Interview with Addicted Screenwriter Christina Welsh
This weekend I had the opportunity to have a very pleasant conversation with screenwriter Christina Welsh. Her newest film, Addicted, opened this past weekend. Studio projections have the film opening at number 7 at the box office, which is an impressive number for a film opening on less than 1000 screens nationwide. We had a great conversation about this new film, her career up to this point, and Rocky.
Me: You have a film coming out, Addicted?
CHRISTINA: Yes, today
Me: The screenplay you adapted from a book?
Me: same title, it was written by …
Me: It’s an interesting story, what drew you or brought you to this project?
CHRISTINA: Lionsgate had the rights to the book, and they put out a call industry wide, and my agent submitted me for that. I had read the book and really enjoyed it, wanted to put my stamp on it, so I went in and got a meeting and I pitched 30 passionate minutes about how I would turn this 325 page book in a hot screenplay, and they brought me in two more times and I got the job.
Me: the film just opened, have you had any good feedback?
CHRISTINA: I have heard from a lot of fans on Twitter that are really excited, there was a special screening last night, a preview that fans were able to buy tickets to. A lot of people wound up seeing it last night and fans on twitter seem to be enjoying it and fans of the book seem to be enjoying it and I’m hearing pretty good things from the fans right now. That’s really what we’re going for is the audience response, and how they’ll turn out, the fans of Zane’s book and William Levy, one of the stars and has a huge fan base, we’re very excited for him and hopefully they’ll mobilize and get to the theatres this weekend.
Me: Adapting a book into a good screenplay can be notoriously difficult, what kind of challenges did you run into?
CHRISTINA: well I’ve mentioned before the length you’re dealing with a 325 page book that spans 20 years and you have to turn that into a 90 to 100 minute movie that tells the core story. You have to look at that and say ok what can we lose, what is essential, what is the main story. It’s about a woman in the present day who discovers a sex addiction, she’s a relatable successful career woman, loving wife and mother, has a great life and goes down this terrible path. As addiction in many forms takes a lot of people away from their life and loved ones and from success and stability and security it’s an interesting journey for her because she is such a relatable person, so that is what appealed to me.
Me: The film just premiered, have you had a chance to see it yet?
CHRISTINA: Yes. I saw it a year ago, I saw a rough cut, and then I went to the New York City premiere on Wednesday nights. So that was very exciting I got to see the movie with the stars and the cast and the crew, so that was great, fun to see it again, and it’s always exciting to see your name in the credits, and I was part of this project and to see it come to fruition.
Me: This is your second film, If Only was the first?
CHRISTINA: Yes. My first was an original, If Only was my original script, so they were two very different experiences to make, the first was my baby that I handed off to other people to go off and make and this circumstance was the author handing my her baby, her popular novel to change into a film, so interesting very different experiences.
Me: If Only came out in 2004?
CHRISTINA: Yes, it was released theatrically worldwide and made its debut on ABC Family in America in 2006, and it’s on dvd and itunes and amazon, and all of that. So this is my first US theatric release which is very exciting.
Me: I can only imagine. From what I see you have had a fairly eclectic career, it looks like you are somewhat new to screenwriting?
CHRISTINA: Yes I have, and in terms of the screenwriting its new in that at this point I have a feature film coming out in theatres, but I’ve been writing and selling scripts for the last 15 years, it’s just that it takes a long time for things to get made if they ever get made. I’ve sold scripts and projects that do end up not getting made. That’s sort of the screenwriters life, you work on a lot of stuff that never sees the light of day beyond selling, if you ever sell it which is great.
Me: I read on your bio, you did some work with some improv groups?
CHRISTINA: Yes. I took the groundlings classes, and had a couple showcase performances at the groundling theatre. I met some really funny people through that experience and we formed a group and had a couple long running shows in Hollywood, a live theatre production, one was a sketch comedy, and one was a full length musical we wrote and all stared in, and that was a lot of fun. But it is very different from screenwriting because you’re sitting by yourself in a room writing a script with no one to bounce ideas off, then there is improve and sketch comedy, a troupe like that, you’re constantly around that energy, and feeding off the energy of other people so those are two very distinct experiences.
Me: Yeah I’ve had a fair amount of exposure with a couple imporv troupes, it is a great amount of fun.
CHRISTINA: Yeah it’s funny, like summer camp for adults. It’s great training ground too, I think, for writers. I have a performing background, but a lot of writers are introverts, so when they have to go in and pitch, which is what I had to do to get the Addicted job, you have to go into a room to pitch for a job or assignment, to pitch their idea they have to sell themselves in the room, and so many of them are shy, or not skilled at asserting themselves in that element. So improve is great training for that it teaches you to be fast on your feet, and loose in the moment, improvise where you need to kind of change things as you go along were you need to, so I think that kind of background, I’d recommend that very strongly to any writer to take an improve class. It just looses you up, if I can get on the stage and make people laugh or not make them laugh and not think it’s the end of the world, then I can walk into a studio or office and pitch my idea.
Me: that is actually amazing advice. I understand you have some new project you have been working on. Is there anything you can share?
CHRISTINA: Yes, I have a new erotic thriller, and original screenplay that’s making the rounds right now. It’s called Rue, It’s Hitchcockian with twists and turns, it’s a love story it’s a mystery, a lot of fun and I’m hoping to get that set up somewhere.
Me: that sounds great, I hope it works out, do you have any ideas where that might go, or leads?
CHRISTINA: It’s just barely getting out there, with the timing of the movie, we’re just getting feelers out now. It use do be if a script didn’t sell by the end of the week it was dead. Because things would sell very quickly it they were going to sell at all. But nowadays things take time and you find a producer and they would put a cast together and get a director get them attached, there are a lot of moving parts there didn’t used to be, it used to be you could put out a script on Monday have it sold by Friday, but it’s more of a long term process now.
Me: I really enjoyed your writing on If Only, do you have any writers you draw inspiration from?
CHRISTINA: Like screenwriters or writers in general? When I was growing up I love the Little House books, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. A lot of books that had a very strong heroine and where the heroine had a job or a purpose or a hobby, something related to perusing writing … that is usually what I was drawn to as opposed to a classic romance where the heroines there just to get the guy. As a screenwriter there are a lot of great writers out there, I would say that Rocky was a script that influenced me because it made me want to be a screenwriter. I was in the theatre seeing people react to the boxing scenes they were standing up and cheering, and this was the movie they were doing this for, I thought, if I could do that, if I could write something that gets a crowd going, whether its cheering or crying, or laughing or being overjoyed in this amazing immersive experience, that’s what I’d like to be part of. So Rocky really influenced me, and there have just been so many great books and experiences that little bits and pieces have influenced me all the time.
Me: Rocky really was a great script.
CHRISTINA: It was a terrific script; it really defined the underdog genre, against all odds. And it’s the story behind the movie, he held out for the lead when he could have sold it for a lot of money … the Rocky behind the scenes was the story that happened on screen, the whole thing really influenced me. I was a young actress and wanted to try to write my own Rocky at some point, actually If Only was, I imagined that for myself, but the timing was wrong and it would be better if someone like Jennifer Love Hewitt played that part, I think it worked out.
Me: That’s all I have for questions, Thank you for taking the time. Addicted opens today, and good luck.