Interview with Vera Casaca : Women In Filmmaking

This is the first of our series featuring women in the film industry who are making strides to leave their mark while encouraging other women to do the same. We wanted to give you an inside look into their world, no matter the stage they are in their journey of filmmaking.

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My name is Vera and I see myself as a citizen of the world. One of my grandmothers was American and the other one was from Angola, but I was born and raised in Portugal. I have lived in four different countries and my passion is to tell stories!

When did you fall in love with writing (your defining moment)?

I was 17. And I cried tears of joy. Putting it into context: I was young, naive and I had never been beyond the borders of my small country, Portugal. There was a radio contest open to everyone, to write a one page science fiction story. I wrote 12, all hand written. I couldn’t stop writing. I was so into it! I felt so free, I could create a world, names, a story, and it was magical. Months later they called to let me know they were taking me to the USA, to NASA. The space center. I couldn’t stop crying in disbelief. This is still one of the happiest moments of my life.

What defines a good story?

That’s a tricky question because stories resonate with you for different reasons. To me, a good story is something that takes me on a journey, good or bad. I’m so involved in it, that I almost forget that what I’m watching is fiction, because the story, the characters, the events, the details, are so well crafted, that the barrier between the screen and I it’s seamless.

 

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Writing good dialogue is one of the toughest things to do. How do you give each of your characters an original voice when they speak?

Personally, writing dialogues is one of the things that I struggle with. We want it to be the best it can be: well written, interesting, and preferably full of subtext. A way that I found that helps me is: when I finish writing a screenplay, I read it again, and next to me I have the characters’ description/backstory (I always have those) and then I cut and paste all the dialogues of each character into a blank document. I focus only on that, because I can see if that character’s dialogue is coherent with him/her. I like to do one re-writing focusing exclusively on dialogues. Plus, after writing the entire screenplay you have a much better grip about how characters are, and therefore how they speak. So I find that this way of working on dialogues on a later stage works great. Try it!

Could you name 3 non-screenwriting sources writers should be learning from to better their craft?

Check YouTube Every Frame a Painting and BAFTA Guru’s contents, they are wonderful. And the book: Hitchcock and Philosophy: Dial M for Metaphysics. I also need to add this one, I met her in NYC, but was a fan way before! Please check Marie TV, from Marie Forleo, she keeps you in check if you have a dream and need to grind!

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How can writers learn to deal with rejection?

This quote stuck with me, “There’s never a failure, I win or I learn”. And it’s true. I’ve been rejected several times and I must confess there was a part of me which was temporarily upset “oh they just didn’t get it”. But… Who cares, maybe the script really sucked, maybe there were more interesting scripts/films than mine. So dust yourself off and keep going. Re-write. Write new things. Film a new story. Don’t stop. But I must add, if you can’t deal with rejection then you should change your dream. You must have very tough skin to survive in this ruthless arena.

What’s your daily writing routine?

It depends. When I am co-writing I go to the office during the morning or afternoon and we bounce ideas back and forth. It can take months even before we write the first lines. It’s a more freestyle, in a way.

When I am writing by myself and I am very methodical. I wake up early and I must start working. Working doesn’t necessarily mean that I am writing lines on final draft. I could be developing characters backstories, making the line of major events of the 8 sequences, writing random ideas for new projects like: the name of a character, what she’ll say, etc. Or I am studying, which I consider as part of my work, as one must continue to educate oneself.

So you can find me listening to an informative podcast, or music that inspires me, or reading a new screenplay (currently I am reading The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson). Anything that helps me to get better at my craft. At the end of the day this can be draining so to unwind I go for a walk or make a small yoga practice right in my bedroom!

 

Writing is solitary how do you deal with this?

Thanks for asking this question. You are there, in your office or bedroom for several hours, and your lips don’t even move. You are alone, besides the imaginary friends you’re creating. By now I am very used to this, so I think I can handle it. But for those who struggle with it I suggest to put some music on (if it doesn’t distracts you, Spotify is your friend). Take a few breaks, where you move around, call a friend, have a Skype conversation with someone, etc.

 

What’s next for you?

At the moment I am applying for funding to produce a short film and co-writing two features.

Solo projects include directing another short film, writing a dark comedy feature script and start a web series to help out fellow filmmakers, particularly screenwriters. All of it until the end of this year!

How can our readers keep in touch with you?

Vera Casaca

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