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Michael Louis Gould Unveils the Dark Artistry Behind 'Sacred Sun' – Winner of Best Horror Screenplay

Michael Louis Gould emerges victorious with 'Sacred Sun,' securing the coveted title of Best Horror Screenplay. In this exclusive interview, we step into the chilling realm crafted by Gould's narrative prowess. Delving into the sinister depths of 'Sacred Sun,' we unravel the threads of fear and intrigue that earned this screenplay its prestigious accolade. Join us as we explore the mind of a master storyteller, where every word is a heartbeat, and every scene is a brushstroke on the canvas of dread.

American Dream Screen : Every screenplay has a unique journey from concept to completion. Can you take us through the moment or experience that ignited the spark for this story, and how it evolved into the screenplay we see today?

Michael Louis Gould : What you ask for, regarding ‘spark of ignition’ or ‘moment of inspiration’, in my experience, would better be described as an underlying ‘stirring of new passions’, with no actual spark at all, as such. Rather a slow, tectonic, coming together of heavy influences. Like the beginning of a universe. Only for that universe, in the case of my script’s earliest draft, to be (other than to appearances) stillborn. A soulless, inchoate foetus, begging for burial (which so often can be the new-to-scriptwriting reality). However, refusing it burial, I got it an agent, who liked it and who couldn’t sell it. So, then I did bury it, but not in a grave, having not, underneath, quite given up. I put the script, as it were, on its ancient bier (extending metaphors!) and delivered it to its catacomb, where I would visit it, from time to time, to marvel at its naivety.

There it and I would commune. I, myself, also dead, to all intent, though the heavy influences I mention above were alive. They were two: a short story by D. H. Lawrence titled ‘Sun’ and an old forest in England in which I had played as a boy. Having read more Lawrence, of his experiences in America (in Mexico and in New Mexico), I now added a third influence: a solar energy plant, and an apparatus that I had read about online, installed at a solar energy plant in a US desert, designed to test the skin of living pigs for military purposes. This contraption, or a souped-up version of, would begin the first draft of what would eventually become Sacred Sun. So, there was your spark, if you like, though it was no more spark like than other influences. However, from thereon, things would come together. Script born alive.

American Dream Screen : Screenwriting allows for creative exploration. Can you share an instance where the narrative took an unexpected turn during the writing process, and how did this spontaneous development contribute to the depth of your screenplay?

Michael Louis Gould : It was less the writing process than the rewriting, and the re-rewriting, and the endless, fretful revising and misgiving, as well as bird like over-busyness on my part, as if the script itself were a nest, urgently in need repair. The underlying cause, a complex, not-quite-right script scene, and my dread of Sacred Sun’s vulnerability to the domino effects of small changes, and the difficulties they could inflict. No matter how I tried to think things through, I could not establish what the problem was, nor really if there were a problem, let alone a solution. Such were the script’s fragile, tissue like meanings, any hidden mistake might render lifeless.

Then the unexpected turn (as you call it), the three-in-the-morning wake-up by insomnia, and impulse to question again the apparent flaw in the script. The answer, and resolution, arriving almost in the moment. “Of course! My God! A script now doubled in meaning!” As if the very thinking-through had itself been the barrier, the ‘real mind’ having unravelled the problem all along (though inviting-in the real mind cannot be done directly). And this is where having constructed a writer’s statement earlier had helped, in its struggle to clarify and justify the script’s meanings. Working this back in, would finally knock the script into shape.

American Dream Screen : Collaboration is integral in bringing a screenplay to life on screen. Could you share a memorable experience of working with a director, producer, or actor, and how their input influenced and enriched the script?

Michael Louis Gould : I have not yet worked with a producer, director or actor on Sacred Sun, though this is not quite accurate. A friend of mine, director/cinematographer, to whom I gave the script to read, who afterwards expressed interest, said one thing of it, that he did not like the ending. At the time, it was all I needed to hear, because I didn’t either. I had only written a tentative ending, in advance of a real one, which was precisely what my friend’s direct honesty was to lead to.

That said, I have worked with a number of producers, and a director, on my other main script, resulting in many rewrites and revisions, producing, in the end, a script that had somehow got itself into an overworked state, and that needed ‘leave to recover’. Many opinions had been accommodated (spoiling the broth utterly), resulting in the script’s out-and-out exhaustion. Months later, clearer in recalling the spirit in which I had originally written the script, I reinvented it completely, benefiting then, immensely, from all the effort and advice received.

American Dream Screen : Dialogue is a powerful tool in screenwriting. How did you craft the distinctive voices of your characters, and can you share a line or moment from your screenplay that you are particularly proud of?

Michael Louis Gould : Either I bring in characters from real life or I bring in stock characters, who may go on to be amalgams of real and/or stock characteristics. Ultimately, it is about what works, and what will be potent and cinematic enough to command reader and audience attention, powerfully. As for dialogue, critically, I try to be concise, to not abuse or become reliant upon it, though I hesitate to quote here from script, knowing how easily dialogue can fall apart, out of context.

American Dream Screen : The life of a screenwriter can be filled with highs and lows. Can you describe a moment of doubt or a challenging period during the writing process, and what strategies did you use to overcome these obstacles and keep your creative spirit alive?

Michael Louis Gould : I don’t think a scriptwriter should adopt a deliberate coping strategy. Not a ‘clever’ one, at least. It won’t work. Keep going. Perhaps fail at things first, before thinking seriously about writing scripts, so you may suffer less from doubt and disenchantment along the way and be resilient. A low came for me when a script of mine went into full production, only for tax incentives and funding to be withdrawn, and for all activity to be brought to a standstill. I was disheartened. I will say this though, had the production continued, the script would not have been of the quality it is today, and may well have made the poorer film. There are several wisdoms to take from experiences (most are obtainable on the Net). For me, just keep going.

American Dream Screen : As you look back on your journey as an independent screenplay writer and the creation of this unique script, what do you feel is the most significant lesson or insight you've gained about the art of storytelling and filmmaking that you would like to share with aspiring writers and filmmakers?

Michael Louis Gould : It comes down to talents, not to an ‘art of’ that can be shared. As Oscar Wilde says, nothing worth knowing can be taught. Which, talent wise, is true (and he will have meant this). I once attended a scriptwriting course at which a lot of us sat at a huge table, fastidiously being ‘taught at’, all heads down for the taking of notes. All except my head, that is. A curious sensation, it was, for me, to not fear for not taking notes. All I learnt was that I had wasted the course fee, which had made the fee the more worthwhile. Is it arrogant of me to say this? Yes. I speak conceitedly. But from experience, long suffering, out of my own, past failings and ordinariness, in education and in work. In writing, even. I say to all, stick to your talents.

Gould's ability to conjure fear and suspense through the written word showcases a rare talent in the world of horror. 'Sacred Sun' is more than a screenplay; it's an immersive journey into the macabre, a testament to Gould's prowess in weaving nightmares into narratives. As the shadows recede, we're left with a newfound appreciation for the artistry of fear, and Michael Louis Gould stands as a maestro in this haunting symphony of storytelling.

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