Writer, Actor, and Story Coach Neil Chase on “Boneyard Racers”

Neil Chase – writer, actor, story coach, Photo by Sean Gordon

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?

I’m honored to have my screenplay, Boneyard Racers, named a finalist at ISC. This is a world-renowned competition that has opened doors for many writers and helped them make their film dreams a reality. Likewise, I hope to use this great placing to further boost the reputation of my script, as it can only help to get it before the right sets of eyes. My goal with this script is the same as for all my scripts – to get it made into a film. The higher the level of recognition, the better the chances of that happening, and International Screenwriting Competition is among the highest.

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

Boneyard Racers is a horror action-adventure screenplay, about two teens who, after losing a drag race on Halloween night, must team up with a crossroads demon to steal a world-shattering prize in exchange for their souls. The script has only been in a few competitions thus far, but it has already won awards for Best Screenplay, Best Fantasy, and Best Demonic Action Comedy from a number of festivals worldwide, including Hollywood Dreams Film Festival, Vegas Movie Awards and Hollywood Horrorfest.

It was a lot of fun to write this story based on my short film of the same name. With an amazing production team, a wonderful cast and crew, a selection of fast and unusual cars, breathtaking cinematography, and an original soundtrack, the short had a stellar festival run, winning at festivals the world over in just about every category. The biggest criticism I received was that the short doesn’t tell enough of the story and needs to be turned into a feature film. With that, I took the bare bones of the short and expanded on the world, the characters, and the overall mythos to craft a story that’s as unique as it is exciting, and I can’t wait to put it to film one day soon.

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

I come from a technical background, which is about as far removed as it gets from the worlds of acting, writing and filmmaking. But growing up with a love of movies and storytelling, the creative bug never let go, and the transition from hobbyist to full-fledged writer and actor was inevitable.

I’ve been writing since I was little, and I’ve been acting seriously for about the last dozen or so years. What started as a creative outlet to balance my work life, steadily grew more prominent as I found increasing levels of success in film. I was fortunate to start gaining accolades for my written work early on, starting with having a short story printed in junior high, and then winning awards for my scripts once I worked up the nerve to enter them into screenwriting competitions.

But the moment it became real was when I first saw other actors breathing life into my words. It’s one thing to simply write a script, but it’s something else entirely to watch them come alive through another’s performance. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being surprised that people want to read my work or want to bring my scripts to the screen. It’s as humbling as it is gratifying.

NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far?

I’ve written over 20 feature screenplay and dozens of shorts. Of those, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few produced, and I’ve been brought on board other films to provide rewrites and story coaching services. It’s a long road from the page to the screen, and I’m thankful each time I can be part of the process, whether with my own scripts or those of others.

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

I’ve been fortunate to be involved with so many amazing projects, in front of and behind the camera, from features to TV movies to short films to audiobooks. That said, the three projects that stand out most are the action adventure, The Academy, which was my first leading role in a feature film; my debut audiobook, Iron Dogs, which allowed me to give voice to my words in a thoroughly unique way, complete with sound effects and original music composed by my producing partner; and my upcoming supernatural thriller, Spin the Wheel, which allowed me to take the reins as director and writer both. There’s no better feeling than to bring your own script to life on your own terms, especially surrounded by such a dedicated and talented cast and crew. Each of the above was a first for me – as an actor, as a writer, and finally as a director. More than that, each was an amazing experience that either led to lifelong friendships and opportunities, or was a direct result of the same.

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

I love genre films. From action to horror to fantasy and sci-fi, the story possibilities are as endless as the ways in which you can write them. I’ve found a fair amount of success already as a genre writer on the festival circuit, and I look to expand on my written work and filmography over the coming months with new scripts, a new novel, and my upcoming feature, Spin the Wheel.

That said, I’ve been fairly versatile in my offerings across a wide range of film types; though a number of times, it was by request or on assignment. For example, I never considered myself a romantic comedy writer, but when the first opportunity to write one came along, I took it. Other writers might have passed, feeling unsure, unprepared or uncomfortable stepping outside their chosen lane. But I saw it as an exciting challenge to expand both my repertoire and my professional circle. I’ve written or worked on a number of rom-coms now, and they’ve actually led back to more genre work. That speaks to the circular nature of this business. What matters most is results, and I pride myself on putting everything into each script I write, whether it’s for myself or for others.

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

Realism. Any character, whether the lead or a supporting, whether grounded in fantasy or the “real world”, should come across as a fully three-dimensional being, with wants and needs, with fears and failings, and with strengths and opportunities to better themselves. Whether they do or not is up to the writer, but the choice must be there for them to make, and we need to understand why they make their decisions and act upon them.

I strive to give each character in my scripts a distinct voice, a distinct personality, and a distinct character arc. They need to show that they either changed themselves or those around them, and the best way to do that is to make them as real and relatable as possible.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

As someone who spends as much time in front of the camera as behind it, it seems like I’m always busy with half a dozen projects at once. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way!

The past year or so has brought with it a holiday TV movie (Christmas with a Crown), an experimental short film done primarily with still photos (Smile: It’s Only the End of the World), a feature thriller (Broken), a pair of gritty action shorts (Quiet Enable and Imperfect Terrain), as well as the audiobook version of my award-winning debut horror novel (Iron Dogs). I am currently narrating my fourth audiobook and offer narration and voice over services for authors looking to bring their stories to life.

On the writing side, I’m currently working on a new horror novel and fleshing out a number of new script ideas. I’m also excited for the future of Boneyard Racers, the script being recognized by International Screenwriting Competition, and which has already won a number of awards in other competitions. It’s an ambitious project to say the least, but you have to dream big to be big, and I can’t wait for the day it goes to camera.

I’m also increasing the level of my services as a story coach, teacher and writer-for-hire. I’ve offered screenwriting classes and seminars in the past, and due to overwhelmingly positive feedback, I am expanding my services to include more online content as well as one-on-one mentoring, particularly in terms of genre storytelling. Helping other writers elevate their work has been extremely rewarding, and the feedback I’ve gotten from both novice writers as well as seasoned professionals tells me I’m doing something right. For anyone interested in help with their written work or in finding out more about the latest developments and offerings, reach me through my website www.neilchasefilm.com or social media (links below)!

But one of the most exciting developments has been a new partnership, called Brimstone Pictures, to create inspired, original content on a budget. After the success of our short films on the festival circuit world-wide, we started principal photography this past fall on my Nicholl-placing script, Spin the Wheel, which I am also co-directing.

It’s a story that takes place in real time, about the last 90 minutes of the end of the world, and a supernatural twist that might be the key to preventing it. I purposely wrote it to be filmed in a single primary location with a small cast and crew, and really focused on the story and characters, with an emphasis on strong dialogue and real heart. With a wonderful cast, amazing locations, top-notch cinematography, and an original and eclectic soundtrack by some of our favorite musical acts, such as Punch Drunk Cabaret, David Heacock, and Colleen Rae, there’s something in Spin the Wheel for everyone. At this point, there are only a few minor scenes left to film, then it’s off to the editing suite. If all goes right, look for Spin the Wheel on the festival circuit this fall!

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

I love all things film and all things storytelling, and I’m always looking to expand my knowledge and experiences as they relate to those fields. Besides acting and writing for film, I’ve branched out into motion capture work on video games, narration and voice over work, comic books and graphic novels, and even having a hand in board game development. There’s no limit to creativity other than time, and I want to expand into as many fields as I can in the time I have. And if I can further help others bring their creative dreams to life, then it makes the journey all the more worthwhile!

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

Everyone has something to offer. I love being in a room with other writers, actors and filmmakers, especially if they are more talented or experienced. There’s always something I can learn from others, and I thrive on exchanging ideas. Like the adage says, “Be the dumbest person in the room.” It’s the best way to learn, especially if you can set aside ego and preconceived notions. And the best way to do that is to treat each interaction as a new opportunity, whether to learn or advance in your chosen field.

Real opportunities are rare in this business. The key to success is not only to recognize an opportunity when it comes, but then have the courage to act upon it. Take a chance. Don’t let your fear hold you back because you’re not sure what to do next. Say yes first, then figure out how you’ll do it later.

Our experiences define us, and the more people we meet, the broader our worldview. That can only help our creative process.

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