great journey. This can be done in a million ways (there are a million characters). That’s it, I think. It is kind of hard to pull that off, tho.