Interview with Screenwriter Renata Manzo Scruggs, THE DISPLACED

Get to know the writer:

What is your screenplay about?

The Displaced tells the story of the creation of Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, from the perspective of the people living in the mountains at the time. All of the characters are fictionalized, with the exception of George Pollock, owner of Skyland and a park promoter, and Governor Harry Byrd. The movie is based on actual events, including the story of baby Thomas. The movie recounts the various ways the government lied to, and misled the local residents, many of whom –but not all — were not educated. Mostly though, they trusted their government — a trust that ended up being misplaced.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The Displaced falls under the genres of drama and historical fiction.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

This story needs to be told because the themes in The Displaced, which takes place in the 1930’s, still resonate today– the individual versus the collective good, how the government takes advantage of people who lack money and a voice, and progress versus tradition. The people displaced by the park were hardworking and self-reliant Americans who loved the freedom of living in the mountains where they had everything they needed to live. The descendants of these hardy people want their story told, and I want to help them do that.

How would you describe this script in two words?

True stories.

What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

I wish I could say I’ve seen Citizen Kane or All about Eve the most times in my life, but probably it is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, because we watch it so much during the holidays.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve been working on The Displaced for about two years.

How many stories have you written?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a child (I’m pushing 60) so I’ve written countless stories. In terms of screenplays, The Displaced is the third. I’m working on my sixth screenplay (an adaptation of Vein of Iron by Ellen Glasgow).

What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Although I like all types of music (my father was an opera singer), when it comes right down to it, I love Elton John. My playlists on my phone are as follows: Elton, Elton fast, Elton Favorites, Elton hiking, and Not Elton. My favorite song is “The One”.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The only obstacle I faced was my own inertia and self-doubt. The story told itself–there was only one way it could end. But I had to find a personal story within the historical events. I knew I wanted a female protagonist who was torn between the past and the future, the mountains and the city, independence and security.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about social injustice, racial prejudice and the environment. And Elton John. When I’m not writing, I like to hike, practice yoga and travel.

You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

I’m thrilled to have one website that gathers all the many, many festivals and competitions. So far the experience has been good–not much to say here.

What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I entered the festival primarily for the feedback. As a new screenwriter, I need as much feedback as I can get. I thought the initial feedback was extremely helpful. I used it as a checklist for the next draft.

Genre: Drama, History

In 1930’s Virginia, a widow battles the government when it seizes her land to create Shenandoah National Park.

CAST LIST:

Ginny: Andrea Meister
Lebo: Jarod Terrell
Owen: Rob Notman
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Carter: Sean C. Dwyer
Esme: Kerrie Lamb
Will: Charles Gordon
Addie: Ida Jagaric

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