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Gimme Shelter: An Interview with Kevin O’Neal


Please tell us about yourself. How did you start your career, and how did you get into writing screenplays?

Writing started at the age of seventeen when I had to write an outline for a screenplay in English Class. I was a shy kid that didn’t want his story chosen. I wrote a screenplay about an ex-gang member who changed his ways, but police didn’t like him and wanted to lock Bill Thomas away for past suspected crimes. When a member of the old gang commits a murder of a rival gang member, Bill is at the scene trying to render assistance. Police arrest Bill and frame him for the murder. I used street language to make it seem authentic and my story was used. I actually loved putting it together. I wrote other stories that my brother and friends loved but my parents saw me as non competitive and pushed me to go to college and get a job. Writing took a thirty year hiatus. Between working, marriage, the armed forces and child rearing, I was just to busy. The result is Gimme Shelter Part Three, Part Four and Part Five. There will be more as the series goes on.


As a writer, who or what are your influences? What writers have influenced you and why?

After having worked many jobs and feeling I got nowhere, I decided to return to writing. I always wanted to write a book, movie or series that would scratch the surface of any of these industries as good. I am primarily self driven although two deceased family members and friends told me they liked the screenplay. These were influenced me to keep going. Since I was a kid I was fascinated with the military and police work and incorporated both into the story. In some instances I use personal experience and things that have happened to others. Some of the writers who’ve influenced me are Clint Eastwood, Robert Dinero and Ben Affleck. I may not have ten percent of what they do, but love writing about some of the same things. I love write about military, police, action, love stories, a touch of religion and depression. I threw all of this plus a lack of faith and empathy in the bullies.


What is your vision as an artist? What types of stories you endeavor to tell through your work?

What is my vision as an artist? To be an educator of the public through stories. Although Gimme Shelter Part Three isn’t a documentary, I have known many stories that I tell of good and bad situations. I never give any real names to protect the innocent and not so. I don’t have any more than the cold facts of what happened to the kids and adults, so I bit and pieced the story together the way I saw it. I put my name in place of the affected kids early in the story and also show some of my own experience as a young ADD with hypoglycemic seizuring. I also want to be a writer that allows the reader to let their mind go on a ride.


What type of stories do you wish to endeavor to tell through your work? My work will be primarily in the drama area. Such as in Gimme Shelter Part Three. As long as outside the current series, many of my stories will not be as graphic. I like to write love, police and military stories. Despite I was never in a live naval battle or on a live ground battle, there are other than that in the armed forces. There are many stories of police performing other than killing criminals in the streets. In other words, the large list of other things they do. I try to show most elements that make a story. Love, action, depression,sex and religion or the lack there of. I look forward to completing the Gimme Shelter Series and writing other stories.


What is your creative process? How do you decide on the plot, the characters and their traits? What advice would you give to those who want to build a career as a screenwriter/filmmaker?

I generally don’t use all steps in the creative process. When I begin preparing a story, I don’t start writing until I have thought the story through from start to finish and organize my thoughts. If my thoughts are scrambled, I write them on paper in the order I want the scenes to be. At times I have written scenes up to three times until they are where I want them to be.Once everything is organized, I let my pen do my talking..


How do I decide the plot, characters and their traits? I always write in the drama and action areas. That makes things easy as far as the genre and plot. I like love stories with action and emotion. I try not to think too hard or I have to put the story down due to frustration and getting nowhere. I come up with the characters with light though while I come up with the plot. I then think of what I need in my characters to pull the plot off. A key is not to think so hard it’s counterproductive. That’s when you have to put things down awhile. The big thing I do is organize my thoughts and write them down. It works like a puzzle and the traits of the characters come through to make the plot work. Once everything is organized, I let the pen flow and things get easy.


What advice would I give to those who want to build a career as a screenwriter/filmmaker? Prepare for a lot of disappointment at first. The reason I say this is you have to have a story that holds the attention of the agent and film company throughout and the first ten pages can make or break the screenplay. You have to realize this is a very competitive field for many years. You also have to have a known agent. Many movie producers and film companies take work only from agents they know. This may be the thoughest thing to achieve. For example, after my screenplay was done, I started calling production companies and getting turned down in three to five seconds and hung up on. Time Werner Company turned me down, but was nice enough to have an in depth conversation with me on what I needed to do. The person I was talking to said that not only Time Werner but other big producers and production companies only accept work from known agents. It was nice of her to take the time to let me know about what I was up against. Prepare for disappointment, but if you have what you need with your story and a good agent, things can work.


Where did the idea for Gimme Shelter Part Three come from? Was it from your own experiences? Please tell us about the story and its background.

After six years in the Navy, I wanted to write a police story of a veteran reintegrating with society. It took about fifteen years to start writing Gimme Shelter Part Three. Some of the story involves things that happened to me or someone else. I use my name in all instances to protect the innocent and not so. This is the story showing a great marriage between two people who are crazy about each other. When If things go wrong in Jack’s career or personal life, he turns to the loving arms of his sexually addicted wife Mary.

Zara


Some was from my own experience, but most is fictional. One of the things I have experience in is ambush from the New Jersey National Guard. We trained to set am ambush up and defeat one. This is seen in the first scene. The second scenario from my own experience is the creation of Mary. She is a rare sexually addicted woman who can keep her ways in bed with one man. I have dated two women I took care of in a hospital under observation for sexual addition. One was considered suicidal and the other had severe anxiety. All of this was bought on from harassment over there sexual habits. Although both women let me know I’m not generally the type guy they see, they both were willing to. Mary is like the second woman I saw who told me from the start I couldn’t make plans on her. My relationship with her was about a year when I was informed she found the right person. She offered me a lifetime friendship, but sex was over. She attended mental health sessions to keep physical love between two. From what I knew it worked. Her husband was a police officer in the PA National Guard who deployed for over a year. She buried herself in her childrens life and a sewing business. The whole story is fit around this, military and police work.


Gimme Shelter Part Three was written using some of my personal and professional background. Even though my active years in the military were in the Navy, my ground forces experience comes from the New Jersey National Guard. This is where the Army Troops encounter an ambush in scene one that they defeat. Although I have no police experience, I was able to put a story together from things I heard from several people I know that got out of the military and joined the police force for family reasons. Both preferred the military. I formulate Jack Bordowski as an Army Corporal leaving the military and reintegrating with the police force in his old precinct in Brooklyn. I came up with Mary in my own experience. She is modeled after the second woman I dated with severe anxiety due to being harassed over her sexual addiction. The only difference is that Mary comes up with her own answers. The story evolves around an old fashioned marriage where people still need each other and work together.


What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing and how have you overcome that challenge? What advice would you give to those who are interested in writing screenplays?

My biggest challenge had to work itself out. My biggest challenge was finding time to write at all. Between working several jobs and having to take care of my wife and kids, I had hardly found hardly any time to write at all. At times I only had an hour or two one or two days a week. At times things were so bad I had to drop writing for six months or longer. Finally, as health got better with health and my wife returned to work, I was still working a lot of overtime but dropped two jobs. The dropping of two jobs helped although I still worked overtime. The second challenge I had to come up with something on my own. How do you write when you have time, but you’re dead on your feet due to overtime in a heavy labor job? This challenge was answered by writing an interesting screenplay. I could sit up for hours writing of love, sex, family and action stories. I come from a highly dis functional family. The Bordowski’s are for the most part a close family with one disfinctional member. That would be Dallas Bordowski. She is at conflict with her mother most of the way. I put a number of things of my disfunctional family life into Dallas. Males and females can have like views and I put some of my views on certain issues in Dallas Bordowski.


What advice would I give to those interested writing screenplays? This field is tougher than it seems. Just when you think writing the story is the end of the job, you find out that’s only the beginning. I found out the hard way. I spent about six months to a year writing movie companies with a log line to see if they could use new material. Very few wrote back. Most didn’t respond. Then I started calling the different movie companies. I usually got a quick No and hung up on. Finally I called Time Warner and the secretary was very nice. She informed me no one is taking independent work without an agent. Although I had one, he wasn’t known by Time Warner. In other words. You need an agent and they must be known by the different companies. My current agent is known in Hollywood and he told me it averages two years for new screenplay writers to get their materials taken. I am now on the second year. In other words, this can be a long tedious process. Be prepared for disappointment. Once you get your first screenplay taken, things get easier.


How do you think building a career as a screenwriter is different today? Has it become easier or more difficult to have one’s scripts made into films?

At one time independent screenwriters could market their own work with a catchy log line. I went as far as reading books on it. Today that is obsolete and ineffective. As described by the secretary at Time Warner in question six. Everyone thinks they have a great screenplay and many manpower hours are wasted looking at mountains of stories that for various reasons won’t be used. Today you need an agent that movie companies and producers know. That also means you need the money to get the agent. No one will market your work for free. I learned the hard way writing and calling different movie companies and producers. I thank Time Warner for hiring courteous people who set me straight. I couldn’t believe I was told how to get things done today when she knew Time Warner wouldn’t hear from me again.


As for the second part of the question, it has become more difficult. You need a known agent and no one works for free. The formula starts with a good script that fits company format, a known agent and the money to get one. Who knows how many great scripts were never seen due to lack of an agent and money. The day you can market your story with a stamp and great log line are long gone for beginners.


How was the screenplay received at film festivals and screenplay competitions around the world? Please tell us about your festival run.

Gimme Shelter Part Three has been well received and has been awarded around one hundred fourth five times. These awards have come from the United States, Canada, India, Russia and the Orient.


My screenplay was about three hundred pages long. The screenplay was so long it was selected to only three of twenty-seven festivals and screenplay contests. Before I shortened it up, I entered festival’s and screenplay contests in Russia, India and the Orient where I was regularly selected and awarded. To make clear on Russia, it was pre invasion of Ukrain. I haven’t supported them since. I wanted to start competing in the United States and Canada where it’s tougher to win. About sixty percent of my awards come from India, Russia and the Orient, but I only compete in the US and Canada and the awards are catching up.


What are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in the future?

I have written Gimme Shelter Part Four and Five. Part Four is about the O’Shea family and the unstable ride Dr. O’Shea gets with two bipolar women in his life. We center on Sandra OShea’s evolution from an unpopular nerd to a very popular girl. It starts out with Sandra O’Shea being beaten up by bullies and thrown into a closet. Sandra learns to defend herself and through a series of fist fights with girls that though guys stay away from, gains the respect of her peers. With a little help with her appearance, becomes a girl that many popular guys want to date. Boxing becomes an outlet for anger problems. This is the story of a totally disfunctional family and all of there evolutions. The two stories will become one further down the line. The story will then center on my marriage to both girls at different times. It will have many twists and turns. I simply have to decide when.


The Gimme Shelter Series will continue for many years. I would like to write a love story without all of the sex and violence and try my hand at comedy.

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