Interview with Screenwriter Elliot Stanton (DEADLINE TO DEATH)

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Author CJ Billings is under pressure from his publisher to finish a novel. He has an idea that a few days away in the setting of the finale will give him the inspiration he so desperately needs.


Narrator: Shawn Devlin
CJ: Allan Michael Brunet
Jane: Val Cole

Get to know the writer:

1. What is your screenplay about?

Here is the synopsis –

Author CJ Billings is under pressure from his publisher to finish a novel. He has an idea that a few days away in the setting of the finale will give him the inspiration he so desperately needs.

After arriving in Bude, Cornwall, a fan of his recognises him and invites him back to her cottage for a bite to eat and to sign her CJ Billings novels. Margaret is an older woman who lives alone. An unfinished painting in her house curiously provides the inspiration CJ was looking for. The harsh, depressing, stormy harbour scene gives CJ the ending for his protagonist.

CJ visits the following day again, and Margaret admits to him that her younger life was far from idyllic, and she escaped to Cornwall for reasons she keeps to herself. Margaret begins to feel tired, and CJ promises to visit again the following day before returning home to London.

When CJ knocks on Margaret’s door the following morning, he is met by a neighbour, Emily, who informs him that Margaret has died. She gives him one of his books that Margaret had marked ‘For Chris’.

On his return home, a shell-shocked CJ finds a letter within the pages of the book. It is a confession by Margaret, albeit that is not her real name. She moved from London to escape justice after murdering a baby in her care when she was a nanny. The confessional story bears an uncanny resemblance to the conclusion of CJ’s book. The conundrum he has is a moral one. Does he submit his manuscript knowing that a real-life murderer inspired the inspiration for ending, or does he delete the whole computer file, preserving his morality but possibly ruining his career? The story ends with CJ’s finger hovering over the ‘delete’ button.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama. Mystery

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

Although it is a short script, I feel it has all the components to take the viewer on an interesting and thought-provoking journey. Hopefully, the ending will present the audience with a chilling and unwelcome surprise.

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

Disturbing. Provoking.

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

There are two (very different films). The Wizard of Oz and Glenngary Glen Ross.

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

This was originally a short story and that probably took me about a week. I later adapted it into a script, which took another couple of weeks. Editing and re-writes then took place over another month or so.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written and published a book of 17 short stories. I have adapted seven, of which into screenplays. In addition, I have written five novels and three collections of poems.

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

This is probably the toughest question of the lot to answer. Again, I have to mention two songs – God Only Knows by The Beach Boys and The Sound of Silence. Both were released before I was born.

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

It was certainly a big learning curve between writing a story to adapting it into a screenplay. I had written some wonderful delicious descriptions of scenes and character emotions which had to go because they were no longer necessary as the viewer would be able to see for themselves without my pen telling them what is going on. As they say – less is more.

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

I suppose it used to be football. Although I still love my football, my fervour for it has waned over recent years – to be replaced with my passion for writing

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

Generally very good. They have a very wide range of contests and film festivals to enter your work into. However, there have been instances where some festivals have proved to be scams, not providing updates on award winners or even selections. I would urge Filmfreeway to tighten up the processes which allow these scammers to operate.

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

I have to say that although the feedback I received from you was extensive, I did feel that the reader didn’t quite ‘get’ what I had written at times. However, I appreciate constructive feedback and acted on many of the points raised and hopefully improved my script with them.


By matthewtoffolo

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

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: