Interviewed by Tomas Nepomuceno.
Born in Mexico City, Carlos Algara is a rising filmmaker and screenwriter. During his undergraduate program he wrote, produced and directed his first short The Intruder, which screened in film festivals around the world. When he met fellow filmmaker Alejandro Martinez-Beltran, who became his friend and business associate, they started a production company called The Visualistas and produced El Firulete, based on a script that Algara wrote. This short made its way to major festivals including Warsaw and Raindance, and defined Algara as a passionate writer.
In 2012 he graduated from the Vancouver Film School with a degree in screenwriting and shortly after co-wrote a thriller screenplay entitled Veronica, which was optioned and is now being made into a feature film. That was Algara’s big debut into the feature world.
Currently writing for Sony Pictures Television, he is in the process of developing a TV series, which is scheduled to begin production in mid-2016.
Screenplays: how did that start? Do you remember the first time you thought, “I want to write a script”?
I wouldn’t say that I remember the exact moment, no. I always enjoyed writing and telling stories, ever since I was a little boy. Then, of course, came puberty, and with it, the strangeness of discovering who I was. And yes, I wrote cheesy, colorful poetry back then. And yes, my peers gave me a hard time for it. But it was back then that I discovered I actually had a passion and a calling for writing. And I mean writing in general. I also always loved films, so the screenplays came almost instinctively afterwards, starting with short films, and later on, with feature length screenplays.
You recently co-directed your first feature script. How did you feel the moment you saw your pages were actually being produced?
It’s a surreal experience to watch the pages you poured your stream of consciousness into get filmed. I don’t know if I have a way to describe the feeling, but imagine your hottest, filthiest, most amazing sexual fantasy: you know, the one that you dream of at night but never actually tell anyone about it? Then, imagine it actually comes true in front of your eyes. That’s sort of what it feels like.
How different is writing a short script to a feature? Is the method similar at all?
It’s very similar if you take the structure into account. The feature length script uses the same structure, only the acts are bigger, and the character curves are longer. The real difference is the time it takes you to write a feature, which will normally be around 3 to 6 months (and that’s only for the first draft), while a short film could take me from 2 to 5 weeks. Also, the character development is much richer in a feature film, whereas in a short film, you can only show a glimpse of who your characters are. I love both formats, but I have completely fallen in love with the feature length script by now.
What is the hardest part of screenwriting?
The outline. It’s always a struggle to go through the outline of a story for me. Once I get past what the story will be about, what the structure will look like, and what the characters are going to go through, it’s actually easy for me to get into the pages and surf my way through the dialogue for the first draft. When I say it takes me about 6 months to write a screenplay, I mean I spend about 5 of those writing the outline, and only 1 writing the actual first draft.
And the most fulfilling?
THE END. Writing those words at the bottom of your last page of the first draft. Nothing can beat that feeling. Not even producing the damn thing! Although I haven’t actually finished post-production on my first feature, so I guess once we hit that button and we have finished editing the film, I expect that will be a similar feeling.
You came to Vancouver to get your degree in screenwriting. Can you tell us a bit about your experience in Canada and how (or if) it influenced your writing?
My year in Vancouver studying in VFS for a degree on Writing for Film and Television was one of the best years of my life to date, no doubt about it. I guess what I learned most of all was how to work on different projects simultaneously. And the most rewarding things I took from there were my fellow classmates and my teachers. Everyday I write, I miss those table-reads where we all just took each other’s work and tore it to pieces. Amazing experience. I have always been a critic of my own writing, but man… we were hard on one another! And I have no doubt, that year made us all stronger, better, and more dedicated writers.
Any secrets of the trade you can share with people that want to become screenwriters?
Write. Write. Write.
Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tomas Nepomuceno is currently doing his Masters in Journalism at UBC while still working part-time in the film industry.