The Wednesday Killer is a gripping and intense crime drama that takes the audience on a race against time to catch a sadomasochistic murderer targeting affluent women in New York City.
Filmtage : What sparked your interest in becoming an independent screenwriter, and how has your journey been navigating the world of screenwriting outside of traditional studio systems?
Janet Walker : My journey to becoming a screenwriter began with my desire to be a great American novelist. For about two years I explained to my sister, Debbie Walker, that I was a writer. And finally, she explained, gently, “writer’s write.” So, my journey, of pen to paper, began then. For many years that followed my writing was abbreviated creative shorts, ideas that just didn’t become fully fleshed out. So, I decided to take a college creative writing course, which led to a journalism pursuit and where I began pursuing other writing genres, from creative writing to journalistic pursuits to poetry and journals, movie reviews, and now screenplays.
For me, the pandemic provided the missing element needed to concentrate fully on screenwriting. The lockdown allowed me to devote 100% of my time to developing an idea that had been simmering for about for a decade. I took an online class and it helped clarify the specifics of what I felt were areas of weakness.
I often joke that my first screenplay, “The Six Sides of Truth,” took 10 years and three months to complete. After that, as I felt like anyone can write one screenplay, I felt personally challenged to write a second screenplay, which is “The Wednesday Killer.”
Navigating the world of the traditional studio system is challenging. I’ve had access to studio publicity opportunities having been fortunate to be credentialed for media events, including credentials for the Academy Awards Day of Show winner’s room on four separate occasions. However, switching lanes can be a bit of a challenge which is where I am currently.
Filmtage : As an independent screenwriter, you have the freedom to explore unique and daring narratives. How do you approach the creative process to craft compelling stories that stand out in a saturated market?
Janet Walker : I’ve been fortunate to screen thousands of movies over the course of my life; my cup truly runovers in that area. I am also informed by other filmmakers and writers and sometimes a scene or a common element really resonates and informs my thinking, and if it sticks, then I feel I can build a story around it. It takes time, sometimes my ideas sit and simmer for two years, or more.
I had lunch with a director once, and he told me a bit about his time at film school and explained the process of hooking the audiences, first it was every eight minutes, then five, then three, so when I decided to write the screenplays, I felt compelled to add hooks in that timeline. I also try to present a big hook in the beginning, something pivotal that will immediately grab the reader or viewer’s attention. I visualize the scene, being a film scene, so I want to be hooked from the minute I sit down to watch a film, so that’s how I try to write the scenes. Also, art mirrors life so reading the headlines, the criminal element only becomes more sophisticated with time, so building on that allows for greater intrigue.
Filmtage : Independent screenwriters often face challenges in getting their scripts noticed by producers and filmmakers. How do you go about networking and connecting with potential collaborators to bring your scripts to life?
Janet Walker : That’s a great question. Fortunately, since 2010 I’ve had access to many studio publicity opportunities, set visits, press events and even, like I mentioned, the Academy Awards. Having this access, which has included interviewing talent and producers, directors, has limitedly helped get my name and screenplays noticed. I also created Haute-Lifestyle.com, which is an internationally known digital magazine, which I use for advertising my screenplays and to secure publicity and credential opportunities. I also use traditional means, press releases, PR, and social media. As far as connecting with potential collaborators, I’m working on it.
Filmtage : Your submitted screenplay has been praised for its originality and depth of characters. Can you share some insights into the development process, and how you ensure your characters resonate with audiences?
Janet Walker : Another great question. My screenplays imitate life with cinematic value added. Obviously, there is not an exactness to what I write, however, I did live and work in Manhattan, and experienced victimization and severe repercussions for seeking justice which became a source of inspiration. The screenplays are my way of exposing the individuals for the heinous criminal actions and the system for its coverup.
Audiences believe that individuals at the level I portray commit crime; the premise already resonates. So, what I try to do is push the envelope whether I’m writing about cartels, and there is no saturation point when dealing with a cartel enforcer, whether it’s Mexican, Albanian, European, or domestic home grown, if you think of something sinister then write it; individuals in professional careers, especially the high level corporate arenas like law firms, finance, judicial, and government coupled with the drive and corresponding emotions, can be a wealth of ideas when developing characters, and a pandora’s box for plot and story.
David Baldacci, an internationally known thriller writer, explained in a Masterclass, when dealing with espionage topics or government, “if you are thinking about now, the government has thought about 20 years ago.” The research of other writers informs my thought process and Masterclass is also a resource to help learn from others.
Humans are complex, deviate, evil creatures, and as history has shown have no limits to the injury, they will subject others to, so I use that coupled with my journalism background and crime beat passion and there you have it; the right ingredients for a suspense thriller. . . where justice is either actual or managed.
Filmtage : Independent filmmaking often allows for more artistic expression, but it can also mean limited budgets. How do you strike a balance between creative vision and practicality when writing scripts for independent productions?
Janet Walker : I don’t ever consider the film budget when writing a screenplay.
Post pandemic adjustments in filmmaking, and the vast opportunities to film in regions around the world, allow for greater opportunity to find locations that offer lower costs. I do think of some areas of spending and then I think of how I can make a deal without someone to cover some of the costs. Finding a distributor first has been the one piece of information that I heard that has resonated. Product placement can help with the cost; a named talent; or even the standard reply of the “money” needing a talent that could draw in a particular box office region, so filmmakers are obligated on some level to allow the money to inform decisions. Once the filmmaker gets the script and the line producer works out the cost, that’s when decision making gets real.