Interview with Screenwriter Alice L. Lee (Purgatory: A Love Story)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Alice L. Lee: “Purgatory: A Love Story” is my reworking of the “Princess and the Frog”. There are lots of versions of this story from all around the world, but for many women, the story boils down to having to kiss a lot of frogs (read, unsuitable men) in order to find your prince and true love.

I’ve always thought of love stories as being Purgatory in nature.

There’s a little suffering, a little transformation, followed by a little happiness. So,
what’s more Purgatory than dating and mating?

I divide the whole dating process into three groups: Sugar Daddy/Trophy Wife relationships– or what can I get from this relationship, relationships, the “I-can-onlymarry-the-most-perfect-person” relationships, and then there’s the “We-have-somuch-in-common”, relationships where you fall in love with each other even if one of you is a toad.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy and twisted fairytale. I know that last one’s not a genre, but it should be. LOL!

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

Because I want it to be a movie? LOL!

I wanted to make a film about mating and dating and about how, if we could forgo some of the items on our checklist of “qualifications” that we have to have for our perfect mates, maybe we could all find a little more happiness.

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

Twisted fairytale.

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

Tied: Terminator and Rashomon

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

I made two films that “Purgatory: A Love Story” is a part of. “the good boy” about
underground boxing which represents hell, “Artemis & the Astronaut” about love and Alzheimer’s, which represents heaven. Then I thought, s**t, I need a purgatory story.
As soon as I thought Purgatory, “A Love Story” popped into my head. The basic story
kinda wrote it self in a few hours. (This almost never happens. sigh!) Then I rewrote it a few dozen times tweaking here and there off and on for a couple of years, but the essential story has remained the same.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written five feature screenplays, and three short film screenplays.

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

I come from a classical music background. I’ve heard Glenn Gould’s interpretation of J. S. Bach’s, “Goldberg Variations” (the second recordings) so many times, all I need to hear are the first 5 notes of the Aria or any of the variations to know that it’s a Glenn Gould recording.

But for the past few months, I’ve had “It’s Not Easy Being Green” stuck in my head. Damn you, Kermit!

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

Because I wanted to make this screenplay a live action film, I kept wondering, can I
write this? How would I shoot this? Part of the reason why he’s a toad and not a frog
is because I didn’t want my actor sitting in water for hours and hours each day.
I don’t have the money or the skillset to do a lot of CGI (computer-generated imagery), so I’m still trying to figure out how to make this film with actors and not with clay or from drawings. But I’m leaning towards shrinking the actor and rotoscoping him and the frogs, Charles and Tom.

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

Directing. I see my scripts before I write them. For “Artemis & the Astronaut”, I saw
Artemis staring into her husband’s eyes and only seeing herself reflected back at her– that’s why I have the Astronaut wearing a helmet with a reflective visor.

Filming with a visor that was like a mirror, meant we had to hide all the lights, camera and crew, and my actor and Lynn Cohen (Sex and the City, Hunger Games) had to be in every shot! Shooting that film almost killed my award winning DP, Diego Jiménez!

For “Purgatory: A Love Story”, I saw the two witches, waiting for the third witch. I saw exactly where I wanted to film them. And then I wondered how much it would cost to shoot in Central Park.

No worries, financiers! Lots of parks have trees, shrubs and a small pond that can “body double” for Central Park.

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

It’s pretty straight forward using FilmFreeway. Wish it was cheaper to submit to
festivals, but I also wish NYC apartments were cheaper, too.

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

I had submitted my film “the good boy” to WILDSound Film Festival and had a really
great experience. I loved hearing what people had to say about the film. “the good
boy” swept all the categories! Romance Film and Screenplay Festival was started by
the same people who started WILDSound.

It was very interesting to hear the actors do a table read of my script, but being a
director, I kept on wanting to jump in and direct the actors. Sigh!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

An arrogant, self satisfied man named, RICHARD (DICK) YORK, has the misfortunate of insulting the wrong witches in New York City’s Central Park. Turned into a toad and unable to lie, Dick must find a true love and loyal heart to break the spell. In this world of Facebook, Snap Chats and Tweets, would a toad be able to get anyone to spare a moment to help him, much less be his true love and loyal heart?


Alys/Olivia: Victoria Murdoch
Frog Charles: Caleb Jacques
Narration: Carina Cojeen
Richard: Aaron Williams
Katherine: Leanne Hoffman
Helena/Izzy: Natalie Morgan


By matthewtoffolo

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


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