Interview with Screenwriter Jill Elaine Hughes (Might Come a Windstorm)

1. What is your screenplay about?

MIGHT COME A WINDSTORM takes place on a single Thanksgiving Day at the home of a working-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio during the late 1990s. It’s a comedy-drama, in which laughs are balanced against a tragic dysfunctional family backstory that includes elements of racism, alcholism, child abuse and psychiatric disorders. It’s a holiday film that’s bittersweet and highly watchable, but not a traditional Christmas or Thanksgiving movie. I’m a huge fan of the British filmmaker Mike Leigh, and I like to call this script a “white trash SECRETS AND LIES.”

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s a comedy-drama, kind of a kitchen-sink realism type story that focuses on a single family in a single day. I compare it to films like SECRETS AND LIES, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, WE’RE THE MILLERS, JUNEBUG, or TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. Or if you think of a TV show like THE CONNORS that focuses on a working-class family and their struggles, it’s sort of like that, but far more serious. But there are some laughs in there too.

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

This film deals quite frankly with racism as it exists among the white working class, while incorporating an unexpected twist. I won’t reveal the twist here, but suffice to say that it reinforces how we are all brothers and sisters in one human family….and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. Racism is a terrible issue in our society that is entirely unjustified, and sometimes people need to learn humbling lessons on that topic. The film also explores such taboo topics as child abuse, child marriage, and unexpected/little-discussed aspects of high-functioning alcoholism. While the content is quite dark at times, there are comedic elements that illustrate that despite the flaws and self-destructive foibles of this one struggling extended family, there’s also a lot of love to go around among them—-even if they don’t always know how to express it. A lot of people will see a lot of themselves in this family, including those awful Thanksgiving dinners around obnoxious relatives that you can’t stand, yet cannot do anything about.

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

Tragic. Funny.

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

Probably THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which I’ve seen probably 1000 or more times and can recite from memory….yet I still never get tired of watching it. Close runners-up are GOODFELLAS (I’ve probably seen it 300 times) and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (which I watch every year, and love it every time I watch it). For me, the perfect film is one you can watch over and over again, yet always enjoy.

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

I actually wrote the first draft of this screenplay over 20 years ago! I finished it quite quickly and it’s still 90% of the same script that it was in 1999 when I wrote the first draft. I’ve refined a few things about it here and there, including adding new scenes at the beginning and end. But oddly enough, even though I’ve sent it out on and off for that entire time, it didn’t really start generating massive interest from film festivals and producers until the past 2 years or so (since 2020). I think it’s because the topic and story are very timely now after the death of George Floyd and many of the racial conflicts that our society is currently struggling with. It’s probably a case where a “timeless story” had to wait for “the right time” to be appealing to a wide audience.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m a full-time professional writer and have been for 25 years. I’m an ad copywriter in the pharmaceutical marketing industry, plus I’ve also worked as a journalist, documentary film producer/writer, and novelist, and I’ve also had many stage plays produced. I’ve written thousands of stories as part of my profession. While I’ve had lots of success as a writer and earn my living as one, I still would like to see my feature screenplays produced. I write scripts for use in commercials and industrial films at my day job, as well as for information animation, but that’s work-for-hire to support a corporate agenda. I really would love to see my feature screenplays made for the big screen. It’s been my lifelong dream to sell a screenplay to a major producer and get that film made/distributed around the world. Of note, MIGHT COME A WINDSTORM was just named “Best Feature Screenplay” at the Berlin Independent Film Festival 2022, and it has also been named a finalist at about 7 other international film festivals, so I hope a producer will take note of it soon as a production option.

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

That’s a tough one, I love music but I don’t have one favorite song. I guess if I had to choose only one, it would be SOMETHING by The Beatles. I also love anything sung by Blossom Dearie or Ella Fitzgerald.

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

I actually wrote the screenplay very quickly, with just a few minor revisions here and there over the years. For me, the bigger obstacle has been getting the screenplay produced…not the writing of it per se. I write full-time as my profession, so writing itself isn’t hard for me. It’s like breathing or riding a bike.

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

I’ve a long-distance runner who does marathons, half-marathons, and just lots of working out. I do a lot of thinking on my long runs and during exercise, and it helps me with my writing. I’m also very devoted to family (I have 2 kids and I’m my elderly mother’s legal guardian), plus I have a strong personal interest in world affairs and politics. I also love to read and to do gardening.

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

I’ve had a very positive experience with FilmFreeway. It’s a great way to track festivals and production opportunities, and submit/track submissions of screenplays. Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve received 6 total screenplay awards and numerous semi-finalist accolades via FilmFreeway submissions. So many that I keep forgetting to update my bio and track them publicly!

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

I entered mostly just to see if my work would get selected for an audio table reading, because I haven’t been able to have professional actors read the script aloud, ever. So I was thrilled when I got selected. I’ve shared the first-scene recording on social media and with other contacts and the feedback has been very positive from people of all walks of life. I’ve been thrilled with the experience with WildSound and getting a lot of audience interest. Would love to do a podcast interview with you as well.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Steve Rizzo
Narrator (character): / Adam: Sean Ballantyne
Kelly : Kyana Teresa
Ginger: Hannah Ehman Ehman
Joe: Allan Michael Brunet

By matthewtoffolo

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

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