Interviews

Interviews

The following is from an interview with 2020 Winner, the talented Audrey Webb.

What's your background? How long have you been writing?  And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? 

I began my career as an actress, and through my work with Theatresports and The Second City, I have a lot of experience in improvisation, a skill that has helped me tremendously as a writer. I had written many comedy sketches, but always on my feet and with other people. The first work I ever did as a “sit down in a chair in front of a keyboard” writer was as an arts columnist for a (now-defunct) weekly publication in Edmonton, Alberta. After I gained experience in structuring those stories, I began to write short stories and screenplays, many of which were prompted by participation in the NYC Midnight Madness competitions. Writing for characters is a logical extension of my love of theatre and performing.

What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? 

In 2019, I completed an MFA in dramatic writing at Texas State University. The (now-defunct) degree program included a substantial number of screenwriting courses. In fact, I developed “Dead Name” in an advanced TV writing course in my final year of studies. Prior to my MFA, I had taken screenwriting courses through UCLA Extension and at Austin Community College, where I wrote my very first spec script for the TV show “Southland.” That script made it to the second round of Austin Film Festival. For several years, I also participated in the (now-defunct – I swear it’s not my fault!) MoviePoet challenge, in which a theme would be announced on the first of the month and you would have until the month’s end to anonymously submit a short screenplay. Members of the MoviePoet community would then provide feedback and rate your script. I learned a lot by reading scripts on that site, and by listening to the comments that I and others received. I was really proud when I won a monthly competition on that site with a comedy called “Forever Home,” which imagines a world in which we adopt and rehome ex-partners the way we do with pets.

What else have you written? What writing habits work for you?  Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? 

I’ve written numerous plays (both short and long), poetry, and mystery fiction. My first paid creative writing was for a short story I sold to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I tend to do most of my writing at home, accompanied by the soothing snoring of my trusty blue heeler, Fat Joe Finnegan, and my sweet pit bull, Miss Katy O’Houla. I’m not particularly a morning person, so afternoons are best for me. Since I know I’ll get only a few hours of writing in before the dogs start harassing me for their supper, I work with a sense of urgency. Having said that, I think it’s really important to avoid habits in locations and timing of writing, because they can quickly become superstitions – like, “I can’t write unless I’m wearing my bunny slippers” or “I can’t write unless there’s absolute quiet.” We can’t always wait for ideal conditions or for “The Muse” to show up. We have to be able to create content in a variety of circumstances.

What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?

My script is called “Dead Name” – it’s a one-hour TV pilot about a transgender homicide detective who is working in the same department and city that she did pre-transition. More than a standard police procedural, “Dead Name” is an exploration of power, who gets it by virtue of their job, who earns it, and how our culture frequently designates authority based on gender alone.

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? 

I do a lot of thinking about what I would like to see on the screen. I often find inspiration in magazine articles and news stories. There are so many fascinating lives being lived all around us. The inspiration for this script came to me from the phrase “dead name” – I’m a fan of murder mysteries, so I layered a double meaning on it, different from the way it is used in the LGBTQ community. For several years, I volunteered as a victim services counselor for my local sheriff’s department, and worked alongside first responders at many crime scenes. Witnessing how often we unthinkingly assign specific reactions along gender lines – assuming, for example, that a male officer would somehow be less negatively affected by a gruesome suicide scene than a female officer – made me want to write about someone who has experienced police work as both a male and a female, and explore how gender has made a difference in the way she is treated and responds to others.

Describe your process. Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?

My process depends on whether I’m writing for stage or for screen. I’m much looser about outlining when I’m writing for stage. For plays, I tend to sit and listen to the characters and allow them to dictate where the story goes. For screenplays, which are generally more complex in terms of locations and timelines, it’s critical to understand how the story operates on a technical level. I believe a strong outline gives me my best chance for a well-structured and completed script. When writing for screen, I start with a logline, followed by a beat sheet, then a very detailed outline. By the time I complete that step, I have all the locations sorted out, as well as the action lines – it then feels like all I have to do is add the dialogue! It might seem like following an outline would stifle your creativity, but I believe just the opposite. Having a solid structure in place and knowing your story makes logical sense allows you to concentrate on other aspects of story-telling.

What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?   

I’m so happy that I entered my work in this festival! The greatest aspect of my involvement has been making connections with managers. During my phone meetings with them, I received incredibly valuable feedback on my work as well as encouraging and supportive career advice. This has been much more than a confidence booster – having in-depth conversations about my script has helped me articulate my vision for this work and come to a greater understanding about my voice as a writer. At this moment, I have no suggestions for improvement on this competition – your emphasis on helping the writer make important next steps is so appreciated! You genuinely advocate for the writer, and with tremendous warmth – other festivals should look to you as a model for how to help their competition winners!

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future?

I am putting the finishing touches on a half-hour pilot I co-wrote with a friend I made at Austin Film Festival, and I am outlining a half-hour pilot I’m taking on solo. I am also a playwright, with several stage projects on the go, including a full-length play about an elderly woman who started living in her backyard after her fiancé jilted her at the altar decades ago and a children’s play about giraffes.

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?

My advice for anyone about to embark on any creative writing project is to create reasonable expectations for the outcome. For example, you can never say “I’m going to write something that will win an Academy Award” because that’s entirely out of your control. You don’t get to decide whether it does or doesn’t win an Oscar, so if you set that as your goal and it doesn’t happen, it might feel like failure. Instead, set yourself up for success with a goal that is within your grasp, such as “I am going to write five pages a day until my script is complete.” Actually scheduling the time in your day is also important for the successful completion of a project. Make an appointment with yourself and keep it. If you just say “I’m going to write for 15 minutes today” without knowing which 15 minutes you have free, you’ll find more often than not that your head is on the pillow before your butt was ever at your desk. 

Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA?

The connections I’ve made with managers as a direct result of this competition have given me a wider network, which will help me when I make the move to Los Angeles. My plans for that have come into sharper focus after hearing executives talk about my abilities and how they have been demonstrated in “Dead Name.” They’ve given me a lot of encouragement and plenty of hope. I also have entered this script in several other competitions and am waiting to hear those results. Fingers crossed, and I’ll definitely keep you posted!

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The following is from an interview with the talented Mariana Moneymaker

What's your background? How long have you been writing? And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting?
I’ve been writing and drawing since I can remember. I didn’t know that I could be a screenwriter till I was 30 when I was getting my BA in TV/Film. I wrote a few shorts for fellow students and my thesis was about a book in search of its story. I then went on to work in public access TV and documentary while I went back to school for my MFA in writing for stage and screen. I’m on the Board of The Bechdel Group where I read submissions for the season and give feedback. I write for stage and screen, produce readings, write in collectives, and write for submissions hoping to break into the entertainment industry. I am currently a Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Project fellow.
What else have you written? What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking?
I do all of the above. My process varies continually. From writing a conversation scene on my phone to bullet pointing ideas in my moleskine. I sometimes draw characters and write fake love letters from my characters’ perspective. There are days that I’m down and I have to force myself to write. That’s when deadlines help me get through it. Or I go on Twitter and reply to writing prompts. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Either for work as a digital communications manager or as a screenwriter.
Here’s a list of completed work
“Don’t Forget to Read the Fine Print” - half-hour TV pilot about three immigrant women who bond to survive New York City while searching for the 'American Dream.'
“Isabel and Her Purple Marker” is a coming of age web series about a young Latina girl who uses her purple marker to make sense of her reality.
“Boy or Girl?” is a spec script for “You, Me and Her” AT&T original series
“Lesbian Meets World” is a coming out web series, 1 season
"Cart Lady" is an one-act play about a homeless veteran told in parables
"Not Today" - a short love story during times of coronavirus

Here’s a list of work in progress
“Living in the Hyphen” is an original series about the misadventures of hyphened Americans living their best selves in the hyphen as roommates to survive today’s gig economy and support each other, most of the time. Season 1 is almost complete. Co-written with Yulissa Hidalgo. [Episode examples available on request]
“Sailors Club” is a one-hour drama about four women from different parts of America who join the Navy to escape their current life situations and find purpose. How far are they willing to go to leave behind their pasts and start their journeys to forge new futures as U.S. Navy sailors? [Treatment available on request]
"Daggers Club" - Five famous black queer performers during the Harlem Renaissance band together to navigate their careers, love lives, and family in the infamous Jungle Alley in Harlem till one of them gets the opportunity to head south to Broadway and bonds are broken.
"Hagåtña High" - a Navy Guam High School meets the new Navy Commander's daughter who walks through its doors intent on being top dog like her father only to find herself facing suspension on her first day and it only goes further downhill from there when her father decides to enroll her in a local high school.
Karen’s Anonymous - a half-hour satirical comedy about a support group for several women whose Karen moments were immortalized in viral videos and they now are dealing with the fallout. Will these Karens’ find redemption after they accept they are a Karen?
What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?
“Hick” is inspired by the real-world relationship between Lorena Hickok (Hick) and Eleanor Roosevelt. It's 1932 New York City, when Associated Press politics and crime reporter Hick, gets demoted and has to follow the wife of New York State governor, FDR. Hick's journalistic integrity gets challenged when she becomes Eleanor Roosevelt's lover. It brings her to a crossroads: continue her career as a renowned reporter or follow Eleanor Roosevelt, her lover, and best friend to the White House. Mostly, it’s a story about loneliness.

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script?
Inspiration is everywhere. It’s the ideas that are sticky to me that I keep coming back to that I start to develop. I keep notebooks of ideas.
A trip to Val-Kill in Hyde Park. Lorena Hickok’s picture was on the fireplace mantel with other family and friends dear to Eleanor Roosevelt. When I saw it, it was on a corner as if it was often picked up and held. The park’s tour guide briefly mentioned her. Then a few fellow guests shared more about the stories they had learned. I wanted to know who she was and read the letters the two of them wrote to each other.
Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?
Something I didn’t mention earlier about my process is that I belong to actors/writers collectives. I’m fortunate to be on the board of The Bechdel Group and I belong to the 9th Floor and others. This gives me the opportunity to regularly here my work out loud and how actors and audiences are interpreting my words. Both stage and screen writing are collaborative mediums to develop the final product. I think it is a vital part of my process to hear my words read out loud. The feeling of it too is motivating. The first time it happened to me was in college developing my Capstone. It helped me to keep going and have a community supporting you. Similar to the support I have received from this contest.
What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?
The LGBT Festival has been the most approachable, kind, and one of the only contests that has offered networking and followed through with the promise for its winners. I think writers need community. I think there is an opportunity to bring writers and actors together to create a collective to help build awareness around the stories that have won. Through informal readings for the writers’ can have support for their works in progress. The opportunity for a community to stay networked.

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?
Finish the screenplay. It’s only the start of the process. I have over 80 rewrites of my screenplay. I was dedicated to telling this story about Lorena Hickok from my perspective and that wasn’t going to solely be a love story. I actually see it as a story about loneliness.
Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA?
I’m working to start a BIPOC actors / writers collective. The Bechdel Group is now 6 years old. I invite writers with works in progress that pass the Bechdel test to submit to us. We now give feedback notes and if you get accepted for a season you will have your script read by working actors for audience feedback. I am currently a fellow with the Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Project. I’m on the #preWGA North East women and BIPOC writers list.

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The following is from an interview with the brilliant and talented Steve Buchan.       

What's your background? How long have you been writing?  And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting?     My professional background has been in banking for the last twelve years, and prior to that it was in retail management.  However, my educational experience has focused on writing and art.  I'm an incredibly visual person, so when I'm writing a story I'm "watching" it play out like a movie in my mind's eye.  Being a movie fanatic, screenwriting just made sense.

What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs?    I took a screenwriting class last year at my local community college.  That was when I realized that writing films was a perfect match for the way I told and envisioned my stories.   Learning about the "8 Sequence Approach" really opened up the craft of screenwriting and solidified my love for the art.

What else have you written? What writing habits work for you?  Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking?     I've written several short-short scripts that I've received great feedback on.  I also started a blog two years ago, www.purpledragonprose.com (shameless plug) which contains movie reviews and essays on whatever I felt like ranting about at the time.  I always write at home-I've tried to write when I've been out and about, but my handwriting is so atrocious I can never decipher what I've put on the page later on.  Seriously, my handwriting belongs on the walls of pyramids.

What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?    My film is titled Closer and it tells the story of a gay man who lost his lover of 30 years to cancer.  It's set a year after his death and shows him starting to move on with his life as well as reconnecting with his ex-mother in law with whom he had a falling out with after his lover, her son, died.

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script?    I've known several couples who, after a long term partnership ends, either by break up or one of them passes, the "in-laws" vanish, and I wondered what would happen to either myself or my husband (who is very much alive!) when one of us dies.  We are lucky to have incredible relationships with both our families, but for some reason, gay couples have always been treated as if their relationship don't count as much as a straight one.  I'm hoping to write movies with an LGBTQ focus that we haven't seen before.

Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?     I mentioned the "8 Sequence Approach" earlier, and that's how I start, with a basic, prose, 8 sequence outline.  Once I have that typed up, I just dive headfirst into the screenplay.

What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?        I had a great experience with the LGBTQ festival, and not just because I was chosen as a finalist!  Having my work read by people in the industry and getting some amazing feedback, that I look at as "on the job training,” was wonderful and has made me a better screenwriter.    I was especially happy that I wasn't required to follow a standard Hollywood formula in my story-telling, my screenplay was accepted for what it was trying to say.  And did I mention the feedback?  I was able to make my movie tighter and more streamlined because of it! 

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? With the feedback I received from the LGBTQ competition, I've rewritten my screenplay, and now I'm working on two other scripts, also with an LGBTQ focus.

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?     For me, the best pieces of advice I've received regarding writing of any kind is to write the first draft with the INTENT for it to suck.  The point is to finish it, then go back and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite....  Also, don't be afraid to let other people read your work...and don't be angry with them if they "don't get it"-it's okay if they don't!  It's all about communication, and if a reader doesn't understand, that's a cue for you to re-present your material in a different, more clear, way.  Positive feedback feels great, negative feedback is simply training.

Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA.  The greatest part of this experience has been added motivation towards my career goal of being a paid screenwriter.  Precious little on this planet gives me greater joy than writing, and being chosen as a finalist in this competition has given me even more motivation and encouragement to keep pushing for my dreams...what could be better than that?  The only downside was having to take a photo of myself for the PR photo...I'm usually the photographer, not the subject!

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The following is from an interview with 2019 Winner, the talented Mr. Matthew Barker.

What's your background? How long have you been writing?  And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? 

I started screenwriting about 10 years ago.  I had always wanted to write and I was looking for a creative outlet to help me deal with the stress of working as a counsellor in addition, trauma and grief.  I travelled a lot for work and so I spent a lot of time on the road listening to scores from movies from the likes of Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Clint Mansell, and others, and I was coming up with these stories that could be a film.  I said to myself one day, that I should write them down, and then there was this little internal dialogue of why I should and why I shouldn’t and the “yays” won, so I started putting pen to paper (so to speak).

What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? 

I have not studied screenwriting through a course aside from smaller courses like with Dave Trottier (Dr Format) and Screenworks Australia and studying screenplays by the hundreds, reading a lot of “how to” books and listening/watching podcasts and YouTube videos with screenwriters.  My biggest breakthrough was a producer picking up the phone several years back and wanting to talk to me about my work and help me learn.  They mentored me for a few years, so I gained incredible insight into the “dos” and “don’ts” of the industry.  The other big one I got was winning a national screenwriting competition with the Australian Writer’s Guild for the same script I won this competition with, OUT OF NOWHERE.

What else have you written? What writing habits work for you?  Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? 

I’ve written a few other scripts.  One called THEY WILL COME FOR YOU, which is a horror in a small remote mountain town with all female cast, including a transgender character.  There is also the horror MAYDAY HILL, which was optioned in Australia.  Then there’s another one called TROY TOWN, which has had a lot of attention with a few places in international screenwriting comps. I have also been hired in recent years by two US companies to rewrite the work of others, which were exciting opportunities.  I don’t get to write anywhere near as much as I want to.  I would love to write every day, but it doesn’t happen.  But, there’s always work being done, whether it’s networking, research, reading other scripts.  It does come in bursts for me, my writing time, so I can sit down and if I get a good couple of hours of solid writing time on a script, I am happy with the day.  I still have a “day job”, which does make it hard to write as often as I want, but hey you gotta pay the bills.  My ideal writing day is, get up, walk the dog, then write for a few hours before lunch.  That only happens when I have taken some time off from said day job, though.

What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?

The script I entered is called OUT OF NOWHERE.  It is about two young guys who meet in physical rehab after separate accidents.  One (Kelvin), from a football injury and the other (Ed) from a bike accident that almost killed him.  Neither are very good at relationships, mainly because they’ve never had healthy ones.  Kelvin is hiding his sexuality, so he’s only ever had secret flings.  Ed comes from a notoriously dysfunctional family, an absent father, and has only ever gone out with guys who treat him like shit.  So, not only is it about them learning to have a healthy, grown up relationship, it’s also about dealing with the issues of the world around each of them and whether they can have a relationship together and not sacrifice the men they are growing to be.  It’s also about the very male orientated, “straight” and somewhat homophobic nature of elite male sports in Australia.

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? 

Films, definitely.  I’ve loved movies since I was a kid.  Stories especially.  I would like to write short stories and novels someday, but for now my focus is screenwriting.  With OUT OF NOWHERE I had this idea about the characters and the issue of elite sports people coming out, especially in Australian Rules Football where it still hasn’t happened.  There are a lot more top sports people out in the world today, but when it comes to the Australian football, no players have yet come out.  Some players in some minor leagues have come out, but not yet in the AFL.

Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?

My process can change from project to project.  I do try to build a plot on the page through beats, but sometimes I get into the writing before I get to finish it.  But it’s great to have a reference point for if you get stuck.  You can always go back to the “drawing board” as the old cliché goes.  I don’t use cards.  I once bought a pack to start doing that because some writer somewhere said that was their process, but I never used them.  For me, cards are a step away from the script.  It removes from from the narrative.  Some people swear by it, and good on them.  To each their own.  I come from a counseling background, so I do get a very detailed character description in my head, like what motivates them, or they would react to something.  I will also spend a lot of time brainstorming scenes.  I can sit with a scene for hours or even days, playing it out over and over in my head, until I get it right.  Then I get it down on the page.  Sometimes a screenplay idea comes from a single scene I thought of and then build the story around that.  Or maybe it’s a single character and what would I do with them?

What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?   

I was very impressed with the festival.  I couldn’t think of any improvements at the moment. 

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? 

I am working on a few things and have been doing some reading/notes for other writers.  I completed a script just a couple of months ago that has been getting some attention.  It is a horror with a mostly female cast, including a transgender character.  I am also working on a horror where the central characters are gay.  I have this ambition to write strong, quality horror films with diverse characters.  We just don’t see it much at all.  We need to get more LGBTQ characters onto screen, in all genres, and for their diversity to just be something that exists, not as a part of the plot.  While coming out stories still need to be told, we are also really in need of representation in characters who aren’t there simply to be the token gay character, the coming out story, or the discrimination story.  We are all that, but we are so much more too!

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?

Read a lot of screenplays.  Like, read hundreds of them.  I read nothing but screenplays for years to try and learn from people who had got their films made.  I still read screenplays all the time, especially successful ones, whether it’s box office success or awards.  I spent so much time reading screenplays that when I started reading books again, it was a challenge.

Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA? 

After I won the competition I received a lot of interest in my work, which was exciting.  To be recognized by a competition like this one certainly created some traffic to my website and social media profiles.  This has increased networking opportunities, which are essential in this business.  I haven’t yet had an offer of representation, but I am always keen to talk.  I certainly list the LGBTQ Screenwriting comp on my BIO whenever I send it out.  As for moving to New York or LA?  I currently live in Australia with my husband and our dog refuses to do quarantine, but never say never!

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The following is from an interview with the brilliant and talented Daron Weiss, winner of the 2018 festival.   

What's your background? I have been an event manager in the healthcare industry for twenty years. Simultaneously, I have been writing and directing comedy shows at Chicago’s Second City Theatre.

How long have you been writing? I have been writing for ten years but realized that most of that time can only be considered practicing and honing the craft. And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? I am a huge cinema fan, and discovered when I was young that I have an imagination for highly unique storylines.

What screenwriting training have you received? I took an intro to screenwriting class at Columbia and received terrific grades on every submission, so that was tremendous feedback for an interested novice. And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? Reading everything that Syd Field published on the art of screenwriting changed my thought process.

What else have you written? I’ve written comedy theatre stage shows and a few other screenplays.

What writing habits work for you? I outline the structure and take notes that pop in my head for six months. And then I spend six months writing the screenplay.

Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? I write in short bursts at the office without anybody knowing.

What’s the title of the script you entered, and what's it about? Sky Blue. It’s about a nineteenth-century transgender man who must survive life in prison as he struggles to regain his family.

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? My mind wanders every day for story ideas. For this script, I ran across a New York Times newspaper from 1888 that had a story about a female thief dressed as a man that completely baffled her small Iowa town.

Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow? I outline the story first. I used notecards for years, but now I just send single idea emails to myself and then organize the emails.

What was your experience with our festival? I was impressed with the attention to details and the overall communication. Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? I liked being a part of both the screenwriting and LGBTQ communities concurrently. And what could we improve on? As the grand prize winner, Joseph introduced me to two contacts via email with a glowing endorsement.

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? I just completed a family drama centered on inner-city gangs. Next, I suddenly have a strong calling to write a dramedy about the film industry.

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay? Write something everyday. Time flies. At the end of a year, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you have enough to edit and format an entire screenplay.

Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA? After winning the grand prize, I was able to claim that merit on online script listing services. My script received a tremendous amount of views, but so far no one has made an offer. I also received a pleasant message from Tilda Swinton’s manager that she would be interested if the script is ever green-lighted.

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The following is from an interview with the very talented finalist from 2018, Joe Russo     

I'm a 1969 graduate of the University of South Carolina College of Journalism where my literary training began. I transitioned to screenwriting fulltime when I retired from corporate life in 2001. I chose screenwriting because of the challenge of telling a story in a lot less words than it would take to tell the same story in a novel. My screenwriting training is mostly self taught. I am an avid reader and have read numerous books on screenwriting (Save the Cat by Blake Snyder etc.) I also read produced scripts by successful screenwriter's such as Edward Burns who is one of my favorites. My resume outlines my biggest breakthroughs:

Won best un-produced feature  screenplay in the 2017 Tea Dance International Film Festival for  my original screenplay   My Father’s Worst Nightmare.The 2018 LGBTQ Int’l screenplay competition  selected My Father’s Worst Nightmare as top finalist.

My screenplay titled The Accomplice was selected as a semi finalist in the Wayward Film Festival 2018

My screenplay titled Star Cross Lovers received very good coverage/analysis from the 2020 Chicago Screenplay awards and placed as a quarter-finalist.

Wrote the screenplay The Accomplice based on a true story. Was previously optioned by an Emmy and Peabody  award winning producer.

Wrote a TV sitcom that was represented by Christopher Nassif and Associates. Considered by Warner Brother’s but not produced.

Member of INKTIP.

Graduate of the College of Journalism at the University of South Carolina.

I'm what I call a moody writer. Undisciplined, writing both in short bursts and/or long shifts. I write at home in Fairfield Connecticut or my home in Pawley's Island South Carolina. The script I entered in the LGBTQ International screenplay competition was MY FATHER'S WORST NIGHTMARE which won Top Finalist. It's a contemporary dramedy that deals with the trials and tribulations of a college student that comes out to his family. I was inspired to write this story while watching a TV documentary about teenage suicide which pointed out that the suicide rate amongst gay teenagers is much higher than for straight teenagers. One, among many, reasons for this is the anxiety they feel regarding the decision to come out or not. Being a "what if" writer; I put myself in that position and began writing. My inspiration to write comes from being a keen observer, an avid reader and always asking the "what if" question in any situation. My process is to first jot down numerous notes as an idea surfaces. This random note taking results in a formal outline; and being a student of Blake Snyder's, a beat sheet results from the outline. I never just sit down and let it flow; which I consider the mark of an amateur. I did not attend your festival but I was very happy being selected a top finalist. I just finished a contemporary Romeo and Juliet screenplay titled Star Crossed Lovers about two young lovers from rival New York mafia families. I'm presently writing a screenplay about two disgruntled employees who devise a scheme to share in the company profits. This inspiration came from the many years I spent in corporate life as a Labor Relations executive. My advice to anyone who's about to dive into their first feature length screenplay is this - If you don't have a high tolerance for rejection; try something else instead.

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