Interview - Screenwriter Greg Caiafa

Greg Caiafa's contained thriller screenplay, THE CONFESSION GAME, garnered him a win in the Breaking Walls Thriller screenplay competition. His script centers around a religion professor who hears a mysterious voice on his bluetooth during a lecture that tells him there's a bomb inside. He's instructed to discover the worst sinner in the room within ninety minutes or no one will get out alive. Written in the vein of PHONE BOOTH and ATM, Greg demonstrates a strong grasp of setups and pay-offs in an undeniably tense story confined to a single location.

After his win, we spoke briefly with Greg about the story and his background as a writer.

1) How did you first become interested in a career in screenwriting?
I began writing several years back when I was an undergraduate. While films and prose were always a huge part of my life, it wasn't until my college years that I began to explore my own abilities. I immediately felt a natural connection to words and stories and fell in love the craft very quickly.

2) Who or what inspired you to write this particular story?
I was taking an online screenwriting workshop and one of the brainstorming exercises yielded a Hitchcockian premise involving a group of coeds trapped in a lecture hall with a ticking time bomb. Then it was just a matter of discovering the right "hook". One of my mentors suggested making the protagonist a religion professor and the concept fell into place.

3) What movies or filmmakers would you consider your greatest influences as a screenwriter?
I carry a fairly eclectic trick bag when it comes to influences. My love of story spans a number of genres, but I always find myself returning to the themes of personal ruin, redemption and revenge; and the thriller paradigm provides a perfect arena for those ideas. Accordingly, writers who tend to work in that genus - from authors like Stephen King to screenwriters like Paul Schrader - tend to appeal to me.

4) How much planning and outlining went into your process of writing this script?
This script was a huge pain in the ass! I did a series of exercises - just writing scenes at first; then tweaking and developing dialogue that sounded unique to each character. Then I wrote a full on vomit draft. Then a page one rewrite. Finally, I returned to those initial exercises and they provided a foundation for the eventual script. It was a strange process -- a lot of trial and error; quite alien to my usual approach (until that point). But I think it ultimately yielded a compelling piece.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters who are working their first script?
I think a lot of gifted people give up early because they think the material just comes out of them, and if it doesn't it simply isn't there. That's nonsense. While the raw talent has to be within you, it takes a lot of falling down and dragging yourself back up before you really have a handle on it. So my advice would be to just let yourself fail. Then fail better. Then fail best. It takes time but it's worth it.

A big thanks to Greg for his time and congratulations!

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