Interview with Screenwriter Shelly Paino (UNHOOKED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Shelly Paino: Unhooked is about two Christmas ornaments who team up to move to the front of the tree and meet a whole host of friends along the way. It’s a little bit like Toy Story climbed up the Christmas tree!

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family, Animation and Adventure.

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

This movie would really appeal to kids and adults alike as it has a lot of heart. The central theme of figuring out where you belong and then challenging that, I think is pretty universal. Also, Christmas movies really seem to withstand the test of time. This is one that you could watch and immediately be in the mood for Christmas.

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

Surprising Adventure.

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

Ooh, I love movies that stand up to multiple viewings so this is a tough one to answer. Either Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Princess Bride. The best movies are those you quote on a nearly daily basis. Of course I know, in about an hour, I’ll change my mind about this answer.

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

From the idea to the first draft was probably around a year. Then I spent several years writing and reworking the script and I believe that with each revision it got better and better. When my son was younger, he gave me a lot of suggestions about what these characters could do, which I used and his ideas made the story more fun. He’s a teenager now, but reminds me that when this script gets picked up, he’d like a consulting fee!

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written nine feature scripts and several short scripts. I really do love the process. They say you have to write ten scripts before one sells and maybe I’m just stubborn in that I haven’t written a tenth just yet. I really will have to love the idea. I have been writing stories since I can remember, so while I can count the scripts I’ve written, I don’t think I’d be able to count all of the actual stories!

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

Good question! The first one that comes to mind is In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. But I love music and its ability to take you to another place instantly.

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

I almost didn’t write this screenplay since I knew that feature animation is incredibly tough to get made. However when I mentioned the idea to a friend, his face just lit up and he really encouraged me to write it. He mentioned that he had a friend working at one of the big name animation production companies and that once I finished, he would pass the script along to him, so I set to work. When it was done, the script was passed along and the friend’s response was that he was no longer working for the big production company and that when he did, he couldn’t even get his own animated spec script off the ground. Long story short, his advice was that feature animation is incredibly tough to get made! So I was back at square one. But I am not about to give up that easily. I have written a short version and a children’s book version so it’s possible that one of those avenues will lead to the big screen.

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

I’m passionate about caring for children, especially those who can’t help themselves out of a tough situation. I sponsor a child in Peru currently and also give to Operation Underground Railroad which rescues children from sex trafficking. I had a great, carefree childhood and it breaks my heart that some kids have to deal with such unbelievable hardship at such a young age. One of the first movies I saw in a theater was Annie (yes, the musical), so maybe orphans have always been in my heart!

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

FilmFreeway has been great. I had no idea how many different festivals and contests there were out there. I just recently suggested it to a friend who has a very niche script and couldn’t figure out the best way to get it out there. I’ve scored a few wins for different scripts, so that’s been really exciting.

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

This festival seemed different from anything else I had entered, so I was curious to see what would happen. It’s been great so far!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Mistakenly hung on the back of the Christmas tree, two ornaments set out on a harrowing adventure to reach the front of the tree in time to witness the magic of Christmas morning.

Genre: Family, Drama


Neville – 10 – Hugh Ritchie
NARRATION – Anne McMaster
Holly – 24 – Brittany Clough
Johnny – 20 – Rhys Harrison

A FilmFreeway preferred festival:



By matthewtoffolo

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

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