Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?
Whitney Stewart: My screenplay, Steal the Light, is about the resilience of humans through war and disaster, and about family bonds that endure. The story takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans and in World War Two era Europe. A young journalist loses her home and career after Hurricane Katrina, then abandons everything to fulfill her German grandmother’s dying wish to find her brother who went missing on the Russian Front of WWII. The search tests the journalist’s courage and tenacity, but she survives to bring truth home.
Steal the Light was inspired by my own experiences of helicopter-evacuating after Hurricane Katrina, and later discovering a box of war letters that prompted me to search for my husband’s German uncle who went missing on the Russian Front of World War Two.
2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?
3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
Steal the Light will speak to families who have been affected by war or natural disasters, or to anyone who has lost a family member. In this time when people are searching for family history, and hoping to understand themselves by understanding their heritage, this film story will inspire audiences. The protagonist is a strong female who despite experiencing disaster learns to trust herself and unravel a poignant mystery that crosses time. She will leave audiences moved.
4. How would you describe this script in two words?
5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
I worked on the screenplay, on and off, for two years, but before that I spent five years going back and forth to Germany and Poland to track down my husband’s missing uncle who inspired a published book and this film script.
7. How many stories have you written?
I have published more than 25 books and have an archive of at least another dozen book or film stories.
8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)
“We Belong Together” by Rickie Lee Jones or “A Walk Across the Rooftops” by The Blue Nile
9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Writing a script based on my own story was challenging because I didn’t want to stick to the facts. Instead I wanted those facts to inspire a more interesting protagonist who faces more difficult conflicts than I faced. I also had to return to Europe three times to research WWII history as it happened in Germany and in rural Poland. I needed to hire a translator and a WWII expert to guide me on my work. I didn’t just sit down and write a historical drama; I actually dug for shrapnel and bones in former WWII battlefields.
10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Children, I love being around them. I also teach mindfulness and meditation to kids. I love to travel, study foreign languages, and visit museums. Of course I see more films than I can count every year. And I love to be outdoors and to exercise. I’m a big hiker, but I live in New Orleans where the land is flat. So, I travel to the mountains whenever I get the chance.
11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?
Browsing festivals and submitting my script was very easy on FilmFreeway. I plan to submit again.
12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I am interested in seeing more films by female writers and directors, and I like to see strong female leads. That’s why I submitted to the FEEDBACK Female Film Festival. I also wanted to watch/hear a table read, to help me in my writing. Of course, I hear my script in my head, but hearing other dialog interpretations is invaluable. After watching/hearing the read of my first scene, I’d love to see/hear more scenes read aloud.
After Hurricane Katrina destroys her home and career, a young journalist abandons everything to fulfill her German grandmother’s dying wish — to discover the fate of her brother who disappeared on the Russian Front of World War Two.
Narrator: Sean Ballantyne
Charlotte: Hannah Ehman
Anna: Nkasi Ogbonnah