Barry Siskind

Thank you Barry for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We are grateful for everything you have shared with us. At Oxford Script Awards we are wishing you a huge success with your next projects. Keep up the amazing work!

Hello Barry, can you tell us about your background and how you got started in screenwriting?

Prior to writing screenplays, I wrote nine best-selling business books, over 500 original trade articles and industry reports and a Guru series for the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research. My syndicated column appeared in over 100 publications worldwide. I retired for a few years, but writing called me back. I completed my first screenplay in three months. I was hooked.

What's your writing process like? How do you go about creating characters and developing a story?

My characters are composites of people I know, people I have read about and stuff I make up. Developing relatable characters is the best part of my job and I let my imagination run wild. I’m not gay, LBGTQ, female, black, redneck or a sociopath, but its great fun getting into the minds people who are.

Can you talk about a recent project you've worked on and the challenges you faced while writing it?

Years ago, I wrote a novel called The Hangman’s Fracture. It went nowhere. Recently I took the novel (I loved the concept), changed the perspective and a few other details and developed a screenplay called A Secret Life. I didn’t think A Secret Life was commercial. A nagging message bounced around in my head saying, “Nobody wants to read about the son of a hangman” Then it hit me – I do. So, I let go of my doubts and wrote the best story I could.

What do you think is the most important element of a great screenplay?

I am pretty new to writing screenplays, but I think the most important element starts with the author’s passion for the story.

How do you feel about the current state of the film industry and the role of screenwriters in it?

I feel the role of screenwriter is not replaceable. I haven’t seen evidence that AI has mastered the qualities of passion, humor and creativity.

How do you approach writing for different genres and audiences?

My first three plays were inspired by real life stories of courageous woman during World War 2. My Fourth play is A Secret Life. I have first draft of an animated piece and developing a limited series television concept called The Jury. My tastes are eclectic. When I approach a story, I watch as many films as possible, read screenplays and learn the nuances of the genre.

How do you handle feedback and criticism?

I very quickly learned how subjective feedback is. One critic will give me glowing comments while another hates my work. Rejections are another thing. Some producers will issue a standard “Not for us,” replay, (if they bother to acknowledge my pitch at all).
Then there are producers who say no and take to time to tell me why. I love these. I read all comments (good or bad) then decide what will strengthen my screenplay.

Can you talk about any upcoming projects or collaborations you're excited about?

A Secret Life won the 2023 Boston Screenplay Award. As a result of that exposure, I was hired by a production company to develop a screenplay from a concept they had developed. It’s been great fun working with a team who knows what they want and are open to collaboration.

How do you see the role of screenwriting evolving in the future?

Storytelling is the world’s oldest profession. It’s not going away anytime soon.

What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters?

I haven’t been doing this long enough to give meaningful advice. For me, I’m on a steep learning curve, and that is what gets me up in the morning.