Interview with Screenwriter Shannon H. Constantine (HACKS: NEW YORK NEW YORK)

1. What is your screenplay about?

My script is a TV spec for the show Hacks, which premiered this year on HBO Max. I love the show’s portrayal of the world of standup comedy, I found it to be both blaringly accurate while still strikingly artistically imaginative. The show typically takes place in Las Vegas, with the occasional scene in Los Angeles, so I decided to set my episode in New York, where I live, and where we could potentially see the lead characters a bit out of their element. I also wanted to introduce the idea of another elder comedian who could foil Deborah Vance, the lead character in Hacks, to show how distinct she is as a character.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy

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

Relating this question to the show I wrote for, I personally think this episode I wrote portrays a softer side of the lead character, Deborah, and reveals her vulnerabilities in a way that makes the audience want to fight for her.

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

reflective, buoyant

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

It’s definitely a movie that I either got shown a lot at family reunions or Sunday school. If I had to narrow it down, it’s most likely Ratatouille, Singin’ in The Rain, or The Prince of Egypt.

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

I have to be honest, I wrote this over the course of three days so I could meet a deadline. It was a quick write, but that forced me to get out all my ideas at once.

7. How many stories have you written?

Ten so far — seven pilots (six half-hour and one hour), two features, and this one TV spec. I’m also currently working on adapting one of those features for the stage.

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

A song I have listened to the most times in my life is probably a song I grew up hearing in church, but my favorite song, which I would define as the song I repeat the most when it comes on, is probably “Wildflowers” from the album Trio by Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt, and Emmylou Harris. It feels like such a sweet little personal anthem for anyone who’s left their hometown in pursuit of personal goals, especially the line “I hitched a ride with the wind and since he was my friend, I just let him decide where we’d go.”

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

Mostly my own self-doubt, but I think I’m getting better at understanding that when I second guess my writing ideas, I’m really close to a breakthrough.

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

Is it pretentious to say human rights? It sounds so ostentatious when I say it, but it’s definitely true.

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

I like it! Super easy, it makes me think about how easy it is to submit writing to festivals and competitions now. How the heck did people do this in 2004?

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

It seemed straight-forward to me — I like that there are festivals entirely dedicated to comedy submissions. I’ve found that getting judges who understand your sense of humor in a script can be tough sometimes. I felt really encouraged by the feedback.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Deborah and Ava go to New York to reunite with one of Deborah’s old comedy chums, and realize that the two of them need each other more than they ever thought.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Steve Rizzo
Deborah: Hannah Ehman
Jimmy: Geoff Mays
Ava: Kyana Teresa
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