Interview with Screenwriter Stephonika W. Kaye (REGENESIS)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Regenesis follows two main characters: Miranda and Atlas, who are set against this futuristic backdrop of a withering galaxy. Miranda is on a mission of revenge to kill the man responsible for all the trauma she’s endured over the last few years. Atlas presents as just some wanderer in the wastes, but really he’s carrying cargo that could save the lives of billions. Ultimately, it becomes a decision for Miranda on whether or not to help him and find some redemption in that.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Definitely a sci-fi drama. As a short it’s more low-fi as well. It has some action/adventure elements as well but is much more a character driven conversation piece.

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

Since writing the short, I’ve also been playing with ideas in developing it either into a limited series or a feature. Whatever form it takes (or if it simply remains a short), the ideas behind it are that at our lowest point, we are not alone. The world/galaxy could be a dark and dismal place with seemingly no hope, but if you but reach out your hand, someone might just lift you up. Miranda and Atlas are broken, beaten, untrusting people who find each other when they need someone the most. Miranda’s mission is one of hatred and revenge. Atlas’ quest reaches toward self-sacrifice inclinations. Their coming together and seeing whether they might unite in a cause is what drives the story for me. It’s all about character. It’s restorative in the faith of the human race after cataclysm and a life of pain and sorrow. In a world today that seems to crumble around us, I think it’s always important to remember to stand up and stand alongside those who have the dream to make the world better or maybe be the one to ignite those dreams in others.

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

Tragically uplifting.

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

That’s tough. I have no idea. I get into these phases where I might rewatch something a lot. But I’ve definitely seen my top two favourite movies A LOT. That’s “The Last Samurai,” (yes, that Tom Cruise movie) and “Schindler’s List.” I cry every time I watch them. I study their cinematography. I study everything about those movies. And both of those made me realize that I love stories with heavy redemption arcs. Captain Algren and Schindler start out with a certain mindset but they’re soon faced with this calling to do the moral thing against unsurmountable odds. The willingness to self-sacrifice says so much about what someone believes.

Also, I’ve been rewatching (tv show) “Moon Knight” a lot. Now, that is a character study.

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

It’s been two years in the making now for REGENESIS. I started it back in the summer of the pandemic (2020). I think we all knew that the landscape of filmmaking was going to change, at least for a while (and still today), and so I wanted a story that I might be able to produce during this time SAFELY. Miranda actually developed from a character plot point I’d had set up in a totally different story, her being sealed in this hard-suit. I was seeing that crews could be as protected as possible, but actors always had to de-mask and expose themselves to a certain degree in order to shoot. So having Miranda inside this protective armor also protected the actor who might portray her. Same with Atlas. I gave him a disability in having to wear a respirator 70% of the time so that the potential actor would have some level of protection in Covid-era times. I haven’t gotten to actually produce the script during these Covid times, but these disabilities/obstacles just made them all the more interesting and influenced the world-building on such a massive and emotional scale that I can’t imagine it any other way now.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve honestly lost track. A lot. Features, shorts, tv pilots, even some novels, poetry/song lyrics, too. I’ve been writing since before I knew how to spell correctly.

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

My favourite song is “Pieces” by RED. So emotional. I found out that they’re a Christian Rock band, so I’m sure it’s about God, but I am non-religious. To me, it’s about someone offering their soul out to someone, somewhere in the hopes that they might be whole again and that their trauma can be healed. Sensing a theme yet?

Recently, I also listened exclusively for about a month to THE AMAZING DEVIL. Their lyric writing is truly powerful.

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

It’s always been some version of what it is now. I wrote about places that I knew existed around me, places I’d been, so that made the blocking and pacing of it flow pretty easily. I knew what I wanted from this one. I think the first draft was about five pages shorter, so it just took a little workshopping within my household of creatives to really find some of the beats that were missing and to get that ending just right.

Usually, the big obstacle with writing is that this currently isn’t the moneymaker. I work in the industry as a production designer, set decorator, or set dresser to pay the bills. Silver lining with this one is that at the height of 2020 Covid, I had nothing else to do. Once I did get back to work in the following two years, getting it to the draft it is now was just the balancing act of writing vs. paid work, and that’s getting easier to balance.

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

Anything art related. I’ve been working in the set decoration / art departments for a while because I honestly love the visual aspects of storytelling.

I started out as a kid who loved to write and draw, and it’s turned into a life of writing and painting pictures not only in movies but also on canvas. I love to paint. My house is full of artwork of mine and friends’ and from friends of friends. Give me a tube of paint and I’ll tell you a story. I love it.

Other than that, there’s the gardening and the hiking/camping. I love learning and seeing more about the world and mother nature, what she can do and what she has to offer. I like to cultivate real-world skills and experiences. You get to unlock so many more potential stories that way.

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

Filmfreeway really puts some ease into the submissions process. Having a database to browse through and use all sorts of different filter algorithms to find the fests just right for your project is a really great tool. Everything’s pretty clear-cut. You just have to read everything and take the time to input all the data you can into your project to make it shine.

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

I’ve entered into several festivals for this short at this point, and I always get excited when I not only find one with a category for sci-fi but a festival that is all about fantasy and sci-fi. There’s something thrilling about entering into a festival that is centric to the genre you’re living in for that project. To get selected and then win awards is just mind-blowing and huge boost of confidence. I really wanted to see how my story stacked up against its brothers and sisters of the sci-fi/fantasy world.

The feedback I received on the script was pretty incredible. Really, there were suggestions on sentence and spacing structure. There were no critical character or story based notes/feedback at all. The fact that it felt so focused made me feel very good. I had this positive mentality of “the plot points and characters must be so well crafted that they’re TRYING to find something to suggest.” And they were all very good notes, too. I remember one was actually suggesting a question mark instead of the period I’d written. It was a piece of dialogue in the form of a question but meant as a statement, and thus the period. I remember I took about half the notes and then I dared to write the email of “here’s why I don’t feel I should change this, this, and this.” I was nervous sending that reply, but I knew even with how small those particular notes seemed, they were important pacing and story points. Nothing in those twenty-nine pages is fluff. It was all very meticulous and purposeful. And I felt that this festival recognized that.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Miranda, bent on revenge, crosses paths with Atlas on a desolate world in a withering galaxy. She is faced with the choice to continue on her hellbent path or help him on his journey to save thousands.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Val Cole
Miranda: Kyana Teresa
Rigel: Hannah Ehman

By matthewtoffolo

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

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