Jasmine Smith on “The Northwood”

Jasmine Smith, 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?

Jasmine Smith: Putting my work out into the world is always a little terrifying, so being an ISC finalist really drives home the little voice that always told me I could be successful. In all my years of writing I never took the chance on a competition like this, and for my work to make it this far on the first go is immensely satisfying.

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

Jasmine Smith: The work I submitted for this year’s ISC is ‘The Northwood’. Coby Rae Taggart is a cattle rancher who begrudgingly takes in her niece, Shasta, after the death of her brother and sister-in-law. After Shasta reaches adulthood, the two are forced to confront not only their own generational traumas but a mysterious force that is making people disappear in their rural region of Ontario.

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

Jasmine Smith: I was the kid in class who got in trouble for reading under the desk when I should have been focusing on some other subject, and as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been writing. It’s one of my first loves, being both fairly easy for me as well as highly rewarding. Screenwriting is a new endeavor, one I grasped quickly, while I normally write long stories and have a few unfinished novels.

NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far?

Jasmine Smith: The Northwood is so far my most completed script, but I have a few others in the same vein. I lean towards environmental works – even if the subject is a horror like The Northwood, the landscape is its own character. Speaking of horror, it is easily my favorite subject, even though it isn’t everything I’m working on right now.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?

Jasmine Smith: This is the early stage of my journey into screenwriting, so I don’t have any other completed projects – yet. That is quickly changing.

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

Jasmine Smith: My eyes are always drawn to nature, and my scripts go the same way. No matter which genre I’m writing, I want to write more scripts that take place primarily outdoors, involve the elements, and again, use the environment as a character equal in importance to the people involved. I suppose I could call what I want to do ‘Landscape Character Studies’.

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

Jasmine Smith: The most important thing, to me, is nuance, and to not confuse excitement with complexity. Action is always fun, but I find many characters in some hastily written stories could be replaced by a live hand grenade and achieve the same effect. Alternatively, someone deemed ‘The most boring person in the world’ might be the more interesting character if they are fully fleshed out.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

Jasmine Smith: I have two current projects: another horror on a much smaller scale and a drama/thriller. Horror is home for me, it’s easy and so much fun, but the drama is my most complex undertaking so that’s quite exciting, to challenge myself this way.

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

Jasmine Smith: Screenwriting has made me consider acting. I love studying the method, but I haven’t made any actual attempts yet. I used to spend a lot of time sketching and painting as well. I learned ink and watercolor works shortly before the writing bug bit again, so I’ll pick my fountain pen back up when it’s time to take a break from screenwriting.

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

Jasmine Smith: Just get the story out! Don’t edit, don’t worry about grammar or pacing, don’t even worry about any audience except yourself. Just write, write, write, until the story is done. The saying goes; “You can’t edit a blank page”. And I truly believe in writing as a form of indulgence, so just write what makes you happy until you’ve reached the end of the story – then you can really start to think about how to present that work to the world.

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