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An interview with Michael Louis Gould, writer of "Sacred Sun"

The screenplay effectively establishes a sense of mystery and unease from the beginning, drawing the audience into a world filled with supernatural occurrences. The presence of the mysterious 'other' sun, the appearance of a new star in the night sky, and the inexplicable data recorded on energy plant monitors create an atmosphere of intrigue and foreboding.

Filmtage : What sparked your interest in becoming an independent screenwriter? How has your journey been, navigating the screenwriting world outside of traditional studio systems?

Michael L. Gould : Ok, well, let’s just say I’m the guy who looked out the window at school. Even when I wasn’t looking out the window, I was, in my mind, which was how it had always been. I didn’t read books because I was a slow reader and would watch avid readers turn their pages at speed, as a sort of self-torment. No, the only escape for me was day dreaming, if only to imagine myself the things I could never be, because I didn’t read: the ‘A’ student, the doctor, the corporate leader, army general, entrepreneur, knighted, rich enough to retire at 30, whereupon I might make a gift of my humility and charity to the world, the way Albert Schweitzer did (organist, theologist, musicologist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, physician, and person I didn’t really want to be at all, though I remember my parents much admired). In the end it all came to a sluggish and stale ending, like a sort of constipation, my great imagining of useful, personal worth. Instead, I imagined myself more the individual whose seen-better-days car grinds to a halt in the desert, who gets out, slams the door, throws the keys at it and stalks off, across the scrub. After forty wakeful nights, and the sampling of ‘cactus fruits’, he emerges by another roadside, changed and evil, his thumb stretched out cold, fresh and hating, readied to a new purpose. Ah yes. Indeed, a writer friend of mine once said that, to write, you do need to hate everything, which I think is true. Not that it is quite hatred though, rather it is a necessary malice, or what it takes to look at the world anew, without mercy, as nature wills it.

As for navigating the film business, I’m as blind as every other f****r and have to use my inner compass, practically and morally, to find my way through, as a contemplative a******e I once met said. Alright, it was me. Nevertheless, it is true. Most writers haven’t a clue about business, if they’re any good. Same way business, or much of it, hasn’t a clue about writing.

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?

Michael L. Gould : To be honest, I’ve always disliked the word ‘story’. It’s bedtime-ish, isn’t it? Naïve, belittling and a mistake. Writers have no interest (at least not at the core) in things implied by the word: moral and emotional schooling, shared empathies between writer and reader, personal growth, the learning journey, the tellers and the told. All are bloodsuckers of the imagination.

Here’s how to write (say I). Go somewhere you want to be. I mean, where you really want to be, in your mind. Somewhere you will wish to return to, day after day, if only for the dark, emotional joy of it, and the furtive excitement. That ‘somewhere’ will be where your screenplay will begin (though it may change for rewrites and re-imaginings). Ask yourself what happens next. Ask again and again until a first draft is done. A screenplay will need a wonderful beginning and a wonderful ending, and a strong, visual narrative, built simply, that draws and engages.

Rewrite, relax, again rewrite, and so on, until all falls quirkily into place. If anyone lectures you about protagonists, antagonists, character development, story arcs, or even a great idea, just say, excuse me, I’ve got to go to the toilet, where you will climb out of the window and run, and not look back. Maybe even phone the police to report a wrongdoing.

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?

Michael L. Gould : Under no circumstances should a writer ‘go about’ networking as a sort of ‘thing to do’. I know this from experience, having co-organized the rather grandiosely named Film Means Business events in London, years ago. In themselves, the events were, many of them, successful. The networking, less so. Demeaning, they could be, though in some respects the sheer hard work would pay off (which was not networking, it was hard-working). But don’t we network naturally? Why make an activity point of it? Write a good screenplay, without which you may never make the effort to network at all, no matter how naturally or otherwise.

Filmtage : Sacred Sun 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?

Michael L. Gould : Don’t be boring, is the rule. You need to know whether or not you are boring, and if you are, don’t write screenplays. Or at least choose characters from real life who are engaging and who involve, and who are naturally cinematic in the grain of your screenplay. Mimic what they would say and do. Character development is only applicable to character development type screenplays, which my screenplay, Sacred Sun, isn’t. Sacred Sun is a symbolic mystery. It runs on a different energy to character screenplays and should not be confused with them. My other screenplay, Voodoo Valentinos, a comedy, is very much character-driven, for which I have chosen real people as leads, and a range of real and stock eccentrics in support.

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?

Michael L. Gould : If you write a low budget screenplay, people will say, ah, were not really looking for low budget, it’s not in demand. If you write a mid-budget screenplay, people will say they’re looking for low budget/high concept (which is almost a contradiction in terms). If you write a high budget screenplay, even if it starts a bidding war, you will lose all independence. Write what you write, what is in you to write. Think of budget as somebody who plays hard to get.

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