Flirting with the “Stranger with My Face”

Stranger with My Face - strangerwithmyface.com
Stranger with My Face – strangerwithmyface.com

In mid-February, I signed up for the 10 by 10 short script challenge, which was part of the Stranger with My Face project.

First up, what’s Stranger with My Face about?

To quote the website:

“Deriving its name from the young adult novel by Lois Duncan, the festival is slanted towards the psychological side of horror. It explores the idea of the shadow self, tapping into archetypes like the evil twin and the mad woman in the attic. It’s focused on female filmmakers working in the genre, highlighting bold new work by independent filmmakers.”

The 10 by 10 challenge is to write 10 pages (or 10 mins) of a script that would suit an indie horror film production.

In the spirit of a challenge, I thought it’d be fun to take on something I’d never done before. Not even rarely done, or only done once, but NEVER done.

Before I even started writing it, I was anxious that it might all end in an embarrassing heap.

But I finished it, and I submitted it.

Admittedly, it took me right up until about 11.25pm on the final day to tidy it up and get the consistency right (with S.’s eagle-eye coming in really handy).

Getting started took me a while.

It wasn’t as much the content but the format. I knew scripts had set formats. What these formats were, however, remained a mystery to me. Kneeling at the feet of google (as I often do), I managed to find an excellent script formatting example and a sharp, short excerpt from The Godfather.

Armed with these, I pieced together the ten required pages.

It felt hard trying to tie up the narrative in a satisfying way in ten pages. My characters kept getting more verbose, and I had a weakness for over-setting the scene. I ended up having to kill a whole page of darlings.

Though I managed to complete the challenge, I was left with many questions about screenwriting: How much description is enough to set the scene? How free a ‘canvas’ does a director want with the script? What’s enough when it comes to back-story (particularly when you only have ten pages)?

I grappled in particular with how much a character’s speech should be ‘vernacularised’. I had to comb through and speechify the dialogue; I had too much formal writing in it. I read it out to myself when I had a few sections done – really ironed out conceits in dialogue.

Never having done any screenwriting before, I was woefully ignorant of the form.

The only thing I brought to the table was many, many hours of watching horror movies, and arguing about the best way to end a monster movie (as you do).

LAKE PLACID (1999)
LAKE PLACID (1999)

Our family watches the gamut of horror films, from art-house and classics to schlocky creature features. We cross over often with sci-fi horror, too. I feel like popping out a “Top 5” list of horror movies, but I. Just. Can’t. There’s too many. And it depends on mood, company, and sub-sub-genre (scary horror, horror comedy, slasher flick, alien invasion, giant insect movie…).

One of my enduring favourites is LAKE PLACID. It’s a giant crocodile movie! There are jokes about Maine! You get a prissy Bridget Fonda! It has everything.

(No, I don’t know why I like it so much either, but I DO)

What I do know is that the Stranger with My Face Horror Festival (7-10 March 2013; Hobart) sounds fabulous, and I thank the challenge convenors for the opportunity to play in their sandpit for the challenge!

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4 thoughts on “Flirting with the “Stranger with My Face”

  1. Audrey Chin 04/03/2013 / 12:14 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful writing experience. Where did you find out about this? Online? What was the outcome? Is your script being read or workshopped now? Do tell more.

    • Tseen Khoo 04/03/2013 / 9:48 pm

      Hi Audrey – Thanks for dropping by! I found out about the challenge through social media (I’m a big Twitter user). It’s being run by someone I follow – Briony Kidd. The competition results have not been announced yet. Will be decided later this week, I think.

      As it’s my first time ever to write a script, I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath about the results! 😉

  2. FoodFloozy 04/03/2013 / 12:35 pm

    Can’t wait to read it!!!

    • Tseen Khoo 04/03/2013 / 9:50 pm

      Be careful what you wish for… I’ll send you a PDF of it. You + K. can perform a critique of it for me!

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