Interview with Screenwriter Sabrina Barton (BY DARK)

When her older sister is brutally murdered, a Black teen girl and her white best friend must overcome police apathy, racial prejudice, and extreme peril to bring a serial killer to justice. Inspired by true events in late nineteenth-century Austin, Texas.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:


Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Eliza: Hannah Ehman
Maggie: Kyana Teresa
Sara: Val Cole

Get to know the writer:

1. What is your screenplay about?
“By Dark” was inspired by true events in late nineteenth-century Austin, Texas, when a serial killer brutally targeted Black female domestic workers. In my story, two teen girls—Eliza, the younger sister of the first victim, and her white best friend, Maggie—vow to solve the crime in the face of police apathy, racial prejudice, and extreme peril.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?
I’m glad you said “genres” instead of “genre.” My screenplay is a thriller and coming-of-age story, set in a historical period.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
The screenplay:
1. Tells a unique and suspenseful story about a little-known “true crime” event
2. Centers on two complex female characters whose cross-racial friendship creates tension as well as opportunities for growth.
3. Conveys important and timely themes related to gender and racial justice
4. Includes highly cinematic visual storytelling

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

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
Probably Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
About a year (on and off)

7. How many stories have you written?
Five – two features, two short screenplays, one TV pilot

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)
Nina Simone, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
The usual one for writers, finding enough time to write while holding a full-time job.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I love watching movies and all the great shows streaming on various platforms. I’m also a big reader.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?
Everything about the process was very smooth, with clear guidelines and communication.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I was interested in festivals that would embrace a story centered on two female protagonists. The feedback I got was really helpful. It pointed out several story elements that could be clarified or improved. I’m thinking now about how to incorporate those suggestions.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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