My Secret

Even though a huge chunk of my focus and time these past months has been directed towards the short film Et rom uten utsikt (A Room With No View), it has not been the only project I have been working on. I have also been writing a feature screenplay, but decided to keep it a secret.

Once in a while I have mentioned it in passing on Facebook and Twitter, but never really referring to what it is about. And a few times I have just mentioned I have a secret, without elaborating any more about this.

The Norwegian title of the screenplay is Hemmeligheten, which is The Secret in English. So my references to my secret has just been a play on words.

Writing this screenplay brings me full circle to how I started writing for film in the first place. I hope this also marks the start of new «circles», which lead to a more productive era. Productive meaning production-wise.

The Secret has been with me for almost ten years. It started out as a play with words – a few lines the stuck in my mind, that would become the opening of a novel. I spent a few years working on it. A mystery that I was not quite sure where would end or what lay at the core. A writer friend of mine read the novel and suggested that I consider rewriting it for film.

The novel was a very bad first draft and needed rewriting no matter what. I saw much of the plot in pictures in my mind, so I decided to give adapting it to a screenplay a go.

A while later I had my first 90-some page screenplay in my hand. Having nothing to lose, I sent it to a production company. To my surprize, they called me within a few weeks. They weren’t too interested in the screenplay I had sent, but wondered if  instead I would consider playing around with an idea they had for a film.

Of course I was.

That was my first step towards becoming a screenplay writer.

I grabbed the opportunity, quite my job and never looked back. It was pretty clear early on that I had no clue to what I was doing, so that project slipped through my fingers. I met a lot of great people in the process, though, and learned a lot. One of the people who crossed my path was film director Alexander Eik.

He had just directed his first movie at the time. There was talk of him directing the project I was writing, before it went belly up. He went on to direct 4 more cinema movies and 2 television series.

In the meantime, I took a few steps back and decided to get a grip on learning to write screenplays.

The basic story of The Secret (which has had several other titles) followed me. I went back to square one with the idea when I was accepted in a writer’s workshop a few years later. Filmkraft Rogaland hired dramaturg Kirsten Rask to help a handful writers and aspiring writers develop each our own screenplays. My story transformed during this process and I got my first real writing grant to complete it.

I was pretty happy with some of it, but felt there was some things not quite right. I tried collaborating with a few others on it, but it never really amounted to much. I also sent it in to a couple of film companies, but none of them wanted to take it on.

After several rewrites, I had come to the point in which I was about to call it a day with that particular project. It’s not like I have a lack of ideas. On the contrary, I have so many story ideas that even if I lived ten lives, I would not have enough time to write them all.

However, something about this idea intrigued me so much that I kept bringing it out of the drawer.

I gave it one last go towards the end of last year. I sent it to the Norwegian Film Institute’s screenplay development scheme, with a letter of all the intentions I had for the story. The improvements I thought it needed and basically a little cry for help to let something from the story survive.

I was very surprized when I was invited to discuss the project with them! They accepted me into their scheme and awarded me a grant, providing I found a director who was interested in the story and could assist me in developing it.

Once again, Alexander Eik and I crossed paths. I asked him if he would be interested in reading what I had. He was. He came back to me with one radical idea, that would change everything but the most essential part of the story. The bottom line in the plot remained the same and the tension between the characters also would be carried over. The idea he brought onboard actually increased the intensity of both the plot and the characters.

I feel in love with his idea, so we decided to work on it together.

The grant went through in January, so Alexander and I have been playing ball on this project ever since.

I completed the final rewrites and adjustments this morning and mailed the screenplay over to the Norwegian Film Institute shortly after.

That is why I feel like I have come full circle. Now it is time to get this screenplay out in a more production focused phase. It is way too early to say anything about where-what-who-when it can become a reality. For now, I am very happy to have completed writing the screenplay.

Working with Alexander has been amazing and I hope that this is the first of several projects we will collaborate on.

So this is has been my secret: I got my first full writing grant from the Norwegian Film Institute and have spent the past 4 months writing a feature length screenplay with a very talented film director.

And the storyline? After the death of her father, a Norwegian-Pakistani woman discovers she has an unknown twin sister in Pakistan, but her mother refuses to tell her anything about this sister and why she has kept the sister’s existence a secret.

The rest I will leave for you to see at the cinema. Some day.