Interview with Winning Screenwriter Troy Kelly (INDIAN COUNTY)

INDIAN COUNTY was the winner of BEST FEATURE SCREENPLAY at the July 2018 Screenplay Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Troy Kelly: Indian Country is about an attorney who finds himself in trouble for helping the wrong people and has a chance at redemption in defending a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend. Along the way, he sees the criminal justice system in a different light and confronts a corrupt investigation.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is a legal drama.

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

I really focused on developing strong characters who aren’t often represented. Throughout the cast there are strong women and strong people of color who aren’t just in the story to move the men along. It’s also important that the script is legally accurate (with a few minor exceptions to add dramatic tension). There are no surprise witnesses or any of those tropes that can’t happen in real life but seem to pop up in legal dramas all the time.

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

“honest” and “realistic”

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

Definitely Silence of the Lambs

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

Before submitting it, I worked on it from conception to outlining to first draft to revisions for about 6 months.

7. How many stories have you written?

I suppose I’ve been writing stories one way or another throughout my whole life, so I’m not sure I could count. This is my first completed screenplay, and I am working on another project at the moment.

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

I love R&B music from the 90s and 20s. My favorite song ever is “If” by Janet Jackson.

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

For me, the biggest obstacle in this screenplay was learning the ins and outs of screenwriting. I was doing a lot of reading about screenwriting and took a course in screenwriting while I was working on this project, so I sort of did that simultaneously.

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

I am politically active, so I have spent a lot of time over the last few months working on a few campaigns with the labor movement.

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

It was a pretty seamless submission platform, and it really helped me get a sense of the kinds of contests to enter.

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

I chose this particular festival because it was genre specific. Since this was my first screenplay and my first foray into entering into contests like this, I wanted to be intentional in how and where I entered. Also, having the chance for a full reading from professional actors was a really exciting prospect!

Genre: Crime, Drama

An up-and-coming white-collar defense lawyer gets caught up in a fraud scheme and must take on the pro bono defense of a Native American man facing the death penalty in order to restore his reputation.

CAST LIST:

Agent Forrest: Danilo Reyes
Carole: Julie C. Sheppard
Nona: Tayna Bevan
Narrator: Kate Fenton
Carter: John Marcucci
Kari: Samantha Carly
Agent Gust: Scott McCulloch
Agent James: Michael Lake

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Winning Screenwriter Troy Kelly (INDIAN COUNTRY)

 1. What is your screenplay about?

An embattled attorney caught in a fraud scandal must undertake the pro bono defense of a Native American man facing the death penalty for killing his girlfriend while confronting a corrupt investigation and trying to restore his reputation.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Legal drama

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

As I was developing the idea for Indian Country, I looked around to ask myself what kinds of stories weren’t being told. There are very few stories that shine a light on the experiences of indigenous people, and I wanted to write a story that allowed for a glimpse at these experiences. The main character of Indian Country is a man, but he does not go through the script propped up by women who exist only to move him forward. Instead, I worked really hard to make sure that the female characters were strong and had unique voices that could speak to different aspects of the plot. Finally, within the confines of the story world, the story is legally accurate. Sometimes legal dramas gloss over important details or inaccurately portray the law, but I avoided those tropes in the script.

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

thought-provoking and honest

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

Silence of the Lambs

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

All told, from conception to completion of the first draft (so including outlining and early revisions), about six months. Revisions took about one month.

7. How many stories have you written?

I guess it would be impossible to say if I am really broad about stories. Like most writers, I’ve been creating worlds and stories for most of my life. I fell away from storytelling in my early adulthood because of the demands of school and career, and I have more recently returned to writing and storytelling. As far as screenplays go, this is actually my first screenplay.

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

Music really inspires me, and especially during this process, I was really, really into Hamilton. Some of my friends might have thought I had a problem. My mom might have learned the words to some of the songs in Hamilton just from me singing them aloud without ever having listened to them herself. The brilliance of Hamilton is that listening to the music teaches important lessons about story progression at the same time because the composition is so brilliantly executed.

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

Since this was my first screenplay, I was doing a lot of reading and self-teaching about screenwriting while I was in the early stages. So, in the midst of outlining the idea, I read Save the Cat and Story, among other texts. My initial obstacle was a lack of familiarity with the medium, and I was fortunate that the process worked relatively smoothly for me to have an idea in play with which I could immediately implement the lessons I was learning.

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

I am passionate about the arts across a variety of media: television, film, music, and theater. Beyond that, I am passionate about social justice issues like criminal justice reform, gender equality, and economic and housing justice.

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

FilmFreeway is such a convenient platform, and I appreciate the sorting features that helped me find festivals to enter that offered what I was looking for at my current level of writing development. The way the platform is organized has really helped me stay on track with submissions.

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

I was drawn to the festival because of the genre focus and the opportunities for full feedback, which is not offered in many festivals at all. For any writer, feedback is valuable, but it isn’t all created equally. With my feedback from this festival, I was happy to see that there was individual attention given to my script and actionable items that I could work with to enhance the script’s quality.

Genre: Crime, Drama

An up-and-coming white-collar defense lawyer gets caught up in a fraud scheme and must take on the pro bono defense of a Native American man facing the death penalty in order to restore his reputation.

CAST LIST:

Judge: Dan Fox
Prosecutor: James Murray
Narrator: Val Cole
Carter: Nick Wicht
Brandi: Cassandra Sirois