Bruce Robert Notman

Thank you Bruce 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 Bruce, can you tell us about your background and how you got started in screenwriting?

I was asked to help out a friend to do some extras work for a University student doing a Film and TV Degree for a bit of fun. A 12-hour stint overnight running through a script placement for a guy in the background of a story the Uni student wrote. Then I did a few more. After that earned some coins as a featured extra and did some technical advising on set for military and police knowledge and operations, which is my background during scenes that I told the director were not correct. After reading these scripts over several events, I realised I thought I could write these. I had several movie ideas, bought some software – Final Draft- and started teaching myself how to write a screenplay.

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

I wrote a treatment of 25 pages for each movie story. With my military background in engineering, explosives, weapons, law enforcement-in intelligence, surveillance and logistics, world travels to 16 countries as a tourist and for work over 35 years – I mapped out a profile (from my government intelligence days) on each character, drew large maps on sheets of paper to track the whereabouts of characters as literally lego block with characters name on each – to keep track of who was where in the world – venues on large paper maps to track where they were in a building etc. I called all my characters by the name of someone I knew – together with their personalities, flaws and idiosyncrasies. After completing the screenplay, I would change all the characters’ names. This ensured I did not put a little of myself into every character.

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

SCI-FI – as I have focused on action-adventure had not broached this genre before. There is a need to do a lot more research on ET and UFO sightings to understand the experiences and mainstream understanding of the genre. Stepping outside my comfort zone. But the more time I spend on it, the more it develops. But it is an evolution of the process. Bring in the conflict, which I believe drives a story. I have, in the past, literally pulled the name out of a hat of the main characters – I was not swayed from my opinions and thoughts to kill them off, so it is unexpected. Not the protagonist, though.

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

Having the audience identify with the protagonist and/or the antagonist. There must be a conflict to drive the story as well. I have always had my account change direction due to an unexpected event.

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

Extremely competitive, there seem to be a lot of screenplay film festivals available to be in, and they are willing to take your money to enter. I have won 9 international screenplay competitions in worldwide Film Festivals, and I get emails from other film festivals who obviously track the winners of other festivals to gain your patronage to compete in theirs. They blow a lot of smoke and offer discounts on entry fees, 50-70% off sometimes. Even after thanking them, they will pursue you to gain entry, even promising selection. They offer selection and discounts to gain more access and increase profit. You get your name on a certificate and display it for others. But usually, no cash prizes unless it’s part of a more prominent, well-known festival. It just seems like a lot are taking advantage of what we want to be produced, screenplay writers.

How do you approach writing for different genres and audiences?

Research – investigate what works well in that genre and adapt it to your story. Perhaps deciding what the end result in you want to have portrayed and work backwards.

How do you handle feedback and criticism?

Being self-taught, one must take on any suggestions and criticisms to change your writing to make it better for the industry. It may be only one person’s opinion, but use these to adjust how you approach a story and develop your writing to be that movie people want to see. Moreover, a Director or Producer offers you an option.

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

I am writing the current and first SCI-FI, with others developing in the background. So I can easily compartmentalise each screenplay to continue its development.

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

I see AI being used in some capacity to evolve a screenplay, perhaps.

What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters?

Write every chance you can and look for the top festivals to be involved in, then pursue agencies to get picked up and possibly optioned. Good Luck.