Dennis Hassell (with Imago’s Green Ink Project) is an internationally recognized faith-based scriptwriter.
He will be one of the keynote speakers at Write! Canada 2013.
Dennis, by way of introduction, tell us about your faith journey and how God led you to where you are today.
I grew up an “Angloholic” in BC to age 12, then switched to First Baptist Vernon.
Timeline? Bible School, evangelistic street theatre, mainstage Christian theatre, Hon. BA in Drama (University of Alberta), marriage, 17 years as the founding artistic director of Brookstone Theatre Toronto, last 8 years as a freelance script writer with some teaching and producing thrown in. My wife is proof God is good and He loves me.
How did God lead me?
I don’t think God leads us to a linear goal like a mountaintop, as much as God leads us in a dance, to perform with Him. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2 . . . Well, God sure tries to lead me, but I step on His toes—a lot. 1-2-3, 1-2—agh!. I’ll get it. Just a few more decades, I’ll be dancing with the stars. 1-2-3, 1-2-3 . . .
Your company, DHP (Dennis Hassell Productions) is based in Toronto and tours across North America. What is this ministry all about and how successful has it been?
DHP is all about telling stories that help folks understand the kingdom of God in their world and in their lives.
Successful? Tonight I was asked by my coach if I saw my career path as a bowl of cherries or trial by fire. I blurted out “Cherries Jubileee” (flambéed).
I can’t determine if we are being successful, but we are being faithful. And we are busy. Scripts are being produced in 11 countries in four languages. Next month, our new website launches with perusal scripts for theatres, churches, colleges, and high schools.
You will be one of the keynote speakers at Write Canada 2013. What is the title of your presentation and what can conference attendees expect from this presentation?
The title is “Breathe.” I’ll be presenting principles of faith-based writing illuminated by stories themselves. Attendees can expect to be stimulated, affirmed, and challenged, which is my personal definition of what Christian community does.
Besides being a scriptwriter, you are also an actor and conduct workshops and one-man shows. How effective is drama in communicating the gospel?
In crude and explicit ways, drama is not necessary. If you want to simply preach, then preach. But if you want to speak in parables . . .
Christians too often use drama as a tool, like using a violin to prop a window open. Non-Christians effectively convey tons of worldview values and messages without being explicit or crude. It’s a tsunami of medium/message, from a toxic sea, and our response must be creative, not didactic.
What advice do you have for anyone considering becoming a scriptwriter? Where would such a person start and what qualifications would he or she need?
As Goethe said, "The way to start is to start."
A scriptwriter needs to see, hear, and feel the scenes and the people in them, and then write them down.
A scriptwriter needs to put herself into the scene and into the characters—even the villains. Novelists put character before plot; poets put dialogue (language) before plot; scriptwriters put story above everything.
If you can write a completely surprising turn that is totally believable, you may be a scriptwriter. If you can tell some friends about an embarrassing scene you had in a restaurant, playing all the characters convincingly and have your friends howling in laughter, you may be a scriptwriter.
If you can spend hours hunched over a keyboard and intermittently weep, cackle, yell bad words, cut out 80 percent of your brilliant work, and then realize you went through lunch and the sun has gone down, you may be a scriptwriter.
Scriptwriting is creating a story that literally becomes real. The word becomes flesh.
Dennis was interviewed by Fred Ash of the Write! Canada PR team.