Interview with Screenwriter Rita Martinos (ON THE VERGE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Rita Martinos: A 26-year old Lebanese Muslim faces an internal cultural struggle while living in New York City, motivating her American roommate to travel to the Middle East, seeking a better understanding behind her friend’s suicidal escape.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama.

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

It’s important to be aware of the differences between cultures and how people from different parts of the world – or even different parts of a country – are brought up. Those who struggle with their own identity sometimes believe there is no way out of the world they were raised in, and at times may be, as an example, disowned by their families if they choose a different path. This mainly stems from a lack of communication: children who are afraid to speak, parents who are stubborn to listen. Yet one of the strongest forms of fighting for a better world is learning to listen to each other, despite any disagreements. Instead of saying, “That’s wrong,” we should learn to dig into the internal reasons behind people’s beliefs, and be open to letting them discover our own. In this way, we can learn to understand each other better, without feeling the need to force what we view as the “correct” way of thinking. That simple act of listening without impulsive reaction, can help build a better future.

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

Cultural Exploration.

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

“Fight Club” directed by David Fincher, or “Memento” by Christopher Nolan.

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

I started the script in 2014 as a short, 40-page version. I was then inspired to develop the story further. However, I have taken very long breaks before going back into the story, where I would reread the whole script and choose to make a few necessary changes at a time. This script is therefore still in development, which is why I was motivated to submit to the Female Film Festival and receive feedback of how another reader views the story.

7. How many stories have you written?

I write many short stories, and short screenplays and theater plays. “On the Verge” is the only feature screenplay I have written to date.

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

That is a very difficult question, as I listen to a lot of different music, from oldies to classical music to pretty much anything depending on my mood for the day. My favorite artist, however – and what I tend to listen to most – is Metallica. Also, when I read plays, I very often listen to Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” on repeat – I find it gives me great focus.

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

I have been struggling to create a well-rounded aspect of the cultural differences. As a Christian Lebanese who’s lived abroad most of her life, I’ve faced a lot of different cultures and religions (as well as racism and injustice), yet that makes me feel like I am, for lack of better wording, not “fluent” in any particular culture. For this reason, I find that I need to constantly research and read in order to give this screenplay the magic that I feel it’s missing. When I decided to turn this into a feature screenplay, I was aware of the obstacles and gave myself a 5-year deadline with sufficient breaks, before I should decide to let it be. As a writer, I understand that if you are trying to perfect something, you’ll never feel it’s complete. I have let the screenplay breathe for extended periods of time, in order to see it with fresh eyes, but it’s time to start wrapping it up. And in terms of my deadline, I think it is safe to say I am right on track!

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

I am passionate about directing narratives. I work professionally as a Producer/Director and Editor for TVCs, documentaries, corporate videos, etc. Wherever I find the time and opportunity, I try to either write or direct either for theater or film. As an artist, I enjoy wearing different hats, and I believe many creative minds are similar that way, which is why we learn to support each other in these fields. We do what we love, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to do that.

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

Submission platform sites such as FilmFreeway are incredibly useful into bringing festivals to you. I’ve discovered so many festivals I most likely wouldn’t have found on my own, and this expands my range of opportunities.

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

Well, the title of the festival is enough to know what’s influenced me. Supporting female artists is a beautiful thing, an opportunity than was rarely available in the past. To receive feedback is the cherry on top. The initial feedback I received was truly inspiring. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve let my script breathe for a while now, and this feedback has inspired me to take this script to the next level.

A Film Freeway Preferred Festival:

Following her roommate’s suicide, Lily is inspired by Salma to take a trip outside the United States and explore a foreign culture in Lebanon.

CAST LIST: 

Lily – Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Narration – Shawn Devlin
Theo – Sean Ballantyne
Salma – Katelyn Varadi

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