Spotlight: An interview with Martina Lisec ("Flight AD4515")
-Martina, congratulations on winning Best Horror Screenplay! Before we chat about Flight AD4515, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and your background? What made you interested in storytelling?
First, I would like to thank the entire LAFA team for recognizing FLIGHT AD4515!
I was born and raised in Austria and currently live in Vienna. Since I was a child, I’ve always been passionate about creating stories, I’ve started writing in early childhood when I was in convent school. I’ve always used to love watching movies and reading fairytales. I remember my first story I wrote, when I was around 10 years old, was about a mystic cherry tree, but unfortunately, I threw it away at that time. I sometimes had a tough time when I was a child, especially at school. I used to be very shy and full of doubts. I got bullied for being overweight among other things, plus I got accused by teachers a few times for not writing my essays by myself, even though I put a lot of effort in it. I guess after all such circumstances I kind of tried to find something to escape my surroundings for a brief moment and apparently that led me to write and to dive into different worlds.
I’m the only one in my family who is involved in the film industry. In 2009 I received my first film making diplomas in New York and Los Angeles, rounded up with a BA degree later from London. I was involved in various film productions the last few years, but I want to keep my focus more on screenwriting and developing stories now, to go back to my roots. In addition, I’ve worked very hard on my physical appearance in recent years and also became a qualified personal fitness trainer.
-Who are some screenwriters (and filmmakers) that inspire you and what do you like about their work?
Todd Philipps, Jordan Peele, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, James Wan and Austrian filmmaker’s duo Ulrich Seidl & Veronika Franz, just to name a few.
I enjoyed watching Jordan Peele’s work, Get Out, for example. I was intrigued how he created such a story filled with social issues that turns into a great psychological horror.
-You hold a degree in Broadcast & Film Production. Would you recommend going to film school?
I generally think that attending film school enables anyone different kinds of possibilities to find their right paths in the film industry. It gives you a glimpse in those areas, where you might see yourself working at in the future. You receive a lot of opportunities to develop and strengthen your skills and own potential in various ways and as well to meet talented people.
-Let's chat about your award-winning screenplay, "Flight AD4515". It tells the story of three friends, Steven, Mary and Egon, who attend a flight to Bucharest. Mysterious things happen on board, people disappear and become victims through uncanny events. What made you decide to write your first horror screenplay?
At this time when the idea of FLIGHT AD4515 was born, I was in my hotel room in Oxford in 2019. I came back from a very exciting trip visiting Stonehenge, it was raining the whole evening and I had two choices to either work out or to write, I’ve decided to do both. I’ve noticed in recent years that I get very creative during my workout sessions, just switching off my head and going with the flow plus being on travels boosts my imagination. I was watching a lot of movies from Stephen King at that time too, I’ve been a huge fan of him for years and I assume that kind of gave me that certain influence.
- Although the script is only 38 pages long, and most of the plot takes place in just one location (an airplane), the plot twists could hold a full-length feature film. How do you keep the reader intrigued in terms of structure and plot points?
My intention is still to create a feature film of it in the future, but last year it turned out to leave it that way as a first step - not as a final one.
It was a little bit challenging to me to build as many unsuspected occurrences as possible combined with the right timing in order to keep the suspense and the reader’s interest. Everything happens in a very narrow place, where people hardly can’t move and don’t really expect something special to happen, while the plane is still on the runway. The difficult part of it was to create a completely unexpected twist, that the reader would never have guessed what kind of uncanny things can happen on board.
Like in real life everything is unpredictable, nothing remains the same, even when people are trying to overcome something, the situation can suddenly change for the better or worse.
- In "Flight AD4515", you used some classic elements of the genre to create a character's background story, such as Steven's camcorder and heart rate monitor. Steven's camera, for example, plays an important role, and provides another dimension to the story, as Steven must record the entire flight as part of his therapy. How do you create a character's background?
I have done a lot of research on what people would do if they are afraid of flying, if there are any tools, which could help them to conquer their anxieties. That’s how I came up with the ideas like in this story, where Steven is using a camcorder and a heart rate monitor. In quite a lot of therapies, people use confrontation as a last part to finally fight their fears, but in Stevens' case it isn’t the last thing he has to deal with.
The audience should associate themselves with the character, they should even start feeling his pulse rate.
- From the moment Steven, Mary and Egon enter the airplane, weird things happen to them- from Steven's lavatory scene to the angry priest and two strange men- this flight seems like a nightmare for your main characters. In the end, all the dots connect into one terrifying climax. Tell us about your writing process. Do you usually know the end when you start writing?
When I’ve started writing it, I didn’t really have the end of the story in my mind at the beginning at this time, it has kind of developed that way by itself. I like to let the characters lead me to the finale.
I sometimes tend to use good or bad events like engines, which give me the drive to continue my writing process, which often then causes sleepless nights.
-The concept-poster for Flight AD4515 really captures the horror aspect of it. How did you go about creating the poster?
Together with a friend of mine, he is a very talented graphic designer, I’ve designed the poster. I came up with one picture I had in my mind, it should be a first visual strong and significant image which should remain in the viewer’s memory.
-Flight AD4515 received international recognition and won several awards! How do you feel about the screenplay's success so far and do you have plans of production yet?
I’m feeling so honored and I’m beyond happy that my first horror screenplay made it that far with a worldwide recognition. It’s still in a festival tour and I hope for further success and to find producing partners and actors as well.
I don’t have any production plans yet due to the current situation of Covid-19.
I hope that in 2021 there will be a chance to realize it and of course to have a suitable location to shoot at.
-What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
I’ve written another short horror story plus I’ve developed ideas for a feature film, one of it will be a story based on true events. Regarding my screenplay, FLIGHT AD4515, I’m going to do a revision on it and to continue to turn it into a feature.
-Where can our readers follow more of your work?
My IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6143125/
My Email: firstname.lastname@example.org