Finding Success Thousands of Miles from Hollywood: Q&A with Screenwriter Adrian Milnes
For some screenwriters trying to break into the industry, it may seem like only the same people get ahead and living in Hollywood is the only location for success. But that’s not the case for writers using InkTip. Once again, I had the pleasure to talk to another screenwriter with his first produced feature credit thanks to a connection through our site.
Adrian Milnes, the screenwriter of Bridge of the Doomed, grew up in Merseyside, England where he worked as a civilian technician for the Air Force for a decade. He then moved to Hong Kong and now resides in Australia, over 13,000 miles from La La Land. As a self-taught screenwriter, Adrian believes that he may have saved time if he took a screenwriting course or two, but everything seems to be working out fine now with the release of his first feature and another writing project in the works.
I got to chat with Adrian about Bridge of the Doomed, his career, and the age old breakfast food question.
Chris Cookson: Do you prefer to write in one genre over another?
Adrian Milnes: Action, thrillers and horror are my favorites. I could never see myself writing something like Downton Abbey or a rom-com.
Chris: What is the story of Bridge of the Doomed, and how did it come to you?
Adrian: During a zombie outbreak, a group of soldiers have to hold a bridge against an expected undead horde but then find what lives underneath the bridge to be just as deadly. I wanted to write a contained military horror but do something a bit different. I remembered how when I was a kid my dad had taken me around the locations of the WWII landing Operation Market Garden (filmed as A Bridge Too Far). I only appreciated it over ten years later, how something of little importance can be absolutely vital at one point in time.
Chris: How did your background working with the Air Force help with the story and characters?
Adrian: Working for the Air Force certainly helped me with understanding the command structure, group dynamics, and military dialog. It helped also with adding elements to the personalities of the characters. The character Sharrock, however, was inspired by the bass player in a band I used to play with, so inspiration can come from anywhere.
In some zombie movies the military are shown as being in a wild panic, and I always felt that was wrong. The military are trained to hold it together no matter what. Robert LaSardo was excellent in his portrayal as the general, somebody who is always in control and dealing with the problem, no matter what he feels inside. He's ex-military so he had plenty of experience to draw on. Eight of the actors in this movie are ex-military, so it does feel authentic. Wesley Cannon was able to answer any of my questions about the U.S. Army, and we had Lance Caver on set as the military advisor.
Chris: Who was your favorite character to write for Bridge of the Doomed?
Adrian: Private Sanders was a great character to write. He’s a decent man who is torn between following orders and looking out for himself. The actor portraying him, King Jeff, did an amazing job of bringing out the character’s humanity, and I’m sure great things will happen for him when the movie gets released.
Chris: What was the most challenging part of writing the script?
Adrian: Right from the start the script attracted a lot of investors, and we were able to broaden the scope of the story. It went from eight characters to over 60. So taking something intentionally small and making it a lot bigger was the hardest part. I received a lot of support from Michael Mahal and director Michael Su, both of whom saw things in my script that I didn't.
Chris: Bridge of the Doomed is your first produced feature. What went through your head when you realized your script was going to camera?
Adrian: When I heard it was going to be filmed with Robert LaSardo and Michael Paré, I thought it was too good to be true. I’m a big fan of both of theirs, and I didn’t totally believe it was all going to happen until the last day of filming.
Chris: What are your favorite films, and how has that influenced your writing?
Adrian: I’m a big fan of movies like Predator and Dog Soldiers, and their influence is pretty obvious, but I’m also a fan of Hong Kong gangster movies, and their influence is there in a subtle way.
Chris: You are currently working on Bloodthirst with Michael. Can you tell us about that project?
Adrian: The director Massimiliano Cerchi approached me through Facebook. He needed a writer and had seen my name mentioned in connection with Bridge of the Doomed. After agreeing to work together, he asked me about Michael and Sonny Mahal and ended up approaching them to work on Bloodthirst together, and that’s when I got hired.
Chris: What has been the most challenging skill for you to develop in your writing?
Adrian: Learning to write fast has been really hard. I used to take about two months to write a script, but now I can write one easily in a couple of weeks.
Chris: What’s one thing you wish you knew earlier in your career?
Adrian: Write a movie producers will want to make, not the movie you want to see.
Chris: You’ve been using InkTip since 2016. What’s your advice to writers who haven’t had their break yet?
Adrian: Apart from being aware of what producers are looking for and writing scripts that can be filmed on a small budget, I’d say make sure you have a Plan B and try and have a part of your life separate from movies. I know some people that have nothing else.
Chris: Pancakes or waffles?
Adrian: Waffles, especially the Dutch ones with syrup.
Chris: Thank you for chatting, Adrian. Anything you would like to add?
Adrian: I hope a lot of people will see the movie when it comes out. Kate Watson is excellent in this, and I’m sure it will be a breakthrough role for her.