Q&A with Shane Connaughton, Screenwriting Workshop Director

Shane Connaughton
Shane Connaughton

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Shane Connaughton will be directing our 2-day Screenwriting Workshop which will take place on the mornings of Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st May during Listowel Writers’ Week.

Shane’s script for My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown earned him an Academy Award and BAFTA nomination, while The Dollar Bottom scooped the Academy Award for Best Short Film. He has also written for stage and television. An actor as well as a writer, Shane’s acting skills earned him roles in Coronation Street; Neil Jordan’s The Miracle, as well as a number of successful theatre productions – having trained at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Shane is also the author of two novels: A Border Station and The Run of the Country. He won the Hennessy Award for Irish Fiction in 1985.

Q. You have had a very distinguished and successful career. One of your first screenplays My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown won numerous prestigious awards. Did you have any idea it would be the success it turned out to be?My Left Foot

A. I had written many scripts before that, including The Playboys for Sam Goldwyn, Every Picture Tells A Story for Film 4 and Dollar Bottom which won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short, so I was pretty cool about the whole process. Expect nothing and if it turns out well – be happy. I was.

Q. Having received the Academy Award and BAFTA nomination for My Left Foot, as well as an Academy Award for Dollar Bottom, did you feel under pressure to deliver equally successful scripts?

A. You always are under pressure. Often you are as good as your last one.

Q. How difficult is it to let go of a script once it’s written? How involved are you in the production process?

A. It’s very easy to let it go if you’ve been paid well. Good Directors have the writer on set all the time. For instance on The Run Of The Country directed by Peter Yates, I even had a Producer credit.

Q. How do you feel when an actor brings their own interpretation to your work? Have you ever had a problem with that or has it always been a positive experience?

A. As long as the actor isn’t hopelessly on the wrong track, it’s always great to have creative input. I do remember on The Playboys, Aidan Quinn turned up with a beard and Robin Wright wanted to cut her lovely long hair. That was interesting.

Q. Do you base your characters on real people or are they completely fictional?

A. As fictional as myself, the lot of em! I imagine they are real. Or as real as imagination.

Q. What types of stories interest you most?

A. With the possible exception of outer space, I’m game for anything. I don’t know outer space. I’m mostly interested in inner space.

Q. You also write novels. Why do you decide the novel form for one story and a screenplay for another? Do you think some stories are better told in novel form and others as screenplays?The Playboys

A. My novels are never far from the pictorial. The Run Of The Country for instance was filmed. A Border Station has been mauled by many a vulgar hand but as yet hasn’t made it to the screen. It will. I like vulgarians by the way.

Q. You adapted Maeve Binchy’s The Lilac Bus and Tara Road for the screen. What was she like to work with?

A. Maeve was wonderfully generous in every way. I met her first in Fleet Street when she worked for The Irish Times and she interviewed me. So we knew each other going back a long way. She always said I made The Lilac Bus sexy. I think she was pleased.

Q. You acted in your own play The Pitch at Listowel Writers’ Week 2011. Do you often act in your own plays?

A. I acted in The Pitch because I couldn’t get an actor in Ireland who was old, fit and mentally capable of remembering his lines. I was/am an actor too.

Q. What are you most looking forward to on your return visit to Listowel?

A. Walking round the lovely town, imbibing the hospitality, marvelling at the way the Kerry people open their hearts to you so you in return open your purse.

Thank you Shane. We look forward to welcoming you back to Listowel in May.

Details of all our Workshops and how to book are available here