Jamie was Head of Development at Really Useful Films before becoming a full-time writer. His Northern Ireland-set screenplay Bogland won the Grand Prize in the American Screenwriters Association / Gotham Writers’ Workshop International Screenwriting Competition 2009. He has also adapted Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book The Butterfly Lion, and is developing a portfolio of TV and film scripts. Jamie won themovieScope Screenwriting Challenge at this year’s Script Factory Serious Screenwriting event.
What training have you received?
Aside from a creative writing module in my Masters year at Warwick University, very little. The best training as a writer is simply to write; it’s a cliché but it’s true. There are also plenty of highly-regarded books which tell you helpful things, like never ever use clichés. And don’t start sentences with ‘And’…
What themes do you like to explore in your work?
Identity, choice, conflict—pretty much the usual pretentious-sounding fare. My slate is fairly eclectic but I try to write scripts that I would want to see myself. The films I admire most teach me something new, provoke debate and discussion, and manage to be moving or funny even to a grouchy cynic like me.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?
William Goldman’s ‘Nobody knows anything’ takes some beating. But Jeff Sanford, my LA agent, gave me some very wise advice. I asked him if I should consider writing something more commercial; he told me that passion and instinct are everything, that if I write something that my heart isn’t in then God forbid it’s actually a success, because I’ll be lost.
Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far
Getting producer Neda Armian attached to my script Bogland felt like the most significant; her championship of my writing has been nothing short of inspirational to me. It feels like her attachment started a chain of key events: signing with Jeff Sanford, then Nick Barron at The Writers’ Company here in the UK and finally winning the ASA / Gotham Award.
You’ll die happy when…
Writers rule the film industry—with producers and studio execs cowering at our feet as we casually dismantle derivative franchises and pioneer a new age of bold and original cinema. But I’d settle for making my family proud.