Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Callie LeClaire)

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

My name is Callie LeClaire, and I am 25 years old. I was born in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, but I currently live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Some of my hobbies are knitting, cooking, writing, digital illustration, and robotics.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

I actually came up with the idea for Over and Out in the screenwriting course I took. It was taught by fellow screenwriter Jeremy Bandow. He told us to really write something close to our hearts. Since I am a huge advocate for mental illness, I decided to go that route. It took me about 2 or 3 months to develop the screenplay structure to what it is now. I wanted to make sure it was as close to the image in my head as possible.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

First, I really wanted to dig deep into a concept that was really important and personal to me. I feel that the best stories come from a place of vulnerability and passion. From there, I went on to lay out the story beats on paper. Then came up with a cohesive idea that flowed well. After those few development processes the script just kind of spills out onto the computer screen. I am a very decisive person, and often don’t feel the need for many rewrites. What is on the page is what I intended to appear, and it feels almost like a spiritual process. I sometimes fear that this comes off as foolhardy and narcissistic. Then again, I don’t find myself in situations where I must explain myself very often.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

Only less than a year ago! I originally pursued a degree in Additive and Digital Manufacturing. Still, my heart was just not in it, so I decided to give screenwriting a chance. I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, but I had never thought I could accomplish a polished short script.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

My absolute biggest influence has to be Frank Darabont. In my opinion, he is one of the greatest filmmakers and screenwriters out there. Not only the Shawshank Redemption but also his films like The Mist and the cult-classic The Blob are amazing. His writing is clear and concise. Moreover, it’s filled with details and wonderful world-building without making it feel excessive or bogged down. I feel like I can only dream of being on such a level of skill, craftsmanship.

Other influences include David Lynch for his unabashed uniqueness and impossibly deep symbolism that would make psychology majors squirm. I have spent nights awake in bed thinking about the hundreds of possible meanings of his work. Like Twin Peaks episodes and his other films such as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet. Did you know that in many of his films and shows, lighting was representative of magic? It was also a sign of a doorway to the mystical other sides. So interesting!

On the other side of the spectrum, another influence to me is the iconic Wes Anderson. His style is unmistakable. The films by him will have some sort of pastel color scheme, elements of symmetry, and a Bill Murray cameo.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Oh goodness, I have an obsessive passion for so many franchises! The Alien series, The Shawshank Redemption (can you tell I love that film?), the film I, Robot. I mostly attribute the last one to my passion for robotics, STEM, and my love for Alan Tudyk. There is also a strong love for horror films and psychological thrillers like Jacob’s Ladder.

I could ramble for hours about the Alien franchise. Between the ground-breaking filmmaking and story-telling of the first film that beautifully personified the idea of ‘show, dont tell’, to the feminine strength of Ellen Ripley that should have solidified her as a role model for girls everywhere, to the iconic art style of H. R. Giger, it is a tour de force of cinematic history.

I also am in love with Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest hotel. Pastel color schemes are my life, so it’s obviously a feast for my eyes and artistic sensibilities. The story has so much heart and dry humor that makes you fall in love with the characters, even the antagonists and minor cameos, which is frankly, Wes Anderson’s bread and butter. Symmetry is also very nice to look at and I admit that I almost always have the film’s soundtrack in my car as lovely background driving music.  

Television-wise, I’d have to say the only show I’ve been as passionate about as film is the Twin Peaks series by David Lynch. Beloved to the most artsy of film lovers, this series helped open my mind to the endless possibilities of storytelling and symbolism. A beautiful thing about David Lynch to me is his honor for the viewer’s intelligence. He doesn’t spoon-feed the viewer information or answers, and creates on screen exactly what makes sense in his head, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else watching. I hope that one day, I will have that sort of unwavering confidence and madness.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

There are just so many to choose from, it is so difficult to pick just one! But I’m going back to my love-affair with The Shawshank Redemption. Most people would say the tunneling scene, or the iconic image of Tim Robbins standing in the pouring rain as a free man, but I have a less common favorite. 

It is the scene of Andy and the other convicts sitting on top of the plate shop roof with the beers that almost cost Andy’s life when Hadley held him off  the edge of the building. It was such a juxtaposition to everything that had happened thus far in the film. There was a feeling of genuine relief and happiness, and this was the first of many wins (if you can call them that) Andy got during his stay at Shawshank.

It showed Andy’s desperate desire to go back to the life he had outside of the prison, as well as his dedication to absolving his conviction by refusing the beer, since the last time he had drank was the night of his wife’s murder. He knew he was innocent, of course, but maybe little acts like this would have been enough to at least free his mind of the guilt of being sent there. This scene was also the one that solidified his position of advantage with the Shawshank guards and staff, as well as his place in Red’s circle.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

If you have read this far, you probably know this answer. Andy DuFresne.

I have an unabashed love affair with intelligence, and his character development is at the tippy-top of my favorites list. Andy is a fully fleshed-out character, from his desires to his fears. I also had a huge crush on young Tim Robbins…

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them? 

Probably Frank Darabont. I know that he’s from this era and still alive, but I have read dozens of interviews with him and he seems like such a down-to-earth person and very humble. I just feel like he’d be a very pleasant man to have a coffee or a cocktail with and discuss the mysteries of the universe.