Screenwriter Spotlight: James Francis Richards

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

My name is James Francis Richards, I was raised in Queens, New York and currently live on Staten Island, New York. I love everything related to art, visual art in particular and love to create images of all types.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

I love Sci-Fi and wanted to find a way to put my own spin on it. I wanted to combine elements of Afro-Futurism and music and ritual and bring that into the Sci-Fi genre. The concept began brewing around 1999 when people started talking about Y2K and all of our computer systems crashing down. I worked on it on and off, and then put it down for almost 20 years. I came back to it in 2019 when I had all the pieces I needed to complete the vision.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

I wish I could say there was some organized plan. With my other screenplays, there is a system beginning with understanding the themes and values I wish to explore, creating bios for all the main characters, outlining the major movements of the story and then trying to craft that into a draft of a script. This project bounced around for many years, looking for the bits and pieces of inspiration to get through the numerous dead ends. Eventually, all the ideas began gelling in the last couple of years.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

I have always loved writing, but in many ways it was always intended to be a means to an end. The end being the creation of some kind of film or video project. In order to get there, the must be plan and that is where the writing comes in.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

I saw “Stranger Than Paradise” by Jim Jarmusch and “She’s Gotta Have It” by Spike Lee and was amazed that anyone could make movies like those films. I found out they both went to New York University’s Grad Film Program and I was determined to go there. By some miracle I got in. There, my professor screened “The Seven Beauties” by Lina Wertmüller and my brain could not believe what it was experiencing. I realized anything was possible in cinema, that there are really no limits other than imagination. That was such an inspirational moment I carry it with me to this day.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

I have to admit an admiration for “The Purge” series of films. The premise is strong, the world building is very believable, maybe too believable, and the casting is always solid. It’s genre filmmaking that is also embedding a lot of social critique within its structure.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

My favorite moment is at the end of Sidney Lumet’s “The Wiz” when Diana Ross sings the “Home Song”. She is giving it all she has while singing that song. Gets me every time…

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

I can’t say there is one, but a character I keep coming back to is Elliot Gould’s version of Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye”. He is irreverent, confused and for the majority of the film out of his depth, but he doesn’t give up and his sense of justice and it drives him past his shortcomings. I find myself thinking we can all use some of that right now.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I would love to talk to Jimi Hendrix and ask him how he was so free.