This month we catch up with Dr Jesse Blackadder.

Passionate about words, Jesse is an international award-winning author of fiction for grownups and children, an inspiring public speaker and a creative writing teacher. Jesse has also been working closely with Screenworks to deliver the Books to Screen program and is a board member of Byron Writers Festival.

Tell us a bit about what you do in the Screen Industry and how you got involved. 

IMG_0244Five million years ago, when films were still edited on Steenbeck flatbed editing machines and held together with sticky tape, I majored in 16mm film production at UTS. I made a little stop motion animation that the State Film Library wanted to buy after our student screening at the Chauvel (though I was such a disorganised student I never got around to fulfilling the order – thereby blowing my first chance of earning some money as a filmmaker). My second student film was a dreadful postmodern thing that inexplicably attracted a little Australian Film Commission postproduction funding and is thankfully lost in the mists of time.

However, my heart was in literature and I went down the road of becoming a fiction writer instead of pursuing film.

Fast forward a (fair) few years, and here I am with a number of novels under my belt, and my attraction to the world of film still niggling away. Over the years I’ve turned up at workshops (including a memorable three days with Robert McKee in Sydney) and applied to do full time screenwriting at AFTRS (narrowly missed out, so they told me). Screenwriting approaches have had a huge influence on me as a novelist, but it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve seriously knuckled down to develop as a screen professional. Development clinics through Screenworks, and being selected for “In the Writers’ Room” (where I observed Matchbox Pictures plotting a TV series), have pushed me along and sharpened my interest and understanding. This year, Steve Van Mil and Charlie de Salis of Bangalow Pictures have optioned one of my novels and I’m now working with them on the feature film screenplay – at last putting all the theory and thinking into actual script writing.


What’s the project you have most enjoyed working on, and why?

As a board member of Byron Writers Festival, over the past 18 months I’ve worked with Ken and Lisa of Screenworks to develop and run Books-to-Screen, a project that mentors author-screenwriter teams to create adaptation development plans of novels. Although I’m not a participant, I’ve been an active eavesdropper and I’ve learnt a lot about what’s involved in adaptations and the different demands of novels and screen formats. The pilot of Books-to-Screen is culminating in a few weeks at Byron Writers Festival, when the three participating teams pitch their projects to a panel of screen industry executives. Come and watch! It’s at 3pm on Sunday 7 August – if you come to Elements Byron Bay, you’ll be able to get into the last hour of the festival for free.

How long have you been living and working in the Northern Rivers?

I moved here in 1999 and my writing life took off creatively straight away – it was absolutely the right move for me. My first novel, essentially a love letter to Byron, was published in 2005 and I’ve been steadily working as a novelist since then – with three adult novels and three junior novels published, and another just finished.

What is important to you in running a successful and creative regional business/ working regionally?

Being able to travel easily, and being able to meet others in my industry or related industries. That’s why I so appreciate the work of Screenworks and Byron Writers Festival, creating professional networks and opportunities.

Tell us a bit about what you have been working on most recently?

Two major projects. First is an adult novel This Doesn’t Happen to Us, with funding support from the Australia Council. It’s about a family whose toddler drowns in their backyard swimming pool, exploring if redemption can ever be possible for them. I’ve just finished it, which is a relief.

Second is the screenplay of Paruku The Desert Horse, based on my junior novel. It’s a coming of age story, inspired by real events, about a girl who captures a wild brumby and follows him to Dubai, where he becomes an endurance racehorse. Watch this space.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us about you and your work? 

I’m really excited to be at the start of a new chapter creatively – transferring my storytelling skills to screen is scary, inspiring and challenging. It’s been a dream for a long time – I’m a big fan of making dreams happen.


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