Writer and Creative Thea O’Conor on “The Neighbour”

Thea O’Conor, Photo credit T. O. Conor

Thea O’Conor is an Australian creative who has had a passion for writing since she won a primary school competition at ten years old. Since graduating from university she has been involved with a number of independent short films and documentaries in various roles, from runner to solo-producer. She is an online content creator and has produced promotional material for social media. At present Thea works as a mental performance coach and is soon to commence post graduate studies in film.

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?

Thea O’Conor: It’s validating and humbling, because I know there is so much talent out there. I’m chuffed (that means happy in Australian)!

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

Thea O’Conor: The idea for The Neighbour came from a night where I was sitting in my apartment and looking out over the city, reflecting on the kinds of relationships people have and what makes those relationships “real”. The story is about two people making a connection through music and empathy, without ever meeting or even seeing each other face to face. It doesn’t have what would generally be considered a happy ending, but I think it has a hopeful one.

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

Thea O’Conor: I would have to say I’m a bit of an eclectic. I love writing, whether that be fiction, self-help hand books or even policy guidelines, but I also really enjoy creating visual media. I love the editing process of film and video, of crafting a story through imagery that doesn’t necessarily need a verbal narrative.

NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far?

Thea O’Conor: This is a fun question to think about because I’ve written a lot that never got further than the top drawer of my desk! Usually, I focus on short film formats and tend to write scripts about characters who find themselves cut off from their usual supports, such as surviving some kind of apocalypse or dislocation event. I like exploring what that means to different kinds of people.

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

Thea O’Conor: The most fun I’ve had in a project was one that ended up being canned before completion. It was a short sci-fi film, made as a passion project when I was at university. The script was a humorous tribute to sci-fi tropes and was definitely quite bad. It was one of the first collaborative projects where my script was being developed by more than just my one person band. I really enjoyed working with a small crew where we all had a great deal of creative input and even though the project was cancelled during post-production, it helped teach me some of the fundamentals of working with a team.

Another project that was hugely rewarding personally was a short documentary I produced about skydiving. Skydiving is a sport I am passionate about and it was fantastic working with members of that community to tell their stories.

The final project that comes to mind is a shot documentary I made many years ago that detailed my recovery from a fairly serious hang-gliding accident. It was a personal story and putting it out into the wide world had me feeling very vulnerable. But I think it’s important that as a storyteller I am willing to be vulnerable, and despite many uncomfortable stomach wriggles, I’m incredibly glad I did as it’s one of the things that has helped me learn I can be both vulnerable and confident at the same time.

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

Thea O’Conor: Well, good ones I hope. But more seriously, I would like to write scripts that play with different ways of telling stories. In terms of story genre I’m probably most comfortable in the sci-fi or fantasy contexts. I’d be happy to write for stage, film, or TV, although I recognize that there are differences between all of these. Overall I think that I want to write scripts that challenge me as much as they (hopefully) challenge and intrigue the audience.

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

Thea O’Conor: Understanding that characters have their own motivations, values and perspectives. They have experiences that have led them to where they are and that have shaped what they believe and what they care about. As a writer I think it’s essential to honor that about your characters, even those incidental to your plot. I think this results in a story that feels authentic, even if the setting is a fantastical.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently in the development stage for a web series based around table top role playing games.

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

Thea O’Conor: While some might not immediately think of this as a creative outlet, I run table top role playing games (like Dungeons and Dragons). Some of the things I love about TTRPGs is the world building and collaborative story telling. Recently I have started looking into animation and the possibilities of that for story telling in that. And while I’m not very good, I have been studying aerial silks for the past couple of years and really love the creative process of that kind of physical performance. I guess all of those come down to different ways of story telling.

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

Thea O’Conor: Do things that give you intrinsic satisfaction, but don’t under value yourself. So if you enjoy writing, write. Seek out and listen to advice, but trust your gut.

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