Interview with Screenwriter Janna Jones (SHELTER)

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

A smart, but indecisive movie theater owner is about to lose her husband, movie theater and her family’s legacy, but when two forces of nature sweep into her life–a violent tropical storm and a gorgeous and compassionate man–she finally jumps into action to get what she wants.


Narrator: Steve Rizzo
Annie: Hannah Ehman
Kate: Kyana Teresa

Get to know the screenwriter:

1. What is your screenplay about?

Shelter is about a woman who is having a hard time saving herself and her family’s legacy. Kate’s marriage is a disaster, her parents are in prison, and she’s trying to run her grandfather’s movie theater–without a lot of success. She’s got a loving grandfather and great friends, but she’s sort of sleepwalking around her beloved island. When a famous blogger, Chip Gallagher, comes to town and a violent tropical storm hits the island, she finally wakes up and understands what she wants. Once she knows what she wants, she jumps into action and gets what she wants.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Shelter is a romantic comedy.

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

Shelter is original, funny and sweet. It is truly a love letter to cinema, and it is full of funny, quirky and three dimensional characters who live on a cool, funky island off the coast of Florida. In some ways, it also flips the script of the romantic comedy–because at the end of Shelter, we see the woman chasing after the man; in this case, by way of skateboard and golf cart!

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

Stormy love.

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

It’s a toss up between Annie Hall and Lost in Translation. There are references to both in Shelter, though they are subtle. After Chip and Kate get caught kissing on camera, they run down the hall to the library at the school (which is the storm shelter). Kate says, “Well, la dee da. la dee da,” after she tells Chip she is married. Annie does the same when she is tongue-tied in Annie Hall. And after the theater floods, and Kate and Chip are sitting on the stairs, watching the flood waters, Kate rests her head on Chip’s shoulder. Charlotte does the same to Bob Harris–after a big night out with friends– in Lost in Translation. I told you they were subtle references!

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

Shelter is the first screenplay I ever wrote. It took me about four months to write. When I finished it I put it away, and then wrote three other screenplays, some essays and a book. Finally, I decided I was ready to return to it, and quite recently I rewrote it, and that’s when Kate became the main character. When it became Kate’s story, then it was finally my story, and I knew I was on to something pretty good.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written four screenplays. Besides Shelter, I have written About Gabriel–which is about the archangel Gabriel who shows up at house in Tampa by way of a FedEx truck. He is a skateboarding, trumpet playing punk who helps a dysfunctional family and falls in love with a human. I have also written Malled, which is a horror/thriller about a cop and an intuitive who are chasing after a killer in an abandoned and rat infested mall, and I have also written Past Due, which is a rom com short. It’s about a financially strapped realtor who tries to seduce potential buyers so to make a sale. I have also published three books: The Southern Movie Palace: Rise, Fall, and Resurrection; The Past is a Moving Picture: Preserving the Twentieth Century on Film, and The Spirit of the City: Marshall Fredericks Sculptures in Detroit. I am currently working on another book–From Cold War Shelters to Present Day Bunkers: The Architecture and Design of Fear. I’ve also published a lot of essays about film, architecture, and design.

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

I think it’s probably John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” Prine is referred to as the “Mark Twain of American songwriting,” so that seems about right! I’ve listened to it a million times, since I was little–Bonnie Raitt’s version the most. It is, in many ways, such a weary song, and I don’t quite understand why, as a kid, it resonated with me so much.

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

I love to write and work. I am not a procrastinator, so there were not too many obstacles to finish Shelter.

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

I have been riding horses since I was little. I have a beautiful horse and huge, goofy mule. Taking care of horses and riding them requires discipline and commitment–just like writing.
Riding and writing. I try to do both every single day. They both keep me happy and strong.

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

It’s been perfect for me. I have learned so much from submitting my scripts via Film Freeway. It’s a nicely organized platform and it’s easy for me to keep track of my submissions and my wins.

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

After I revised Shelter, I wanted to submit it to a comedy festival that I believed would provide feedback to help me revise my revision. Honestly, it was the best feedback I’ve received from a festival. It was thorough, so supportive, and incredibly well-written. I am a professor, and I am quite aware how much effort such feedback requires. It was so impressive. I was also blown away by how thoughtful the feedback was. Truly an exceptional experience.


By matthewtoffolo

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

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