Exclusive Interview with Neil Chase – Writer/ Actor
Neil Chase is an award-winning screenwriter, novelist, story coach, and actor.
With over 90 international writing awards, including from American Fiction Awards, Script Summit, Las Vegas Film Festival, FilmQuest, A Night of Horror Film Festival, Screamfest, West Field Screenwriting Awards, and Cinequest, among many others, Neil is most proud of winning the FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards Grand Prize, the Neoverse Writing Competition Grand Prize, two Global eBook Awards Gold Medals, and the Arthur Rosenfeld Award for Excellence in Dramatic Writing. He is also a four-time Nicholl Fellowship Quarterfinalist, and is featured in the book, “The Top 100 Indie Writers in the World” by Del Weston.
Neil’s screenplays have been produced for film and TV, including “Christmas Cupcakes”, “Tsunami Falls”, “The Devil’s Due”, as well as the upcoming “Spin the Wheel”, which he also co-directed. He has also provided story coaching and/or script rewrites to notable writers, directors and filmmakers, such as Dylan Pearce (“A Frosty Affair”), Paul Spence (“Fubar”), Danny Mac (“Heel Kick!”) and CM Bratton & Kerry Valderrama (“O.B.E.”). With an award-winning debut novel, “Iron Dogs”, and an audiobook adaptation ranked #1 New Release on Amazon in multiple categories, Neil is constantly expanding his catalog of new novels and scripts on the way.
As a successful actor, Neil has also appeared in numerous features and TV movies, such as “The Academy”, “John, 316”, “Christmas with a Crown”, “Broken”, and the upcoming “For the Love of Pasta” and “Bagman Rising”.
When not working, he’s drawing inspiration from his amazing family and thinking up new worlds and adventures. Neil lives in Edmonton, Canada.
NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?
A: As someone who spends as much time in front of the camera as behind it, it seems like I’m always busy with half a dozen projects at once. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way!
The past year or so has brought with it a holiday TV movie (Christmas with a Crown), an experimental short film done primarily with still photos (Smile: It’s Only the End of the World), a feature thriller (Broken), a pair of gritty action shorts (Quiet Enable and Imperfect Terrain), as well as the audiobook version of my award-winning debut horror novel (Iron Dogs). I am currently narrating my fourth audiobook and offer narration and voice over services for authors looking to bring their stories to life.
On the writing side, I’m currently working on a new horror novel and fleshing out a number of new script ideas. I’m also excited for the future of Boneyard Racers, the script being recognized by International Screenwriting Competition, and which has already won a number of awards in other competitions. It’s an ambitious project to say the least, but you have to dream big to be big, and I can’t wait for the day it goes to camera.
I’m also increasing the level of my services as a story coach, teacher and writer-for-hire. I’ve offered screenwriting classes and seminars in the past, and due to overwhelmingly positive feedback, I am expanding my services to include more online content as well as one-on-one mentoring, particularly in terms of genre storytelling. Helping other writers elevate their work has been extremely rewarding, and the feedback I’ve gotten from both novice writers as well as seasoned professionals tells me I’m doing something right. For anyone interested in help with their written work or in finding out more about the latest developments and offerings, reach me through my website www.neilchasefilm.com or social media (links below)!
But one of the most exciting developments has been a new partnership, called Brimstone Pictures, to create inspired, original content on a budget. After the success of our short films on the festival circuit world-wide, we started principal photography this past fall on my Nicholl-placing script, Spin the Wheel, which I am also co-directing.
It’s a story that takes place in real time, about the last 90 minutes of the end of the world, and a supernatural twist that might be the key to preventing it. I purposely wrote it to be filmed in a single primary location with a small cast and crew, and really focused on the story and characters, with an emphasis on strong dialogue and real heart. With a wonderful cast, amazing locations, top-notch cinematography, and an original and eclectic soundtrack by some of our favorite musical acts, such as Punch Drunk Cabaret, David Heacock, and Colleen Rae, there’s something in Spin the Wheel for everyone. At this point, there are only a few minor scenes left to film, then it’s off to the editing suite. If all goes right, look for Spin the Wheel on the festival circuit this fall!
NY Glam: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
A: A great film needs to have four key elements – a captivating story, fully-realized characters, snappy and heartfelt dialogue, and fast-paced action to tie it all together. The story is the blueprint that drives the narrative. If it’s weak, the film falls apart before it can truly begin. The characters are the drivers of the story. They need to be active and make decisions that set them on their path, and not simply react to the world around them. The dialogue is not only the voices of the characters, which must be distinct, realistic and full of subtext in the things they don’t say in as much as they do, but it is also the voice of the writer, which must be unique and stand out from all the other writers in the field. And the action is the “how” of the journey, and it needs to be only as big as the story demands. If it’s flat and boring, the film will be as well. If, on the other hand, the action is tight and exciting, so will the film.
Whether it’s a globe-trotting adventure with giant set-pieces and stunning stunts and effects, or an intimate drama about internalized struggles, the best films marry all these elements to deliver a complete package that entertains in as much as it makes us think and feel.
NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
A: Realism. Any character, whether the lead or a supporting, whether grounded in fantasy or the “real world”, should come across as a fully three-dimensional being, with wants and needs, with fears and failings, and with strengths and opportunities to better themselves. Whether they do or not is up to the writer, but the choice must be there for them to make, and we need to understand why they make their decisions and act upon them.
I strive to give each character in my scripts a distinct voice, a distinct personality, and a distinct character arc. They need to show that they either changed themselves or those around them, and the best way to do that is to make them as real and relatable as possible.
NY Glam: How important is for you being a finalist at International Screenwriting Competition – ISC?
A: I’m honored to have my screenplay, Boneyard Racers, named a finalist at ISC. This is a world-renowned competition that has opened doors for many writers and helped them make their film dreams a reality. Likewise, I hope to use this great placing to further boost the reputation of my script, as it can only help to get it before the right sets of eyes. My goal with this script is the same as for all my scripts – to get it made into a film. The higher the level of recognition, the better the chances of that happening, and International Screenwriting Competition is among the highest.
NY Glam: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?
A: I’ve been fortunate to be involved with so many amazing projects, in front of and behind the camera, from features to TV movies to short films to audiobooks. That said, the three projects that stand out most are the action adventure, The Academy, which was my first leading role in a feature film; my debut audiobook, Iron Dogs, which allowed me to give voice to my words in a thoroughly unique way, complete with sound effects and original music composed by my producing partner; and my upcoming supernatural thriller, Spin the Wheel, which allowed me to take the reins as director and writer both. There’s no better feeling than to bring your own script to life on your own terms, especially surrounded by such a dedicated and talented cast and crew. Each of the above was a first for me – as an actor, as a writer, and finally as a director. More than that, each was an amazing experience that either led to lifelong friendships and opportunities, or was a direct result of the same.
NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
A: I love all things film and all things storytelling, and I’m always looking to expand my knowledge and experiences as they relate to those fields. Besides acting and writing for film, I’ve branched out into motion capture work on video games, narration and voice over work, comic books and graphic novels, and even having a hand in board game development. There’s no limit to creativity other than time, and I want to expand into as many fields as I can in the time I have. And if I can further help others bring their creative dreams to life, then it makes the journey all the more worthwhile!
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
A: Learn to take rejection and grow a thick skin if you want to have any kind of career in this game. I’ve had the same script win a contest one day and not even get past a preliminary round on another. Likewise, I’ve had one group of producers and directors gush over the same script that another group dismissed out of hand. You have to learn real fast not to take it personally. It’s a business, first and foremost, so learn to make your script stand out and get people excited to read it.
That’s where learning how to pitch comes in. Like all art, film is subjective, and no movie or script will be universally loved. That’s both a blessing and a curse in that there’s no right or wrong way of doing it, only in how well you execute your vision. That means selling yourself as much as selling your stories. So when you find someone who is willing to take a chance on you and your work, appreciate it and act upon it.
Real opportunities are rare in this business. The key to success is not only to recognize an opportunity when it comes, but then have the courage to act upon it. Take a chance. Don’t let your fear hold you back because you’re not sure what to do next. Say yes first, then figure out how you’ll do it later.
NY Glam: What can we expect from you in this actual year?
A: I have many irons in the fire this year, and I’m equally excited for all of them. First on the list is to finish Spin the Wheel, get it into festivals and find distribution. There’s still a ton of work to do, but the footage we already have looks amazing, and it’s shaping up to be a special and unique film. I also need to finish writing my next novel – a horror thriller – and finalize a short story anthology audiobook I started late last year. Over the coming weeks, I will also roll out my new training program and mentoring services for genre writers of all skill levels. I also look forward to working in front of the camera on a number of film projects that are either wrapping up this year or scheduled to begin. And finally, my production company hopes to secure investment on our next feature and being preproduction by the end of the year.
NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more?
A: To learn more about my writing, story coaching, and mentoring services, go to www.neilchasefilm.com.
To know more about my production company or our slate of films, go to www.brimstonepictures.com.
Please follow me or connect on social media at the links below: