Interview with Winning Screenwriter Jenny Kleiman (AMERICAN PRINCESS)

 July 2018 Female Film Festival 1st Scene Screenplay Winner.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Jenny Kleiman: Unable to connect with her peers, Ellie, a wealthy, unchallenged teen finds deep friendship with her mentally-unstable father. However, when he is institutionalized, she must navigate her own escape and his rescue from her new home, her babysitter’s trailer park.

American Princess is drama that explores the Deep South’s wealth, class, and religious gap through the eyes of a young, inexperienced girl, struggling to understanding her father’s illness.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama with a Coming-of-Age story in tow

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

The script centers on an accessible narrative: a young girl’s struggle to understand her place in the world. Ellie’s recon mission, to save her father from the mental hospital, is an enticing thread to package the project for mass audiences. There is commercial appeal in the adventure while maintaining the edgy tone and look of an independent film.

Further, as a female director, it was important to me to tell the story of dedicated women raising strong, complicated young girls. In the progressive climate where women’s stories rule the headlines, I believe the motif is not only socially necessary, but will succeed in attracting a women-centric audience (who by majority rule ticket sales).

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Have & Have-nots

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

Requiem for a Dream (yeah… I know… it was a weird phase)

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I started last October and am currently working on my 4th draft. The work featured by FFFF was the second iteration.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a teenager, but they were in the form of plays, short films, and traditional narratives. American Princess is my first attempt at a feature script.

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

This is such a hard question… either “Mother of Pearl” by Roxy Music or “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

So many! There were plenty of times I thought I wouldn’t complete a draft.

I used American Princess to introduce myself to the craft of screenwriting, and while I’m obsessed with the creative process, the learning curve is huge. I had a hard time grasping how to make the puzzle pieces and plot points connect while staying true to the story I set out to tell.

However, I was lucky to find an amazing writing group in New York which helped me workshop my project from a bud of an idea to the current draft. The experience of working with other screenwriters has shaped me completely, and after almost a year of discussion, my fellow writers are as familiar with the script as me.

My good friend from my group advised me in my darkest moment, to paraphrase, that writing a screenplay is the fight of your life, and you go through the same struggle as the act structure of the work. If your character is at the low point, so are you…

I find solace in that.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Directing is my first love. My background is in commercials, music videos, short films, and fashion editorials, but I moved to feature work about two years ago. I am set to co-direct my first feature- a psychological thriller called Kill the Fleurs- which shoots in the South of France at the end of 2018.

Otherwise, I’m passionate about hanging out with my dog, cooking, watching good movies, and exploring New York.

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

So far, so good! It’s a good way to find festivals of interest, and the platform is easy to use.

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

I think it’s crucial to have actors read your work after hearing the words in your own head for so long. I love the focus FFFF places on women creators and storytellers.

The feedback from the festival was on point and in depth. I was given notes while working on a new draft and was pleased that the comments were in line with the changes I was making or had made.


Genre: Dark Comedy

When Ellie’s mother commits her father to a mental hospital, the rich, spoiled teen must navigate her own escape and his rescue, or else embrace her new home- her babysitter’s trailer park.


Janet: Zena Driver
David: Justin Darmanin
Narrator: Val Cole
Ellie: Amrit Kaur
Lowe: Alicia Payne

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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