Interview with Screenwriter Nevada McPherson (PIANO LESSONS)

June 2018 Winning LGBT Short Screenplay.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nevada McPherson: It’s a gay teen romance set in the rural South of the 1950’s.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Teen romance, coming-of-age, drama.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It touches on universal themes of love, friendship, trust, and acceptance. It also shows that although things have changed for the better since the time this screenplay is set, there is still a long way to go before many accept the LGBTQ community as truly equal, especially where I live in the US. This screenplay should be made into a movie because film is a powerful emotional and persuasive medium and the more varied representations of gay characters seen in films, the better. Some of the characters in PIANO LESSONS are willing to leave their comfort zones, while others are not, and it can be a lesson to all that one’s experience of life expands or shrinks according to one’s courage. Stepping up for what you believe in is worth it.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Character driven.

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

Since I’ve taught film classes for many years, there are several films that I’ve seen many, many times and that I love to share with students, such as Run, Lola, Run, Network, Citizen Kane and Bonnie & Clyde. My favorite that I’ve probably seen the most times is Sunset Boulevard. There’s so much Hollywood history wrapped up in that film, and if you look at what was going on in Hollywood at the time it was made and even in the lives of the people making and acting in the film, you’ll find it’s something of a Hollywood “Rosetta Stone.” As many times as I’ve seen it, I always hope for a happier ending for Joe and Betty, but if that were so, it wouldn’t be a true film noir, would it? For me, a huge fan of noir, this one is in a sub-genre of that style, Hollywood noir. Joe Gillis is one of my all-time favorite characters, and to me he is the patron saint of screenwriters.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Since 1994. If that sounds like a really long time, I suppose it is! I got the idea returning to New Orleans from the first ever Austin Film Festival, wrote the script, and I’ve been through countless drafts since then. Needless to say, it’s evolved a great deal over time. I’ve written many screenplays since this one, but I always come back to it, and I’m encouraged that it’s won or placed in several contests (this is the first reading, though, which is quite awesome!). This draft emerged after my residency at Squaw Valley Community of Writers Screenwriting Program, where I worked on a new draft under the mentorship of screenwriter Tom Rickman (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Everybody’s All-American).

How many stories have you written?

Over a dozen screenplays, two short plays, short stories, a short screenplay, and a full-length play. I’ve adapted one of the screenplays into a novel, and three of the screenplays into graphic novels, including PIANO LESSONS. I wrote my very first story in the sixth grade – I remember that there was a vampire in it, and it ended in a cliffhanger. After that I was hooked on writing.

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

Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy.”

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Endings are always difficult for me; it took me several drafts to arrive at this ending!

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Creating visual art, reading, and going on road trips with my husband Bill, a retired speech professor, and our rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi.

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

Very positive. I find Film Freeway to be a very user-friendly platform and a great way to track contest submissions.

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

Since PIANO LESSONS is a gay teen romance, I was drawn to the LGBT Toronto Film Festival, and excited at the prospect of the script being read by actors! The feedback I received was invaluable: insightful and constructive. I recommend this festival to writers wholeheartedly.  


Genre: LGBT, Drama

Junior Jordan has a talent for shooting at targets and a mad crush on his new piano teacher, Conrad. In the 1950’s rural South. that’s enough to get a boy into trouble.


Pastor: Rob Notman
Conrad: Allan Michael Brunet
Narrator: Matt Barnes
Junior: Jarrod Terrell
Elsie: Lauren Kristina Maykut
Thelma: Meghan Allen


Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Director: Kierston Drier

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: Kimberly Villarruel

Camera Op: Mary Cox

2 thoughts on “Interview with Screenwriter Nevada McPherson (PIANO LESSONS)

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