Craig Peters wrote The 49th Day which captivated our judges. It is about a young girl’s imaginary friend who starts killing her family off, one by one. But what can you do when you’re only nine, and Death wants to play? This dark tale of love and loss through the eyes of a child is both haunting and emotionally uplifting, a validation of life in its purest, most sacred form. Check out what Craig has to say about his writing and what inspired this story.
What inspired you to write THE 49TH DAY? What's your favorite part about the script?
A few years back, a friend of mine was riding his motorcycle home from work when a bus jumped the highway median and landed on him. Writing THE 49TH DAY was my way of grappling with his death. Death comes to us all, and I wanted to create a character who would take it on, face to face. Who better than a courageous young girl with a vibrant imagination? Her heroic struggle to save her family is what drives the story. That’s the core and my favorite part of the script.
What is your writing process like?
Once I get the basic themes and structure in my head, I always give the characters a chance to find their voices — that is, I try to let the characters speak rather than always stuffing lines into their mouths. I have a background as an actor, so I’m always playing the parts as I’m writing them, always asking when I breakdown a scene, “What does this character want?” I go into full bore Stanislavski Method mode, find the characters' motivations, and then let it rip. I let my characters speak.
What other projects are you working on? What's next?
My last couple of scripts have been highly-charged, passionate, and emotionally-draining stories to tell, so now I’d like to dive into lighter fare. I’ve got an idea for an action / adventure / comedy about a family that goes camping in the high Sierras. They’re fishing in an alpine brook when they hook a large chunk of gold — then the locals and the police try to steal it from them. The family that only wanted a peaceful vacation in the mountains suddenly become the hunted. Working on it should be a lot of fun.
What kinds of stories do you tell? What kinds of stories are your favorite?
I prefer writing thrillers and comedies, though my work often crosses genre boundaries. I’m also often drawn to stories that have a supernatural element. Adding a layer of the strange and unknown can be quite compelling.
Who most influences your writing?
Those who most influence my writing are the people in my life, my family and friends, and I use them as the basis for my characters. Once I’ve got the characters, all I’ve got to do is put them into situations where sparks will fly. In terms of my favorite writers, it would be Shakespeare, Steinbeck, John Irving, Anne Tyler, Louise Erdrich, and many others.
What's the best piece advice you've been given about writing?
To tell the stories that I want to tell, not to chase someone else’s dream of what might sell. I’ve had a rich and varied life, brimming with passion and conflict, and that’s what I bring to my writing.
Why do you write?
In the words of Bertolt Brecht, “Art is not a mirror to reflect reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” My artistic vision is to enlighten and transform society. I write because there’s no loftier calling than to be a storyteller, a spinner of powerful tales, a weaver of the fabric of culture. THE 49TH DAY tells the story of a heroic girl who takes on the most lethal foe imaginable, Death itself, and lives to tell the tale.