Tom Jolliffe

Tom Jolliffe - writer of The Baby in the Basket

The nuns at St Augustine's convent prepare for an incoming storm. Just as the storm is arriving, a baby is left by the door of the chapel and is taken inside. Young Sister Agnes is overcome by fear that the baby is a demon, or the devil incarnate and tries to kill it. Locked away, Agnes is desperate for God's guidance, whilst her fellow sisters are each challenged with a crisis of faith as tragedy befalls the convent.

Interview with Tom

What topic do you discuss in your script? And why?

The Baby in the Basket deals with a number of topics, including faith, religion, superstition, rationality and cabin fever. We also discuss the idea of hysteria and how one idea can spread quickly through fear. That aside the script is a gothic horror story and we pay homage to a classic era of those films with flawed characters.

How do people feel after reading your script?
The response from cast and casting agents has been very good so far. It has excited people, gone in unexpected directions and for the respective actors they have appreciated the character depth.

Do you think that films can change people for the better or for the worse?
How much a film effects someone is down to the person. Violent films have had a profound and very occasionally negative effect on people in the same way as most art and literature. On the positive side it’s easy for many to fall in love with film. Some films have a more profound effect on people than others and most cinephiles have a small handful of films that changed their life and outlook, or even just their notion on what a film could be.

According to 3-act dramaturgy, how would you define your story?
Although most films can be broken down into 3 act structure, I find rigid adherence can sometimes effect creativity. Some of the greatest films have felt formless and fluid where the shifts between acts feels almost imperceptible. In the Baby in the Basket we still have a distinct shift between acts once a baby is left on the steps of a remote monastery. Sister Agnes believes the child is the spawn of the devil and has to be shut away, but her beliefs and strange events begin to affect the others. The third act shift sees a crossover of faith to faithless and vice versa in two of the central characters.

How does the main character develop?
There are clear journeys for all lead characters which are impacted not only by their past, but the present events and growing mania within the monastery. For the two main leads, Agnes and Eleanor, these are polar characters and their journeys follow a similar path in opposite directions.

What actors do you imagine in your project (typologically)?
Several of the characters were written with cast in mind and allowed me to create characters suited to their skills, but also to give the cast a challenge that they may not have had before. Other roles have been put aside for older cast where we hope to cast well established actors who carry a weight and gravitas.

Why do you think your script should attract director?
I worked with the director in developing the story, one which is lighter on dialogue and allowing for a story to be told with rich visuals. We wanted to show and not tell and this allows the director to showcase their visual storytelling and likewise the cast to convey minute subtleties in their performance when they can’t convey something through words.

At which festivals did you receive the award?
The screenplay has been nominated for Best Horror Screenplay at the Kosice International Film Festival. We have a few more festivals on the horizon for the screenplay. The film will shoot in October and then in its finished form, play some festivals in 2024, where we hope it will receive some awards.

Which screenwriters are your favorite and why?
Robert Towne, because Chinatown is one of the great Neo-Noirs and an exceptionally written detective story. It’s dark, nicely layered with exceptional dialogue. My all time favourite script is Withnail and I by Bruce Robinson. Colin Farrell is a fan too and put it best, “there’s not a wasted word in Withnail and I.”

About which topics are your screenplays?
I have written almost every genre. I do write a lot of horror as a commissioned writer, though distributors often focus on linear and simple horror like creature features. My own preference are horror films which are more cerebral, psychological or layered. Films you can watch again and analyse. I also love writing comedy but rarely get the chance as there is very little demand.

What motivates you the most to write screenplays?
A passion for film and writing. I love to explore so many different ideas and characters.

What are your plans in future careers?
To continue screenwriting but I am also branching a little more into producing as well. This gives me more creative control on what I make and create the kinds of films that best represent my own tastes.

Learn more about Tom and his work