Screenwriter Joseph Davis on “Santa Rita”

Joseph Davis, screenwriter

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an ISC finalist. What does it mean for your work to be selected at the International Screenwriting Competition in New York?

Joseph Davis: For me, being selected is encouragement to continue writing and to improve my craft.

NY Elite: Can you tell us about the work that you participated with at ISC? What is the story about?

Joseph Davis: “Santa Rita” is my first attempt at screenwriting. It evolved from a novel I had started: one piece of it took on a life of its own as a complete story.

On the surface, it is about an alienated and grieving man preparing for his suicide, who has discharged all his responsibilities but one – to his beloved houseplant. He sets out to find someone among his former friends and lovers who will take care of it. Behind that, it is about reconciliation, about why we fall out with each other, how we can repair broken relationships, and how to let go of the ones that cannot be saved.

NY Elite: Can you tell us yourself and your artistic talents?

Joseph Davis: I have written for myself before. Poems. Short stories. An epic disaster of a novel. I tend to be wordy in prose, and this idea came along when I was already working on a graduate thesis and was pressed for time and generating great piles of words about archaeology, so I decided to try screenwriting as a way to get this story done in its purest and most minimal form. It worked.

NY Elite: What type of scripts do you want to write in your career?

Joseph Davis: Thoughtful, character-driven dramas. I would especially like to write scripts in which transgender and queer characters get to be people and not just identities.

NY Elite: As a writer, what is the most important aspect of building a character?

Joseph Davis: I have to be able to feel what the character feels. Try them on. Hear their voices in my mind, make the faces they’d make. I carry them around in my head and think about how they might respond to whatever feelings and experiences I’m having at the moment. It must look very odd.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

Joseph Davis: I’m starting another screenplay, set in Ireland, after climate change and desalinization has shut down the Atlantic conveyor that keeps the island’s weather mild. A lonely survivor finds that someone has been stealing the rabbits out of his rabbit traps.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Joseph Davis: I cook, and during the better months, I do a lot of DIY. Last summer, I made a screen door. Best screen door in Wicklow! Probably the only screen door in Wicklow, as they aren’t a common thing in Ireland.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking/writing?

Joseph Davis: It would be too early for me to give advice to anyone, as I don’t yet have such a career myself. Ask me again once this all works out.

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