Andrew J McKiernan is having one of his short stories made into a short film by Tom Spark. I asked Andrew if we could have a chat about it.
So, I hear you’ve sold the film rights for one of your short stories. Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes, my short story “The Message” was recently optioned by Tom Spark, an award winning Australian director of music videos, documentaries and television commercials. “The Message” was originally published in Midnight Echo #2 way back in 2009, and reprinted in my short story collection. The transition from story to film is still in the early stages, and it will be another six months or so before things really get started. Tom envisions that his short film version will probably run somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes on the final cut.
How did your short story get picked up?
The director/producer, Tom Spark, has been directing for at least decade now. He has directed music videos for everyone from Thirsty Merc and Gyroscope, to Jimmy Barnes, Vanessa Amorosi and most recently the video for Dami Im’s ‘Sound of Silence’ He told me he would like to move on to more dramatic work and was looking for a story that he thought he could do justice to as a short film; a first step, a calling card I guess, towards full-length feature films. He’s a big fan of Will Elliott’s Pilo Family Circus, and through Amazon, that led him to my short story collection for which Will wrote the Introduction. As soon as he read “The Message”, he contacted me via email and asked if I’d be interested in having it turned into a short film.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
I think what’s so special about Marion, the main character in “The Message”, is that she isn’t special. She’s the most normal person in the world. She’s middle-aged, just coming out of a bad long-term marriage, and trying to find her way in the world; a world she hasn’t really been part of lately because she’d spent all her time at home raising kids and being a wife and mum. She’s looking for work, which can be a very hard thing to do when you reach that age and haven’t been in the workforce for so long. She gets a job answering a telephone, a single old telephone in a hotel room, that rings night and day with the strangest messages. It’s Marion’s job to answer the phone and take messages, that’s it. But it’s where these messages lead her, and the things in her life that they force her to confront, that drive Marion to take some fairly extraordinary action before the tale is done.
Are you going to be involved with the screen writing process?
Tom Spark is going to be writing the screenplay himself. He has a great vision, and some really interesting ideas on how my words can be translated to the screen. We have met and discussed a few things, and he seems very happy to keep me in the loop and asks my opinion on changes he’d like to make to the story. He’s got the experience in this sort of thing, and I’m more than happy to just sit back and watch and learn.
Can you tell us where we will be able to see it once it has been completed?
Probably, at least initially, it will be showing on the short film festival circuit. We’re hoping that will include places like Tropfest, Flickerfest, and the Sydney Film Festival. That’s just a start, I guess, and it may show up eventually on the internet via some form of Pay Per View. It’s really too early to tell where it might end up.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you for short fiction?
Most times I just start with a title or a first line that interests me. I never plot or outline. A lot of the fun and excitement for me is seeing where that initial idea will take me. If I knew how a story was going to end, I probably wouldn’t be as interested in writing it.
What is the hardest thing about writing a short story?
Finding a title or first line that interests me enough to pursue it to the end.
What is the easiest thing about writing a short story?
I don’t think there’s anything easy about writing a short story. Getting it right is always difficult.
What is your favourite quote?
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to have a bourbon with and why?
Probably American author William Faulkner. He was born and grew up in the South, the birthplace and home of great American Bourbons and Whiskeys, and his novels As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury are two of the most amazing works of literature ever written. His life was almost a study in observing the enormous social, political and economic changes that Southern USA went through from 1897 through to the early 1960s, and I think to chat with him about those times would be fascinating. He once said, “My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey.” Even though I finally gave up smoking a few months ago, I still agree with the rest of that quote.
If you want to know more about Andrew, here is his website
To buy a copy of ‘Last Year When We Were Young’ go HERE