With Movies and TV Shows about to be released this year, we chat to screenwriter Niall Cassin! 🎬🎥
Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Niall Cassin, a successful screenwriter and producer from Dublin, Ireland.
Niall was born in Dublin and spent 10 years in the financial sector before following his passion for film and moving to Vancouver, Canada.
Niall returned to Ireland as the personal assistant to former Universal Pictures Executive Scott Bernstein (Straight Outta Compton, Respect) on the Steven Spielberg executive-produced feature, The Turning. Recently, Niall worked on Ridley Scott's latest movie, The Last Duel starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver.
Today we are joined by filmmaker Niall Cassin who will take us on a deep-dive into his screenwriting process and the world of scripts!
Question & Answers Interview
Q: Hi Niall, thank you for joining us.
A: Thank you for having me!
Q: You are a pretty successful screenwriter but that wasn’t always the case. Can you give our readers a bit of background about yourself?
A: Sure. I’m from Dublin, Ireland. Worked in banking for 10 years. Quit. And followed my dream to become a screenwriter!
Q: Can you tell us some of the productions you have worked on?
A: I worked as a production assistant on Deadpool, Planet of the Apes, Power Rangers, Tully, Supernatural, Riverdale... around 40 overall.
Q: But you’re a screenwriter in your own right now?
A: Yes, I have three movies due for release this year. Two more going into production. And I’m producing a movie I wrote in Canada later this year. I’m currently writing for a show due to be aired on a US network.
Q: Wow! Very impressive! Did it help you as a screenwriter being on the sets of these blockbusters?
A: 100%. It’s fine writing at home but to see how words on the page translate to actions on set, helped me understand the power of words and what they mean to an actor. It’s hard to explain but a particular word in the wrong place can change the meaning of an entire scene!
Q: So talk us through your process as a writer. Is it the idea first? The characters?
A: It all starts with the emotional connection. What’s the heart of this piece? Is it a father and son story? Is it a revenge story? Coming of age? What emotion am I trying to draw the audience in. All movies are basically dramas wrapped in a genre.
Q: Okay, so you have the emotional connection, what’s next?
A: Plot. Movies usually have two plots: the one we see and the one we don’t. Take for instance, Die Hard. On the surface it’s a cop running around a building killing terrorists. The hidden plot we don’t see is the cop reconnecting with his wife.
Q: Ah, I see. Makes sense! Anything else?
A: Character arcs. It would be a pretty rubbish movie if a character didn’t learn something by the end! How many times have we seen a movie about a terrible sports team from the wrong side of the tracks. Then an inspirational coach comes in and teaches them to work as a team for the first time and they win the big game at the end. We follow their journey... their arc!
Q: So now your good to go?
A: Well, it’s not as easy as that. Structure is very important in scripts. Best to stick to a 3 act structure and you can’t really go wrong. In the book Save the Cat, screenwriting is broken down to a simple level and explained brilliantly!
Q: Okay, the script is written. What happens next?
A: Now it gets tough! People think the hardest part is writing but it’s actually getting people to
read it! I would suggest, if you have written a script, let’s say a war movie, search for producers who have produced war movies in the past. Maybe think about making a short film based on one of the scenes and using it as a proof of concept. Enter the script into competitions. Remember, the more eyes you get on the script the better chance you have of becoming a working screenwriter.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Well, if someone reads your script, they might like your writing and ask you to write for them. That’s 90% of movies these days, writer for hire, the other 10% is the speculative market.
Q: Can you explain to our readers what that is?
A: A spec script is a script that you write by yourself and for yourself in the hopes that a producer/ director/actor will love it and buy it from you. It was a much bigger percentage n the 80s and 90s.
Q: Have you had much success with spec scripts?
A: I have been extremely successful selling my spec scripts. I have written maybe 15 scripts and I say 10 or 11 have been optioned by a producer at some stage. Currently, I have 7 spec scripts in development with a producer or director.
Q: That is some success rate! Why do you think your specs are so popular?
A: I write pretty high concept, commercial stuff. Two of my specs are due to be filmed this year. Most are contained to an extent which makes them cheaper and easier to make. But they’re all movies I’d want to see. I don’t write things I don’t love in the hopes of making a sale. It’s too much hard work.
Q: Can you elaborate on that?
A: Sure. It takes hours and hours of work to write a script and if you’re not getting paid for it you sure as hell better be enjoying what your writing!
Q: Fascinating. So when and where can people see your work?
A: The three movies I wrote are due for release this year on a streaming platform and the TV show I’m working on is due to air in the autumn.
Niall's movie Mister Mayfair, stars Armand Assante, Steven Bauer and Ken Davitian