Interview with Screenwriter John Renney (THE CULTISTS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

My screenplay is about betrayal and redemption, Jenny is betrayed by her parents and given to a cult to be sacrificed, while Detective Johns is in search of personal and religious redemption. He feels he has failed in his job and life and now must succeed in rescuing Jenny from the cult, if he is ever to be free of his personal demons. This is Johns last chance.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

My screenplay is in the Horror genre.

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

The Cultists is firmly footed in the horror genre and offers some great horrific, spooky, mysterious and scary imagery. I think that visually The Cultists could be a unique and unsettling horror movie, and offers grounded and flawed protagonists that an audience can relate to and feel empathy for. I think an audience could invest themselves in the character arcs and themes of betrayal and redemption, while also seeing some new and exciting visuals from my imagination.

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

Mysterious and unique.

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

It’s hard to say one movie I have watched more than any other in my life, I think I could safely say that in the Horror genre there are four I have watched the most usually back to back. Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls, George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, David Lynch’s Eraserhead and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

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

I have been writing The Cultists screenplay for around a year, but the inception of the idea is from a recurring nightmare I’ve had since childhood. Possibly to do with the fact I was kicked out of the house at a very young age, through I’m no Freud lol

7. How many stories have you written?

The Cultists is my third feature length screenplay and my first in the horror genre. I have also produced, written, scored and directed a feature film ‘Recovery’ I have also Directed two horror shorts, The Freedom Room which won a merit award at the Depth of field international film festival, and Forgive Me.

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

My Favourite song is ‘Summer (The First time)’ By Bobby Goldsboro.

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

The biggest obstacles I faced while writing The Cultists was trying to keep the characters in sync with the horror genre. I had feed back which told me my characters, the drunk cop on the edge, the lost gothic girl and
the drunken Irish priest were stereotypes, but in all my pre-script research I found that most characters in the horror genre have these traits and archetypes. So against the feed back I stuck to my findings and tried to keep the characters as close as possible to the common traits I had found in the genre.

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

Apart from writing I am very passionate about music, I score all my own projects and am an avid follower of John Carpenter as a musician as well as a filmmaker. I perform live as often as I can, and have a wide selection of music available online from acoustic ballads to electronic synth scores, drones and soundscapes. I also work as a music film director recently having finished three videos for the interactive app release of Asympt man’s latest work:

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

Film freeway is a great platform to enter the film festival world, it is easy to navigate and offers perks and a great interface to advertise your work. Without them I would not have been able to get feed back and creative learning which has helped me shape and organize my work and projects.

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

 What projects need more than anything in the development stage is feed back, your festival had great user reviews and comments stating that you were great to work with, your communication was fantastic, and the feed back was always well constructed and gave a break down of the scripts entered. After reading the reviews and doing the online research I decided your festival was for me and entered without hesitation and waited for your response. When the feed back arrived I was thrilled with the response and quickly got to work on the next draft of the screenplay, the feed back was everything I had hoped for and more and I was very pleased with the careful consideration and time that my screenplay has been given by your festival.


Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A girl is betrayed by her parents and given to a demonic cult to be sacrificed, a detective must wrestle with his own past and demons to save the girl. This case could be his last chance at salvation.


Maurice – 1 – Alex Clay
Woman – 1 – Vanessa Burns
Narration – Pip Dwyer
Detective Johns – 13 – Russell Batcher
Officer Davis – 15 – Luke Robinson
Child – 1 – Sydney Addison-Rudat

Submit via FilmFreeway, the exclusive way our festival accepts submissions.:

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