Interview with Winning Screenwriter JoAnn Hess (FRAMER)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Simon Webber, intelligent with a high moral compass, exists on society’s edge, mostly forgotten and ignored. When his wife and child are killed by a distracted driver, the court shows an unecpected leniency in the case. Enraged by a justice system that fails to act, Simon retaliates, using his highly technical skills to not only kill the guilty but frame another for the act. While his vengence is sated, its only temporary as he hunts among the dregs of society, where murder is the only outlet for his rage. Simon is pursued by Jack Donovan, an ex-FBI agent turned detective, dealing with his own moral crisis after failing to save a child from a serial killer. Where Simon sees a kindship in Jack who fights his own battle within a corrupt police department, Jack retains a stead-fast belief in the law. As their worlds collide, the line between morality and justice fade, causing a reckoning that neither can survive.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Thriller, Suspense, Crime

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

FRAMER’s themes of vengeance, moral justice and self-sacrifice will have strong appeal across multiple age groups and genders.

It will also garner appeal across social classes and race, especially with those that believe our political and judicial systems have failed. These are all very current and provocative social issues seen all over the news.

Women will be attracted to the struggle of both lead characters as they deal with family issues to protect or avenge children. In addition, FRAMER’s female cast covers a broad spectrum from motherly to strong policewoman exhibiting the characteristics of compassion, power and inner fortitude that audiences of today expect.

Men and older viewers are attracted to FRAMER’s action, suspense, tension and danger. The complex and intense plotline with unique twists will keep male viewers engaged.

Younger audiences will appreciate the cleverness in which Simon facilitates his crimes: the use of technology to commit, trap and frame his victims.

In addition, there is an exuberance of twenty-something characters engaging in activities that 18-30 year old audiences can relate to.

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

Vigilente justice

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

The Lion in Winter, the subtextual dialogue exchange between the characters is the best I’ve ever seen.

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

Three years, this month

7. How many stories have you written?

12 scripts (8 for hire), 1-webseries (optioned), 2-TV series

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

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

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

The key was to make an anti-hero character like Simon empathetic enough so an audience would relate to him. It was important to create a character such that, while on the surface his actions are horrific, how would anyone react in a similar situation? I wanted that conversation after the movie was over. Additionally, Simon’s adversary needed to be equally strong and wounded. To do these characters justice, I had to draw from darker places than I’m used to.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I do Voice over work which is very rewarding and fun. My work can be found on several websites and I’ve voiced several audiobooks. I scuba, play golf when the weather is nice and can be found to play a videogame now and then – I especially like RPGs. Anything with a good story.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?
It’s really great overall. Easy to submit and find film festivals. There is a great amount of information given and I like all the submission in one place to track. It’s not very flexible though. I’d like to add festivals I entered (not realizing they were available through film freeway).

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I liked that it was genre specific. That I was competing with like scripts and the judges were experts in the genre. When you enter, a win needs to mean something and being chosen for a read through the Thriller Festival brings credibility to the script as it moves into market.

***

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama

A highly-intelligent, socially-disenfranchised man seeks moral justice and eludes a former FBI agent as he manipulates others to disguise his own criminal acts.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR: Rachel Rain Packota

Jack: Isaiah Kolundzic
Walter: Julian Ford
Simon: Jason Gray
Christine: Vanessa Burns
Paula: Olivia Jon

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Interview with Winning Screenwriter Robert Cox (DRAGONSONG)

  1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s the story of Tal, a young man with a magical heritage, the son of the Magician Merlin, who finds that after hiding his magic for most of his life, realizes that he must do battle with the sorceress that trapped his father and has tried throughout history to conquer England by allying herself with those who sought to invade her. Now, she has allied herself with the Nazi’s and only Tal, his friend Arthur and his RAF wing, four dragons, and his father Merlin stand in the way of an invasion.

  1. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

War/ Historical, Fantasy

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

The film blends together World War II and the knights of the round table. There are scenes of war and scenes of magic, and the friendship that develops between two very different young men. It is a movie where good overcomes evil. But most of all, it is the story of a young man finding his personal strengths and the magical warrior within himself.

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

Historical Fantasy

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

August Rush

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

6 months

  1. How many stories have you written?

25 – 30

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

“Here I Am”

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

Combining actual events with Urban /Rural legends that got their start in WW II, along with the Welsh Language, and combing the German war archives for battle plans.

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

Grower and breeder of Orchids, Roses, and Plumeria. Avid reader.

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

On the whole, I have been very pleased, with their timeliness and professionalism. It also is good for keeping track of those festivals that you’ve entered.

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

Have always been a fan of Sci-Fi/ Fantasy since I was a kid. After writing the script for ‘Dragonsong,’ was looking for a film festival that could appreciate it. Have found the feedback that I  received to be very informative and gave me many ideas that I have set to practice, not only in this script, but in others that I’ve written since.

***

Genre: Fantasy

A MIDWIFE carries a newborn to a forest cave. It’s 527AD. NIMUEH, the sorceress, waits there to cast a spell, encasing the child in a crystal tomb, as she did to his father, Merlin. Nimueh kills the midwife to hide her secret.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR: Rachel Rain Packota

Carolyn: Vanessa Burns
Edward: Jason Gray
Midwife: Stephanie Haines
Nimueh: Olivia Jon

Interview with Winning TV PILOT Writer Katie Grotzinger (MINNIE NOIR)

What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?

Minnie Hughes is a hardboiled noir detective that also just so happens to also be the shortest girl in the fourth grade. When a candidate for class president’s show and tell South African ostrich egg goes missing, Minnie jumps on the case. Meanwhile, she also deals with her best friend Lincoln Park feeling under appreciated after she calls him her secretary and struggles with asking her crush, Vijay Sampat, a kind of male femme fatale, to be her dance partner for gym class.

Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

There are so many wonderful cartoons right now inspired by Japanese anime. They take joy in taking the viewer to strange lands and entertaining them with awesome action sequences. I think that’s great, but I also think there’s much to be mined from American genres like noir. Additionally, I think there’s room for quieter shows that embrace more what it’s like to be a kid. I think Hey Arnold and Recess both did that beautifully and I’d like to write something like that for kids growing up.

Most of all, Minnie is for every weirdo kid that finds solace into escaping into another world for one reason or another. For Minnie, it’s noir and her love of mystery comes from the fact that she never got to know her parents, so they’re the biggest mystery of all. If this show could make some kid feel less alone, that would the greatest honor.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Kid Noir

What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?

South Park!

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Good question! This was actually my thesis project for my Screenwriting MFA at DePaul University in Chicago. I worked on this for a few semesters and now continue to tinker with it off and on.

How many stories have you written?

Quite a few! I try to write every day and have accumulated hundreds of false starts over the years. I have a handful of scripts I’m truly proud of.

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

I’d say right now it’s “Something Beautiful” by Pansy Division.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I had a clear idea of the A story in mind from the get go, but my MFA thesis professor and classmates really challenged me to flesh out the B and C stories and I think the pilot is much stronger for it.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’m a total true crime geek. I regularly follow two true crime podcasts – The Last Podcast on the Left and My Favorite Murder. Both are absolutely fantastic. If I can’t think of anything to watch, I’ll turn on a cheesy serial killer documentary. Also, my favorite true crime book right now is The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletica Killing by Dan Morse.

Believe or not, my fascination with The Zodiac Killer actually made its way into an episode of Minnie Noir I’ve been writing – the Christmas special to boot! Nothing violent though, of course. Minnie just struggles to crack a mysterious, intensely complicated code from letters she’s received. (The code, naturally, is composed from stickers.)

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

Despite working and reworking on this pilot as much as I have, I still recognize that it could always be better. I have a big place in my heart for this story and I want to do anything I can to make it the best it can be, so feedback is a must.

And it’s funny! See, originally, I had two characters named Connor. This was for a couple of reasons. For one, when I was growing up, there was a year where we had three Connors to one class, all spelled the same way, only to be identified by the first initial of their last name. I also have a common name and there’s usually another Katie, so I empathized. It seems like such a staple of childhood. It was also a shoutout to shows I loved growing up like Ed, Edd n’ Eddy and the Ashleys from Recess where the same names are part of the camaraderie and comedy.

But I had gotten the note before that having two Connors was confusing. I finally made the change when I got the note from you guys! Thank you for finally getting me to change it.

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

It’s been stellar! I’ve submitted a bunch of stuff through FilmFreeway and appreciate how easy it is to find specific contests for certain projects.

Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

I have difficulty finishing scripts unless I have someone to bounce ideas off of. Having a community of writers, or even just one friend, to get feedback from makes scripts come together so much easier and better than they would be in just the isolated writer bubble we all sometimes fall into. Also, watch episodes or read scripts similar to what you’re going for. It’s not only fun, but it’ll give you some inspiration.

****

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR: Becky Shrimpton
Minnie: Kate Varadi
Nick: Scott Beaudin
Dash: Merlin Simard
Ms. Kirkpatrick: Mahtab Sabet
Connor: Allan Brunet
Lincoln: Anthony Tran

Interview with Winning TV Pilot Writer Ed Vela (PSI-COM)

What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?

At a secret government facility, young psychics are being trained and their psychic gifts developed but when one group: Psi-Com 5, finds out about an enhancement program that is killing and maiming some of the younger less powerful psychics, while at the same time discovering a powerful young psychic on the outside being used as a pawn, they decide to try to escape the confines of the Clinic.

Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

Psi-Com 5 has at its core a few elements that make it very appealing for episodic television or platform viewing: it has well drawn characters relatable for who they are and who they aren’t, it has a basic “chase” plot element as PC5 works to stay hidden from society at large while staying one step ahead of the Clinic as they relentlessly pursue them, and it combines both a sci-fi and thriller element as it deals with both psychic powers and the danger of the pursuit.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Super Psychics.

What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?

Game of Thrones.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

A few years.

How many stories have you written?

About 60, if you count stage plays, screenplays and teleplays.

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

The Longest Time by Billy Joel.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Firstly, the framing device, it seemed natural once I realized that Lynx is such a acerbic character that if you didn’t know what he was thinking he wouldn’t be near as likeable as he ended up being, so I told it thru his eyes. Secondly, the age old dilemma in a pilot: making sure ask more questions than you answer.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love producing, directing and acting in my own short films, and web series. It offers me a creative smorgasbord.

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

As a TV pilot there aren’t that many festivals to enter a script like: Psi-Com 5, and this is the 1st contest I have entered it. I found the feedback thorough and helpful.

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

I find FilmFreeway a fantastic way to search, find and enter festivals all over the country and the world.

Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

If its not a story that you feel you have to write… Don’t write it. If you think it’s interesting… The audience will too.

****

 

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR: Becky Shrimpton
Lynx: Merlin Simard
Lucien: Allan Brunet
Joselyn: Mahtab Sabet
Liticia: Kate Varadi
Titansor: Anthony Tran
Hadley: Scott Beaudin
Cho: Salma Dharsee

Interview with winning screenwriters Edward Ocean & Michael Sgueglia (THE NOWHERE MAN)

1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s the story of a depressed New York talent agent who inexplicability finds himself back in 1980 just in time to save John Lennon and his own marriage.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Fantasy/Dramady

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

Michael – It has all the good stuff; music, comedy and a Beatles reunion.

Ed – It also has everyones favorite ….time travel.

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

What if?

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

Michael – I’ve seen tons of movies many times. So choosing only one would be impossible.

Ed- “Battlefield Earth”

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

We wrote it 9 years ago and have been tweaking it ever since.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two feature length scripts with treatments for 8 more.

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

Both – Anything Beatles!

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

The decision to use the Beatles instead of a fictitious band because of the licensing expense.

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

Ed – Being a former professional musician it would be music.

Michael – I’m also a singer-songwriter/producer.

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

 More user friendly than the other big submission site. Also the Paypal option was a plus.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival?

It had the qualifications we were looking for.

What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

Honest and helpful. 
****

Watch the WINNING Reading: 

Genre: Drama, Fantasy,

Struggling talent agent, Harry Durst unintentionally saves his idol’s life and changes his forever.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR: Rachel Rain Packota
Harry: Julian Ford
Mary: Stephanie Haines
Julia: Vanessa Burns
John Lennon: Jason Gray
Stevens: Isaiah Kolundzic
Yoko: Olivia Jon

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Jeff Racho (BUCCANEERS OF THE ASTEROID BELT)

What is your screenplay about?

It tells the story of a once-prosperous asteroid mining business driven to the point of bankruptcy after a disruptive technology from a rival entrepreneur crashes the market for space metals. The former owner and his crew are faced with a decision: eke out a substance-level life in the asteroid belt or steal a spaceship to return home.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama and science fiction

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It hits on a lot of themes pertinent to the present: economic dislocation, worker anxiety, automation, “creative destruction” in the economy. A lot of present-day influences—such as behavioral economics and the author Matthew Crawford—are in the script but there are some hints of John Steinbeck and Richard Llewellyn too. So it’s taking some themes from classic works and seeing how they apply to the present. Plus I think it’s an interesting story and people seem to like the plot.

How would you describe this script in two words?

“Endowment Effect.” The endowment effect is a concept from behavioral economics and it’s a big theme in the script. It’s one of the causes of the protagonist’s conflicts.

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

Probably “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

It began as a completely different short story draft in early 2016. I shelved it and came back to it in late 2016 and that’s when the final plot began to develop. I realized it would be too long for a short story so I decided to turn it into a screenplay. I spent a few weeks doing research to get the “science/engineering” aspects correct and had the first draft finished in a few months.

How many stories have you written?

I’ve had four short stories published and am trying to finish up a few more.

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

Tough one – “most times” is probably the album “Led Zeppelin IV” (I used to play the drums) but my favorite piece is probably Beethoven’s 9th.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I’m a horrible proofreader of my own work. Luckily I have a friend who owns a ghostwriting company and she’s also a novelist. She provided invaluable help with finding errors and feedback.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

In my day job I do legal and finance work for start-up companies. It’s a lot like writing: start with an idea and try to bring it to reality. Some of the things I’ve seen in the day job influenced the script.

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

I think it’s a great system. It was a great help finding appropriate contests & festivals and seamlessly handled the submissions.

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

I found out about you through a FilmFreeway search. When I wrote the script I kept thinking of Harrison Ford’s “you can type this – but you sure can’t say it” remark and tried to picture the various characters saying their lines so I like the “recorded performance” aspect.

The feedback was excellent and I really like this aspect of the festival. Good constructive (and honest) feedback is essential to make authors better but many contests and festivals don’t offer any! Your feedback definitely improved the latest draft of the script.

 

****

Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure

After a disruptive technology from a rival entrepreneur destroys a once-prosperous asteroid mining business, the former owner and his crew are forced to steal a spaceship to return home—but the trip doesn’t go according to plan.

CAST LIST:

Narration: Xavier de Guzman
Jackson: Isai Rivera Blas
Jessie: Angelica Alejandro
Eva: Carina Cojeen

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Camera Operator: Mary Cox

Interview with Winning Screenplay Writer Jimmy Prosser (BETTER CALL SAUL)

What is your TV Spec screenplay about?

The logline is “Suspended lawyer Jimmy McGill endures community service at a high school where he meets an accused teen, while Mike searches for the distributor of Cheese, a popular new drug.” Going deeper, this episode provides viewers a better understanding of why Jimmy McGill cares about his clients, and particularly those over their head and in situations they did not anticipate. In a flashback, we see teen Jimmy (along with young buddy Marco) devising a clever money making scam but abandoned by older brother Chuck once caught. In present day, Jimmy identifies too closely with an accused teen as he struggles to find a way to defend him. We also learn more about the Hector/Gus rivalry as they make moves to expand from meth to a new heroin derivative that became very hot in this time frame.

How does this episode fit into the context of the TV series?

“QUESO” would be Episode 26 ½ (during Season 3 between episodes 6/7) and opens on Jimmy’s first attempt to satisfy his community service requirements following his suspension by the New Mexico Bar Association.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Achilles heal

What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?

The show I’ve watched repeatedly over the years is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Each of the characters are perfectly drawn and I admire the writers’ willingness to really push boundaries. However, the show that I currently admire most is “Black Mirror.” I have been focusing on one-hour drama and, as I work on my own pilot and series bible, the tone and structure of “Black Mirror” is what keeps coming to mind. If I could write for one show, it’s “Black Mirror.”

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I will be graduating in a few months from New York University’s (NYU), Tisch School of the Arts, where I study Dramatic Writing and Producing in the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. I’ve written plays, screenplays and sitcoms, but this script, QUESO, is my first one hour drama spec, which I wrote over 12 weeks this past summer.

How many stories have you written?

I’ve always liked to tell stories – but mostly orally to my family and friends. About 4 years ago, I began dramatic writing in earnest so over that time I must have written 20-30 short stories, plays, screenplays, sitcoms and now television drama scripts.

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

Being a kid growing up in San Diego during the 2000s, I have to say “I Miss You” by Blink-182.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I believe I’ve been able to capture the characters/dialogue and tone of “Better Call Saul” pretty well so the toughest part for me is to formulate the proper four act structure in a way that really communicates the right arc for the A, B and C stories.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Music, definitely. My favorite escapes are listening to music alone or grabbing instruments to play with my buddies as loudly as we can. When I write, a soundtrack always is in my head.

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

As I mentioned before, I’ve written a lot but this is my first drama spec so I was anxious to hear objective feedback. Some of the feedback I received was right on; some I think missed aspects of the script, especially when it comes to Jimmy’s motivation to help Bobby.

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

FilmFreeway has been great. My first experience with it was submitting a short screenplay, “NOTEWORTHY,” which won several festivals and is going to be shot in January. We hope to submit that completed short film to several of the best festivals next year via FilmFreeway because it is very easy to use.

Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

As painful as it is, I feel that you must create a full beat sheet before trying to write the script! Once that solid outline is in place, the writing comes much easier. It is tempting to write a fun standalone scene as soon as you think of it, but if you don’t have your structure in place you may find yourself spending too much time trying to wedge that scene into the overall story.

****

Genre: Crime, Drama

Suspended lawyer Jimmy McGill endures community service at a high school where he meets an accused teen, while Mike searches for the distributor of Cheese, a popular new drug.

Narrator: Val Cole
Jimmy: Noah Casey
Mike: David Schaap
Bobby/Nacho: Gabriel Darku
Talbot/Hector: Neil Bennett
Secretary: Clare Blackwood
Kim: Lauren Toffan

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Camera Operator: Mary Cox