Interview with Screenwriter J. Malia Miranda (ACROSS THE NEON HOURS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

J. Malia Miranda: Across the Neon Hours takes Reese, a local poker room supervisor, and Alex, a card-playing tourist, on a twelve-hour adventure in Las Vegas. Reese initially coaxes Alex to venture out on the town as a way to distract from her husband’s gambling debts that are finally coming home to roost. While Alex, in Las Vegas to escape the everyday responsibilities waiting for her at home, is fascinated by Reese and her fast-firing wit. The two women navigate the streets of Las Vegas and all that it throws at them including street hustlers, a drunken bridal party, a playboy casino owner, and a crew of philosophical drag queens. It’s a tale of how two strangers can come together and experience a real and transformative connection even in a sliver of time.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Rite of Passage, LGBT, Dramedy

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

First, the script is highly visual.

It shows a lot of heart and realism in a glitzy town that is often a backdrop for outrageousness.

Character-wise, we don’t see enough women on film experiencing a mid-life crisis where they are just feeling stuck. Cinematically, women tend to face “big stuff” like addiction or abuse when they are the lead. There’s a line that Reese says, “Sometimes I feel like I’m being held hostage by this life.” and I think a lot of women feel that way in their 30s and 40s balancing home and work life. But, we don’t often see this in film, how it can sort of rock us sometimes.

Ancillary characters are also unique, colorful, and engaging.

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

Introspective, Moxie

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

(it’s really Dirty Dancing, but I was a teenager)

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

I finished the meat of it in 14 days. I couldn’t type fast enough. Because of that, I spent the next 6 months in rewrite.

7. How many stories have you written?

I used to write a lot of short-form stories and poetry. This was my first script. I had so much fun with it that I’m revisiting four other stories and whiteboarding for screenplays.

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

Probably “Elsewhere” by Sarah McLachlan. This was a Coming Out anthem for me.

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

The rewrite was the difficult part. It takes a lot of thought and concentration to keep continuity while revisiting every line.

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

I love playing cards. Cribbage and Poker are my games. Golf is a great escape for me too. Spending time with my almost 4-year old and wife. We have a really fun family dynamic.

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

FilmFreeway is great in that it offers more alternatives than some others that I use.

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

The script is a different sort of LGBT story. No one is coming out here. No one is facing expulsion from their families. No one is out on the street trying to make ends meet. These are important stories to tell. But this story is really a glimpse of two people and their meaningful connection. I feel like it’s important to have simple love stories like this in the genre alongside the heavier messaging.

The initial feedback was really helpful. Saying that Across the Neon Hours was one draft away from something really top-notch lit a fire under me. I knew it was too. This festival was one of the first I entered and the final draft is definitely more streamlined and punchier.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Unable to face the reality of her collapsing marriage after news that her husband has gambled away a small fortune, a Las Vegas casino manager bonds with a card-playing tourist during one impulsive night under the neon lights of Sin City.


Dante: Allan Brunet
Reese: Jillian Robinson
Narration: Kat Smiley
Alex: Pascale Behrman


By matthewtoffolo

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

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