2017’s WINNERS INTERVIEWS


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qa-featureFEATURE GRAND PRIZE WINNER – BETH CURRY

What first got you interested in screenwriting?              
I started writing, so I could…well, stay awake. That’s right, stay awake. I was performing in Mel Brooks musical, Young Frankenstein, playing the Madeline Kahn role. I had over an hour off stage. My role was in the beginning of the show and at the end of the show. At the start of the run, I would fall asleep and drool on my costume. Not good. Then I tried doing P-90 X. Too sweaty. And then, I picked up an old journal and just started writing. Of course, thirty minutes after I started, I tossed it aside, thinking that what I wrote was complete crap. And it probably was. But the next night, I picked up that old journal and tried again. And again. And again. And now, I’m an addict. I have been a performer my whole life, but now it feels empowering to be the one who is telling the stories.

How long have you been writing for?
Young Frankenstein was in 2010…so seven years. And I’m not feeling the seven-year-itch…so, we’re in a good spot.

Do you have a routine?
I do have a routine. I have a favorite Starbucks in LA (on La Brea and 4th) which I plop down in for at least three hours a day. It’s basically a poor man’s WeWork. I write for about three hours and then do yoga. I know, it sounds very LA, but I find that if I work for a bit and then do something physical, it helps gets the ideas moving. If I have been stuck on a story point, I downward dog it out.

As for breaking the story. It’s painful. I think I have creative stretchmarks from it. I will usually start with an image. Sometimes from a dream or sometimes just from a moment in my life. I take that image, and the feeling of that image, and start to build the opening image. From there, I open a word document and roughly throw up on my screen. Letting the story come out as it will. I then go back and clean it all up, making sure the structure is right. Once I have that outline, I start writing. I push myself through that first draft, knowing that it’s not going to be perfect or even right. I know that I must get it out. Then I will go back and refine, make small… and well, let’s honest… large changes. And somewhere in all of that, I ask my husband, who’s is not a screenwriter, a million questions about his opinion on my story. He’s my muse. I couldn’t do it without him. What a patient man.

I think having a routine is key. Consistency is key. And the chocolate chip muffin I get at Starbucks is key.

How do you find time to write?
I make the time. I have a new phrase which I’ve been using in my life, recently. It is…drumroll…MAKE ROOM. I am someone who used to make excuses or fill my day with saying “yes” to too many things that didn’t bring me joy. I removed the events I wasn’t truly passionate about and made room for the things I AM passionate about. Making room means truly listening to yourself and doing what brings you joy, rather than do what you feel you should do. My husband calls the latter, “shoulding all over yourself.” If something is important, make room for it, even it’s just an extra hour a day. Maybe even getting up thirty minutes earlier to write. Every moment counts. Make room for yourself. You deserve it.

How many feature screenplays have you written?
I have three. My first feature is called Vara. It’s a coming of age story about a trapeze artist in the Paris circus in 1945. It has heightened visuals, like in the movie Amelie…which is my favorite movie.

I am now working on a film about my father, who has undiagnosed Asperger’s. It’s about how the family learns to love him for him.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
This movie was born out of grief. I wrote the first twelve pages after my step-father, who raised me, passed away. In the movie, my main character has just lost her father and moves back home to take over his farm. After writing up to page twelve, I put it down. For five years! Luckily, when I picked it up, the idea was still there. I originally had the main character falling in love with a black man…but I said, that’s been done. Why not flip it and make it a black woman? That’s when it started getting interesting and had me hooked. I wanted to see what happened.

How long did it take to write?
It took about a year. I workshopped it in a writer’s group called Safehouse in Santa Monica. I would get notes, get frustrated, throw it down-vowing to never pick it up, again. But then I would pick it up and change a few things here and there. Repeat that process…oh, let’s say, a million times…and then ding. It was at the point I could share it. But of course, there are still some things I would adjust.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
It’s an escape. I get to dive into a world that I have created and listen to what these characters are saying. Sometimes, I feel like I’m not in control…that I’m merely listening to them. As writers, we live for that high when things are flowing out of us, right? There’s nothing better. And of course, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you are stopped up. That’s when I call in the creative Metamucil to loosen it all up. (I know, too much.) But, yes, that moment where you are watching things unfold is truly magical. Allowing things to be just as they are. Being an observer and listening.

What do you struggle with the most?
I struggle with structure. I struggle with breaking story. I know, emotionally, where I want the story to go and what I want to say, but I am not always the most skilled with structure. I still whip out my Save the Cat for the basics, but struggle at times. But watching films and dissecting them, really helps.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
That’s a hard question. I think we are in a time where there is a lot of content being produced, thus a lot of content is needed. I think that the industry understands we are in a new age where YouTube stars and influencers have a lot of power. But I still feel like it can be tricky breaking into the arena, as I call it. The writing community is essentially that, a community. It just takes a little time to become a part of it. I think contests like this, are a huge help. They are a platform for industry folks to truly take notice.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Yes, indeedy! How do you get an agent when no one will read unsolicited work? That’s where the hustle comes in. Reaching out to people who you have worked with in the past and sending them a logline. Asking for help…yes, asking for help. We are a community, after all, and we are going to help each other. We need each other. AND, contests like Shore Scripts really help give you a leg up. It helps you finally be heard by industry folks. There is nothing better than someone finally hearing you and acknowledging your work. I feel like if you are passionate about what you are doing, you will find a way to be heard. Never give up.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
I found out that I won the contest, while doing a gig aboard the USS Midway. I sing in a cover band, sometimes. I was dressed in a sailor outfit, getting ready to do a tap number to Grand Ol’ Flag. Am I painting the picture? I looked at my phone and I started jumping up and down. Tap shoes clacking with every jump. I couldn’t believe it. I facetimed my husband and said, “Holy F@#$ Balls, I won!” We had a shared moment of being so grateful! And then I went on stage and tapped my heart out with a big, genuine smile on my face.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
There are SO many contests, nowadays. You can spend so much money on them. It’s helpful to know which ones are, actually, worthwhile. When I saw the industry roster that came with Shore Scripts, I knew it would be money well spent. The caliber, the talent, the absolute care of helping the writer move to that next level, is unparalleled.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
With this script, I want to see it get made. I think it’s a story that needs to be told and I feel like it’s really, very timely right now. We are in challenging times, where we need to be reminded of our past, so that we don’t repeat it. This is a story of empathy. I have committed myself to writing stories that increase empathy. If we are really practicing empathy, it’s a lot harder to spew hate. Empathy is the key, in my mind and I will continue to write pieces that increase awareness on certain, touchy subjects.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
There is no one like you. You are unique. Your voice is unique. So, don’t shy away from who you are and what you need to say. This world needs your experience. Honesty, in your writing, will attract others. We all want to relate and know that we aren’t alone in the way we are feeling. When you create art that says, I’ve been there, too…that’s something.

Also, make writing a part of your daily life. I heard it for so many years and didn’t hop on that horse for a long time. But now that I’m on said horse, I see the benefit of writing every day. Making room to create. Making room to hear your character’s voices, watch what they do…be the active observer of this world you’ve created. Nurture it, by showing up every day.

Never, ever, ever give up. It may feel like you are writing into the ethers, but if you are passionate, you will find a way for your story to be told. Believe in it.


FEATURE 2ND PLACE WINNER – ROBERT ZAMEROSKI

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
It was a gradual process. I started out as a young actor and then eventually maneuvered into writing and directing.

How long have you been writing for?
I’ve been writing screenplays for about 15 years.

Do you have a routine?
I essentially purge and bake. I try to stay constantly open to new ideas, but I never know what it will be that kindles an organic connection to an idea. Once that idea seeps into my thoughts, it percolates for a while, until the point I’m forced to write. Once I begin to write, it’s all I do. The scripts usually come out of me at a relatively quick rate. Some narratives are more difficult to structure while others simply drop onto the page. Nevertheless, it’s no telling which of these experiences will produce the best script. After the first draft, and many rewrites, my mind comes to rest and I go into the baking stage. I look for the next idea that sparks interest.

How do you find time to write?
Once I’m excited by an idea I dig deep into research and do what I can to bring life to narrative. My internal drive keeps me moving forward. I find time, because it must be done. I’m a finisher and I’m never content until I complete a project. I feel relief after completing a script, but the respite is always short live.

How many feature screenplays have you written?
I’ve written about 15 screenplays.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I heard a Bruce Springsteen interview, and he was talking about the writing of “Born to Run.” He reflected on his desire to make a high-powered rock ’n roll album. That was the impetus for No Sweetness In This. It was an exercise in creating a script that is inundated with drive and excitement. I didn’t want much time for the audience to settle. Obviously, I’m not making an artistic equivalence to one of most iconoclastic albums every made. I’m simply reinforcing the concept that I never know what will ignite my desire to write.

How long did it take to write?
The original draft was written in about 10 days. There were drafts that followed for the next few months; however, comparatively speaking, this script had far less drafts than most I’ve written.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy the relief felt from purging. The process can be arduous just like all work. It’s no different than digging ditches. It’s a blue collar job that requires determination. I also enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together to create a worthwhile narrative.

What do you struggle with the most?
Rejection. Nevertheless, I handle it much better now than when I was younger. Being a young actor helped with the realities of the business.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
It’s a business. If there’s a script that will make them money then they’ll embrace it. All in all, I love the film industry — all parts. I love the camaraderie. It excites me to see so many people working for one common goal.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Of course, but I’ve also been blessed. Early on, I was recognized at the Austin Film Festival with one of my scripts. Soon after, another script finished in the top ten of the Nicholls Fellowship. I earned representation from there and directed a short and mid-level film. My last film, The Last Note, has been fortunate to receive three film festival awards at this time. The latest honor was best action film at the RealHeart Film Festival in Toronto. I entered Shore Scripts, because I was looking for a different type of representation; and, I was impressed by Shore Scripts’ catalogue of managers, agents and production companies.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
It always feels good to be recognized. The justification is important when I begin to question myself. With that being said, I’m more excited about the future. I’m excited about moving forward with the help from Shore Scripts. I’ve never been a content person and honors are short lived. It’s important for me to parlay this relationship into new representation or a sold script. If I can do that, then I’ll feel like I’ve progressed.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I’ve known about the few worthwhile competitions in which I wanted to submit my script. Short Scripts is on that short list.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
I want to direct No Sweetness In This, but I well understand the pitfalls of the business. It’s important to jumpstart my career. If I can’t sell the script with myself attached as director, then I’ll look for the next best option. In regards to my career, it’s been what it’s always been — work extremely hard and put myself in the best situation when the time is right.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
I’m not really in the place to answer that question. I feel like I’m one of those screenwriters. I’m not sure I have the knowledge to give any advice. If I had to give guidance, I’d look at the advise I give myself: Write because your compelled to write. None of us know what the future will bring in regards to steady work in the profession. If Edgar Allan Poe barely made a living at writing, what hope do most of us have?


FEATURE 3RD PLACE WINNER – ALEXANDER VON HOFMAN

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I have always loved genre films – horror, thriller, action, sci fi, adventure. My first job as a teenager was in a video store and I would take home an arm-load of movies every shift. My parents are both creative and were always supportive, but somehow I didn’t think to try my hand at filmmaking until I was about 25 and studying to be a designer. I wrote two terrible short films and made them with friends who knew nothing about filmmaking. Then I wrote a better short film and brought it to some filmmakers who knew what they were doing. They gave me some advice and that short got funded by the local film funding body. I was hooked, and I have been at it since. 

How long have you been writing for?
I have been writing shorts since 2007. I started writing my first feature around 2011. Since then I have written four features and have a fifth under way. I have also been writing and directing short films the whole time. I still enjoy the shorter form and it keeps my skills up as a director while I work on the features.

Do you have a routine?
Not really. I still work a full time job and I have two girls aged 3 and 6, so my writing time slots in whereever I can get it. At times I’ve written in the morning, around 5am, getting a couple hours in before work, but mostly I write in the evenings and on the train to work. I find Gertrude Stein’s half hour a day saying to be true. I also find myself much more motivated when there is a deadline looming, or a streak of inspiration around a character or a plot point hits. When that happens I make extra time to write and take advantage of the inspiration while it’s striking.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I find that my film ideas are often a combinations of a couple intriguing concepts that become something new when they are brought together. I am a big fan of paranormal tales and claustrophic horrors, and how these events often take place in seemingly mundane settings. This particular story came about when I read about Complete Locked In Syndrome (CLIS) – a condition that paralyses its victim while leaving them conscious below the surface. In the past, people with this condition were often mistaken for being in a vegetative state before doctors realised their brains were reacting to stimuli. And then one day a patient woke up from the state and described how they could hear and see everything happening around them the entire time. Simultaneously I was reading about astral projection and attached entities, which are like parasites from another plane. And the two ideas clicked together. Finally I wanted to write a film that would be very contained, and could be made on a low budget. So I introduced a nurse, the main character, who would need to care for a patient with CLIS, alone, in a house.

How long did it take to write?
I didn’t write Locked In in one go. I started outlining roughly a couple years ago. When I had an idea of how the outline would go I put it in a drawer until I finished up with another project. I took it out again and started writing seriously around mid 2016, writing on and off over about a year.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love finding a fresh hook, fleshing out the idea, breaking its back. I love discovering who the characters are and putting them in the room together. All of the make-believe fun of hashing out a story for the first time really.

What do you struggle with the most?
Everything that comes after the first draft. Rewriting is plain hard work. Of course it’s also really important.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
I live in Perth, Western Australia and I haven’t had much exposure to LA, other than the odd festival I’ve attended over the years. So I can’t really speak about how Hollywood treats new writing talent. However, I have found in my career to date that there is support up to a point and then, as always, it is up to the creative to push through barriers as they come up and to make sure that they do not become beholden to any system. In Australia we have some state funding for the arts and it is easy for filmmakers to become reliant on that funding. While there is relatively accessible funding for the first couple short films, filmmakers will soon find themselves in a long line for a single pool of feature funding every year. So it is on them to make sure that they don’t rely entirely on that one avenue. This is one of the reasons that I entered Locked In into Shore Scripts. It’s a very good way to get feedback on where your script is at and also to broaden the project’s horizons.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
It is difficult. I don’t have a manager or an agent and I live pretty far from it all. But on the flip side of that I am a director as well as a writer and I have been focusing on projects that I would like to direct myself, so I haven’t sent many projects out to be read. Perhaps if I was working solely as a writer and sending more work out it would be easier to get the work read.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
I was incredibly happy when I found out Locked In was shortlisted. It’s very validating after working on a project for a long time alone. But I didn’t tell many people at that stage. I kept it mostly to myself because I wanted to see if it would progress. When I got the news that the script was a finalist, then I told people. At that point I was just happy it had got that far and didn’t expect it to make it into the top five. When I was informed it was 3rd place winner, I was very surprised. I knew I was on to something good with the story, I had been told that before, but I hadn’t received that level of confirmation for any of my writing. It’s a nice reminder to keep at it.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I was searching for a list of top script competitions last year. I had decided to enter a script into competitions for the first time. Shore Scripts came up as highly recommended, and the deadline wasn’t far off. It was as simple as that. I will definitely enter again next year and I will recommend it to other writers. Shore Scripts is a great competition.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
I would love to see Locked In picked up, made and screening to a terrified crowd. And I hope that it is the beginning of a long career writing and directing great genre films. I would like to make films both in Australia and in the US and I have scripts written, and in the works, that range from contained and low budget, to much larger in scale.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
I think the best advice anyone can follow in creative fields is to just make – write, direct, produce yourself if need be – get you projects made and out there. The trap is to dwell too long on any one project, when you could be knocking it off and moving on to the next thing. My experience is that you get better by doing, so you might as well get on with it.


FEATURE 4TH PLACE WINNER – JAMIE NAPOLI & JOSHUA PAUL JOHNSON

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
We’re both directors first, so we started writing short scripts to gives ourselves material to shoot. We’re very aware of the fact that our screenplays are not finished works, but rather blueprints for movies that will give us the opportunity to collaborate with actors and the other artists on the crew.

How long have you been writing for?
We’ve both been writing and directing since we were kids.

Do you have a routine?
Our daily routine is always in flux due to day jobs and changing life circumstances. That said, our general writing process starts when one of us conceives an idea. We then spend a tremendous amount of time outlining the story, thinking primarily about character, tone, and subverting audience expectations. This is easily the most collaborative and painstaking part of our process. We use that outline to write a really bad first draft as quickly as we can. After we’ve survived our first draft, we spend weeks and weeks revising it until we’re confident or drunk enough to send it out… or we come up against a deadline.

How do you find time to write?
We blow off everything else and write instead.

How many feature screenplays have you written?
We’ve collaborated on three feature scripts so far. Open 24 Hours is a crime comedy set in the seedy and surprisingly competitive world of Greek diners in 1980s New Jersey, and The Gentleman’s Guide, our most recent project, is a comedy-drama adventure about a career criminal and his estranged daughter traversing the country in search of a family treasure. We’ve also each written a number of feature and short scripts separately.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
Getaway originated with the two of us spitballing low-budget ideas that we could potentially shoot ourselves with the resources available to us. We tried to cram as much tension and absurd comedy as we could into a contained, small-town setting with just a few actors.

How long did it take to write?
We wrote the first draft in nine days… and here we are still revising it a year later. That’s typical of our writing process. We have a hard time knowing when to stop.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
You have to enjoy the process, otherwise it can very quickly become torture. Writing is often slow, solitary, and painful work, but then out of nowhere you’ll have a breakthrough idea that makes you instantly forget about all the suffering you’ve endured up to that point. So it requires a selective memory and a sort of hard-headed optimism. The feeling of sharing your work with an audience, or even just having a great read, is exhilarating.

What do you struggle with the most?
The fact that our first draft is never as good as we’d hoped. And transitioning from one project to the next — going from a very polished script to a rough first draft — can be difficult. We have to remind ourselves that every script starts the same way. There aren’t any shortcuts that we know of.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
Everyone is always looking for new talent. All we can do is focus on what makes our work unique and hope that cuts through the noise.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Competitions like Shore Scripts and The Black List website have been great for getting our work out in the world.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
It was very exciting! Hearing that the script was advancing was a rewarding feeling because it meant that our story was connecting with people.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
From the nice people at Reddit. We’re very happy we took their recommendation.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
We are in the middle of a draft on our next feature script, and we’re continuing to pitch new projects. We’re also working on a proof of concept short film for Getaway.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Watch movies. Read screenplays. Study structure. Don’t spend too much time on Reddit. Direct — you become a much better writer hearing your own words spoken by actors, and then having to edit scenes and realizing how much you can lose. Find other filmmakers to collaborate and share notes with.


FEATURE 5TH PLACE WINNER – JEROME VELINSKY

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I like to think that I’ve been a storyteller ever since I was a child. I loved creative writing in school and something definitely switched over in me when I was 15 in media class and our assignment was to create a series bible for a new TV show. Let’s just say, I’d never enjoyed school so much before that class. I think screenwriting was a natural progression for me and It’s always been my favourite written medium.

How long have you been writing for?
Now I’m not saying I was writing WELL, but I’ve been writing since I was about 7. I wrote my first short film at 16.

Do you have a routine?
To some degree yes, but as an actor as well, sometimes you have to be ready to throw that routine out the window and just go with the flow, depending on how busy you are with auditions, etc.

How do you find time to write?
I’m not one of those people who have a strict rule about how much I need to write each day. I really believe everyone operates differently when it comes to writing and that there is no right or wrong – as long as you’re progressing! I try to write something everyday – whether it’s scribbling new ideas down onto a napkin or writing 10 pages of a screenplay. Some days are bigger than others and that’s totally fine. I find time whenever and wherever I can and for me personally, I just like to feel that I’ve fed my creativity to some degree every day.

How many feature screenplays have you written?
I’ve written three features. I’ve also written a couple of TV pilots, a short series and a ton of shorts.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown and with humans innate thirst for answers. As I was falling asleep one night, I started to hear a bizarre noise outside of my window. I’d never heard this sound before, nor knew where it was coming from. This of course led my imagination to run wild at 3am and I began searching down the rabbit hole of the ‘what if’ scenarios… “What If I was the only one who could hear this?”, “What if this was some kind of greater calling?”. My interest led my to uncover the vastly documented and eerie cases of the ‘Bristol and Taos Hum’; two unsolved cases of towns which had been effected by a sound which was only heard by a percentage of people within each community. I knew there was a story to be told here, so off I went to begin writing ‘Those Who Hear’.

How long did it take to write?
I’d say a couple of months but spread over the course of a year.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
The freedom of it. The imagination is such a powerful beast with endless opportunity. When I’m feeling entertained, transfixed and excited about what I’m writing – and like I’d rather be doing nothing else – that’s the part I enjoy most.

What do you struggle with the most?
So many things and different things on different days. I find that for me, whenever I begin to struggle with something in my writing, I try not to dwell on it. I find it’s best to move on and focus on what I can achieve and go back to the sore spot when I’m ready. Sometimes it irons itself out when you’ve got a fresh take on things – or sometimes you need to ask for some advice or go back to some research – whatever works!

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
Yes, I believe so. I’m seeing incredible new talent every day! Sometimes as a new writer I can appreciate that it definitely doesn’t feel like that, but I think that hard work, persistence and great material will always pay off.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Yes. It can be really tough out there on your own trying to get someone to bite. I’m so grateful for incredible festivals such as 
Shore Scripts who can be your best friend when it comes to this stuff. They’re really out there to help you succeed and connect you with the industry professionals you need to make your script happen – or at least get you having conversations with good people that you ordinarily wouldn’t have the chance to talk to as a newcomer.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
It was amazing. I try not to get too excited at the the short-list and finalist rounds because it’s overwhelming the amount of entrants the festival gets. Receiving the email which notified me that I was one of the winners was such an awesome moment and totally unexpected. It’s such a rewarding feeling to know that something you’ve written has resonated with other people and also other creators/writers! It’s just a really nice validation and reminder to keep on going!

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I believe I found it on Film Freeway and I was instantly impressed by the calibre of the judges and the exposure that the award winners were granted.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
I would love to see this script in production in the very near future and I’d love the opportunity to possibly direct it. I’ve just finished my own comedy series and am moving to LA in two months which is really exciting! I hope to find a agent and a team of people who are excited to work with me and explore the growing slate of materials that I’m working on.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Write the story that you want to see told! There will be people that love your work and others that hate your work and that is totally fine. What’s not ok is being dishonest with yourself about the type of work YOU want to create.

So, write for yourself, then find others that understand your vision and share your passion. You’ll find them.


qa-tvTV PILOT GRAND PRIZE WINNER –  WILLIAM J. ZIDE

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I’ve always loved movies, plays and books, but actually began making short films in high school. In college I was studying and working on writing and directing screenplays and plays. Meanwhile I was confronted with the reality of working professionally in production on indie features, videos and commercials. That helped me to understand how screenplays were practically and realistically translated from the page to the screen.

How long have you been writing for?
In one form or another probably since grade school, but for film/video specifically, since high school and in earnest since college.

Do you have a routine?
Yes and no. I tend to work on more than one project at the same time often while juggling a number of other things. So, some stories and scripts come quickly and easily, while others take more development and research as well as a detailed outline. I try to write or think through script details of what I’m working on every day if possible.

How do you find time to write?
Unfortunately, it depends on what else is going on at the time. However, the most productive and creative time is late at night/early in the morning when no one else is up and I’m not dealing with the white noise of the day.

How many TV Pilots have you written?
I have written five original pilots. They include: a historical thriller based on a true story about a famous character’s later years; a half-hour one-camera black comedy; a psychological sci-fi-ish action-thriller, and an original animated series (which I am currently in the midst of directing and producing a short-pilot of with friends/partners). So, they’re all very different.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?
The general concept ‘device’ was suggested by a friend years ago, but the specific characters, story and structure that is LOOKING GLASS and made it work I developed from an interest in branching story-telling and how that works (or can work) in things like videogame play. Also how it might intersect Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics—which sounds ridiculously pretentious. Each day we’re faced with a thousand choices and each of them can take us forward or back in many different directions and to many different stories. So, how would/could one respond to being trapped in a loop with all the opportunities for second chances that could correct or just as easily corrupt.

How long did it take to write?
Well the ideas that became the story and characters developed over a number of years, while I was working on other things. However, once I developed all the characters and their motivations and worked out the structure and story outline, the actual writing took about 2-3 months.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Mostly the opportunity to develop a serious drinking problem while honing my insomnia.

Actually in reality, at its best writing allows you to study and create worlds and characters that take you places beyond your daily experiences, while hopefully reflecting some essential emotional truth that connects you and an audience. It’s a lot like music that is enjoyed while both played and heard.

What do you struggle with the most?
All in all I think it is both finding and maintaining that emotional truth of a character and letting that dictate where the story should go. No matter how much research or experience you bring to a story, it will always boil down to human nature and motivations (and whether we believe them). It doesn’t matter what the genre is or if the character is a mutant or stock broker, it’s always the characters and their ‘authenticity’ (or apparent authenticity) that we connect with most, I believe.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
It can, and I think it wants to in theory. However, with the sheer number of scripts, it is hard to get past the gatekeepers (which is intentional). The reality is access is everything. So, if you can get through to the right people and they are receptive, than it can happen.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Even with an agent, manager or producer the trick is getting it read by the right people who both respond to it and can do something to push it forward and get it made. Often this means putting together a ‘package’ to make producers and production companies/networks more receptive—All of which comes back to access.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
It was just great. I’d just finished a draft that I was happy with and I hadn’t really shown it yet to anyone outside of a few friends and colleagues. I decided to test it by submitting it to Shore, and the response has been amazing. My feature screenplay WAITING FOR OBLIVION was also a semi-finalist on the feature side of the Shore competition, which only made it that much nicer.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I think it was through an email. I liked what I saw of the website and the competition’s judges, goals and what it offered. So, I submitted.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
The goal is sell the series and get it made—and frankly produce a cool dynamic show that people respond to. Career-wise, the intention is to write, produce and direct other projects as well in TV, Film, Animation and new media that will both engage and entertain, while having a unique and distinct ‘voice’.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Not sure I should be offering advice, in part because everyone’s experience is different and differently informed. However, in the end its about doing the hard work (of writing) and doing it as much as you can and as well as you can.

What I guess I mean by that is a) First writing what truly engages and interests you (which can still be ‘commercially viable’—although that is subjective and debateable); b) Persevering – Much of the industry is designed to say ‘no’ and you have to navigate that as best you can without taking it personally; c) Realizing that most of the shows and movies you like were probably rejected many times over before getting made —So you can’t take it personally or as gospel, but need to take what you can from the feedback as an unavoidable part of the process, and d) Everybody’s path and experience will be different—So, be open to the possibilities.


TV PILOT 2ND PLACE WINNER – CAT DALE

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I grew up in a rural, isolated part of the country. Movies and books were always my window to the outside world. However, I didn’t consider going into film until after I got my degree in archaeology (and yes, I was deeply inspired by Indiana Jones). That is when I realized I was wanting to create stories from scratch rather than picking them out of the dirt.

How long have you been writing for?
I started writing stories and plays early on, but finished my first screenplay in high school with my best friend (it was a short, 180-page period drama). I have been writing off and on for about 15 years.

Do you have a routine?
I can only write in the morning. I find a sunny spot in my house or backyard and always have a cup of hot tea nearby. It must be really hot, burn-your-face off tea. My dog sleeps on my feet and his snoring is the only music I can stand to write to.

How do you find time to write?
Like most writers, I have a day job. But luckily, I teach writing and filmmaking, so I get daily inspiration to keep working. I usually have two days a week that I dedicate to writing and working on other film projects.

How many TV Pilots have you written?
I have only written one pilot before MOUNT PLEASANT, but it has been shelved. However, I think it is time to dust it off and start rewriting it again.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?
During the summers when I was doing archaeology, I would come home, where we lived on the reservation, and did archaeological surveys for the local Native American tribe. On the reservation stood an old building, nicknamed The Sisters’ School. It was said to be haunted. However, one day it burned down. At first, I was sad by the loss of history, but I as started researching the building and learned about these government-run schools that dated back to the 1800s, I came to understand that this school was much more than a historical artifact. It represented all the families that were torn apart by this school as well as all the culture lost. I wanted to write a story that honoured the people who suffered at these school and to educated a greater audience on this piece of history that not many are aware of.

How long did it take to write?
I wrote MOUNT PLEASANT in one month. I have recently discovered that I write most of my scripts in my head before writing down any words. So, while it took me a month of writing, I had been thinking about the story for many months beforehand.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Because my background is in history, I truly enjoy the research aspect of writing. I tend to write period pieces because I find so much inspiration in history.

What do you struggle with the most?
I often struggle with writing my main protagonists. I relish writing my secondary characters, but I always find my heroes the hardest piece of the puzzle.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
I think the status of being “new” can help you, but I think it still comes down to writing an extremely well-written script that is also producible.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Yes! Not living in LA feels like a large hurdle to overcome. However, talking with other writers has been a great way to learn about the industry. Hearing about their experiences has given me a lot of ideas on how to get my scripts out into the world.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
I was extremely excited to find my script on each Shore Scripts list. If you enter a lot of contests, you will start recognizing other writers’ names and scripts. Sometimes you see people who have won other contests, and it becomes a smaller goal to try and make it as far as those scripts. When I made it to the final five, I had such a boost of confidence I started writing a new script immediately.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I have joined several writers’ groups and Shore Scripts kept coming up as a very professional and well-regarded contest. I entered on a whim.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
My goals are to find representation and start putting together a team to produce MOUNT PLEASANT. I have several other spec scripts I am working on and cannot wait to see what happens with them next.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
You can’t win if you don’t enter. My perfectionism held me back for so many years, but I’ve learned that sometimes you must let your writing out into the world to see if it can fly on its own.


TV PILOT 3RD PLACE WINNER – LACHLAN MARKS & ELLA ROBY

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
Lach
: I saw E.T when I was very young and the itch has been there since then. My earliest childhood short stories were all variations of Ghostbusters and Die Hard… but with cats (that all looked like Garfield) as the main characters and pirates as the villians.

Ella: I needed a way to legitimise the amount of TV watching I do. “Not now, mummy’s watching her research.”

How long have you been writing for?
Lach
: Actively for the past three years, after squandering my youth playing in crappy punk bands and sleeping in.

Ella: I’ve been making up stories all my life in some form or another, but I’ve only really been screenwriting for two years now. The minute I first read a screenplay it felt like everything finally clicked into place.

Do you have a routine?
Lach
: Our routine is pretty simple. We outline beat by beat for many days on end, drinking lots of coffee and tea. Then once it comes to writing, Ella takes the wheel for the first draft of each Act or Sequence or whatever you wanna call it, then I rewrite, then she rewrites me, we discuss and go back forth til we both love it. There’s lot of surprises along the way as new ideas take hold.

Ella: Our routine is pretty simple. Lachlan brings coffee while I do all the work.

How do you find time to write?
Lach
: There’s never a good time or enough time, but as it’s such a feverish joy and priority for me, I just make it happen, sleep be damned, which makes me a pleasure to be around most of the time, I’m sure. I’d like to formally apologise to my wife and family.

Ella: I’m also part of another writing team and I have a small child, and Lachlan is in five thousand bands so scheduling is a constant fiasco, complete with crying (Lachlan) and heavy drinking (me). Realistically though, it’s more a question of finding time to have a life because I somehow manage to make writing a priority. I do not get out much.

How many TV Pilots have you written?
Ella
: I’ve written a comedy pilot and another drama pilot with my other writing partner, but this is the first one Lachlan and I have written together (and the first one hour pilot either of us had ever written).

Lach: Um, one? I’m always updating a Google Drive full of outlines for more though, I promise, and myself and Ella are finalising our first feature script together at the moment. I wrote nine short films first (and made three) to try and wring out as much awfulness from my writing as possible before doing this one properly. The remaining awfulness Ella has beaten out of me, mostly physically. With a stick.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?
Ella
: It was Lach’s idea – he pitched me this story about a drug that could turn you into your childhood self and after that I pretty much stopped listening because, well, he had me at “drug that could turn you into your childhood self”.

Lach: I had two ideas, both skeletons, that had been banging around in my head for a few years. One day my brain overlapped them and this sort of fell out. I think the drug element came from me thinking about why modern adults are so obsessed with childlike pursuits, escaping responsibility and nostalgia, while the murder mystery was built out of a nasty reoccuring dream I’ve had. The guts of the ideas and story really came together in the room though as we built out the world and characters together.

How long did it take to write?
Ella
: We met once a week for a couple of months to outline, then wrote the first two drafts in a month and then rewrote sporadically over several months.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Lach
: The escaping, the adventuring, the world-building and the panicking. Maybe not the panicking, actually.

Ella: The puzzle solving process of outlining and the exploratory joy of writing the first draft.

What do you struggle with the most?
Lach
: I think just my own desire for everything to “happen now” whereas the reality is that most of writing is in the rewriting and these things take serious time to grow, ferment, change, challenge your will to live and then finally settle in to something you’re comfortable sending out to other people to then savage. Also, Ella always wants to kill cats and dogs in our scripts, so I spend a fair bit of time trying to explain to her why that makes lead characters unlikeable. It’s a challenge.

Ella: I get frustrated with the amount of time we have to spend on “writing adjacent” matters – creating bibles and loglines and pitch documents and multiple treatment versions of different lengths. We actually just made a sizzle/teaser for Small Town which was a really interesting process, but it was time consuming and I’m itching to get back to our feature project.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
Ella
: I think we’re too new to this gig to answer, but I hope so! Come on, embrace us! We’re very cuddly!

Lach: I hope so! We’re really cool guys, y’know. 

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Lach
: It’s early days but I’ve found that success in competitions like Shore Scripts and WeScreenplay has lead to people approaching us, which is the absolute dream scenario.

Ella: We’re operating under the assumption that it’s almost impossible to get your work read, which is one of the reasons competitions like Shore Scripts are so attractive to us. The list of judges is really impressive, and knowing that our pilot will now be sent out to a massive industry roster is more than we could have hoped for.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
Lach
: Mild shock, medium shock, large shock.

Ella: Cautious optimism, crippling pessimism, ice cream. But like, lots of ice cream. It was obscene.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
Lach
: I entered the first short I ever wrote back in 2014 into the Shore Scripts Short Screenplay competition on the recommendation of the director of a commercial I was an extra in. Many months later I got an email saying I was a Quarter Finalist. This was the first bit of encouragement I’d had as a screenwriter and it really did inspire me to keep at it. Since then I’ve always made it a priority to enter and I encouraged Ella and her one other friend to do the same.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
Ella
: I’d love to see Small Town on the small screen. If it ends up being a good writing sample that leads to other work, I’d consider that a big win. We have so many ideas and projects that we’re developing and I’d just like to get to a point where I can justify writing all day as a career.

Lach: Even if nothing were to happen with Small Town from here, the experience of writing it and the team we formed to do it was well worth it. That said, I’d like a large yacht made of a new kind of gold that’s floaty, and to have regular money fights with my financially lesser friends and associates (they have to give me the money back at the end of said fight – them’s the rules).

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Ella
: I don’t feel qualified to be advising anyone. On anything. Ever. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say you need to read a lot (and not just screenplays), watch a lot and write a lot. Oh, and if you’re in a writing team, it helps if your partnership is ego-free and based on mutual respect. Learn from my mistakes, people. Jk Lach’s the best.

Lach: I’d say make sure whatever you’re writing, you’re really into as you’re going to have to stick with it for a long time to make it great, through many tsunamis of self doubt, no matter how “cool” the concept looks on paper. Fill every spare minute of your day jamming podcasts about screenwriting into your ears. Also the biggest asset you have is the people who are willing to sacrifice their time to read and critique your work, so spend serious time of your own processing what they have to say.


TV PILOT 4TH PLACE WINNER – MICHELE DAGLE

Q&A’s Soon

 

 

 

 

 


 

TV PILOT 5TH PLACE WINNER – GLENN ACOSTA

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
My love affair with movies. I find it incredibly appealing to see a compelling story unfold visually on screen. Great characters. Unique concepts. Sharp dialogue. When it all comes together, it’s awesome. It’s what I strive for.

How long have you been writing for?
I started taking it seriously three years ago.

Do you have a routine?
I write a page then go back and polish it until I’m happy. It makes for a slow process, but it’s my meticulous nature. 

How do you find time to write?
That’s one of my biggest challenges. I only get 20 minutes here and there. Usually I get up at 4 am and write a few pages. I love the quiet time for writing.

How many TV pilots have you written?
Two TV pilots so far: “The Blanked” and a comedy called “Recruiters.” I’m writing two more: “Walker” (A paraplegic who can walk into the afterlife and back) and “Binary Sky” (When two planets share the same sky for a few moments, a man goes to the other planet to retrieve his younger brother).

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?
I was fascinated with the idea of two people getting together and not remembering anything about their horrific past. It also led to intriguing questions: Would erasing all your memories change who you are? Would a criminal stop being a criminal? If the two people met again, would their memories come back? 

How long did it take to write?
About 3 months for a first draft.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Finishing. And getting validation that it’s a good story through contests and pro coverage.

What do you struggle with the most?
Conflicting pro coverage on the same script, when one reader says it’s great and another reader pans it. The path to improving the script then becomes murky. At that point I just put the script aside and come back to it a few weeks later with a fresh perspective.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
Not really, but let’s face it, the odds of an unknown writer getting his or her script produced are astronomical. Even if a producer or director loves it, all the stars have to line up with financing and talent attachments.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
For sure. That’s why Shore Scripts is so great. The exposure, the judges, and the staff wanting to help get it read; it all makes this contest stand out from others.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
I was looking at the list of semifinalists and how accomplished they are. I thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll win.” And then, wow, I did. It’s an amazing honor, humbling, and an incredible surprise.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I first saw Shore Scripts advertised in Talentville, a screenwriters website. I entered my feature script “Redreamers” and it made it to the quarterfinals.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
I would love to see “The Blanked” made into a TV series. A producer has already asked for the pilot. Fingers crossed. My feature script “Redreamers” was optioned this year, so I’m hopeful it gets slated for production in the next two years. Up to this point, I’ve treated writing as a hobby. It would be great to transition into a TV or feature writer for a major studio.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Read good scripts, especially from produced shows or features. I always learn from them. For example, I read a script from a colleague who won this year’s Austin Film Festival. Even though it’s not my genre, I found the dialogue to be so authentic and fresh. Earlier this year, I read the script for Arrival (my favorite film last year) and found so many cool things the screenwriter used to make a sci-fi organically and emotionally compelling.

I would also suggest getting pro coverage from several readers. Not only are the flaws pointed out, but you get insight on what they are looking for.  


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SHORT GRAND PRIZE WINNER – KAREN BLACK

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I was a “late bloomer” to screenwriting. I’d been writing stage plays and sketch comedy for a few years, and it had never occurred to me to try to write a screenplay. Then my mom, by chance, happened to tell me a bit of a family history: my great-grandfather is buried in the wrong cemetery. She and her cousins joked that they would need to rob his grave to get him moved to the correct place. My second thought upon hearing that (first thought was “please don’t ask me to help dig”) was that I needed to write a play about them robbing a grave. But after a couple false starts, I realized that it wasn’t going to work as a stage play, it needed to be a movie. The thing was, I didn’t know how to write a screenplay – so I ended up taking two years of screenwriting classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC)… in order to fix a failed stage play.

Once I started writing screenplays, something clicked. It felt like the right path.

How long have you been writing for?
I’ve always been writing, even in grade school. I kept making sideways hops, from song-parodies, to [bad] poetry, to short stories, to Journalism, to creative non-fiction, to stand-up comedy, to sketch comedy, to stage plays.

Do you keep to a routine?
I do when I’m actively writing a script – I try to write about 2 pages a night when I get home from work, and 10-20 pages on weekends. When I’m revising, I tend to work on a paper copy, and I edit in 15-page chunks, then go in and write later drafts in as many pages as I can manage in one sitting.

I wish I could manage to keep a routine between scripts – I’d probably be a lot more productive.

How do you find time to write?
Sometimes I don’t. If I don’t have a script that feels like it’s ready to be written, then I find it frustrating to try to work when nothing comes out right. But when I am working on something, usually I write instead of … um, cleaning my house. Or hanging out with friends. Or going to the gym. It tends to be all or nothing.

How many short screenplays have you written?
I’m not sure. Maybe close to 30? About half of those were written when I was taking screenplay classes at MCTC. Plus, nine features (five of which aren’t bad, two that I think I can salvage, and two that I’m chalking up to “learning experiences”).

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I saw some people standing by the side of the road, holding up signs that said “Justice for Jim and Marla.” I wondered what had happened that made them want justice and considered writing a script about a mother holding up a sign at the side of the road. It dovetailed a bit with research I had been doing on roadside memorials (for a screenplay that I ultimately didn’t write).

The more I played with it in my mind, it became a story about the person the sign was for and his relationship with the mother. It became kind of a twisted “Gift of the Magi,” where everything one person did to try to help backfired and made matters worse for the other. 

How long did it take to write?
The first draft only took a couple hours. I wrote a two or three minor revisions, sent it to a few contests (this was about five or six years ago), then put it in a drawer after most of the coverage I got was, “we like this, but it needs to be a feature, not a short.” I pulled it back out of a drawer last summer (2016) to try to write a feature version, got disgusted with the feature and decided that no, it needed to be a short, so I set about making the best short I could… this took six months and many revisions. Ironically, during that revision process, I finally understood what the feature version needed to be about, so I did that this summer (2017). I’m on the third draft of the feature version now.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
You might think this is weird, but at this point, what I like best is rewriting. After I finish a first draft, I do a ritual pilgrimage to an office supply store and buy a binder, pens, postie notes, and whatever shiny things catch my attention. I print out my first draft, put it in a binder, then sit down in a coffee shop and figure out how to make it better. When I get to the point of writing the later drafts on the computer, it generally flows better than the initial draft. Weirdly, it feels more organic to write a revision than that first draft. I like that feeling.

(Now, I have had one or two scripts where the first draft felt as good as the rewrites, and I love it when that happens… but every script writing experience is different).

What do you struggle with the most?
The “next script.” After I finish one, I want to dive right into another, but I get stuck figuring out which (if any) of my ideas are “ready.” At which point it becomes a circle of self-doubt where I worry that I don’t have any good ideas left, that everything I outline is rote, and predictable, and why didn’t I go to med school? (The answer to that last one is, “math.”)

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
I’m not sure? Maybe qualify that with “new writing talent not based in Los Angeles”. It seems like these days the emphasis is to look for new talent who can write and direct.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Pretty difficult, yes, but not impossible. I’ve had other scripts do well in contests, which resulted in an occasional production company asking to read a script (followed by, “we like your writing, but this script is not what we’re looking for”). The grave robbery script got batted around for a bit, then sat with one production company for a year, before they told me “we loved this, and talked for a long time about producing it, but in the end, we decided we want something more high concept.”

It feels like people are willing to take a chance on reading contest vetted scripts, but less willing to take a chance on producing them if they don’t fall into certain categories. Although I’m sure it doesn’t help that over half my scripts are period pieces.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
Surprised, at first, because I forgot I entered this competition. When I found out I was one of the winners, I was thrilled. It brightened up a gloomy winter night. I go through periods of self-doubt, so winning a contest obviously goes a long way to improving my confidence.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
Someone posted a link to it on the Minnesota Screenwriter’s Workshop facebook page. I was sending in an entry to another competition at the same time, so I thought, “why not,” and entered Shore too.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
For the script – in an ideal world someone will be interested in making it into a movie. I’ll might try entering it in “production fund,” contests and see what comes of that. I’m not a “writer-director” though, so I don’t have the skill set to make it on my own. I also want to continue to revise the feature version of it. It’s still a few drafts away from being contest ready.

Future career? I’ll keep writing, hopefully more scripts that I can be proud of. Sure, it would be great if someone optioned one of them, but that’s not anything I can control. Last year, I was part of a writing team for a web-series, and I really enjoyed being in the “writer’s room.” I’d love to get a chance to do more of that.

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Don’t be unwilling to rewrite, even if that means throwing out your favorite scene or cutting a character you love. And the opposite side of that, which is advice that I need to keep in mind for myself: get it all out on the page, even if you think it’s crap. You’ll fix it in a rewrite later.


SHORT 2ND PLACE WINNER – KAE BAHAR

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
Storytelling and my heroes; Tarzan, Superman, King Kong, Blondie, from The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Hercules…! I was born in Kurdistan and grew up under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime, as a child we had no toys or books and my parents were illiterate. But I was very lucky because my parents were great storytellers. And more importantly, at the early age of five I was exposed to the magic of cinema– I adored watching films and through them being whisked into faraway and fantastic worlds. When as a young boy, most of my friends couldn’t go to the cinema to see films either because they did not have money to buy tickets or their parents did not allow them to go since cinema-going was considered a bad habit. Often soon after I’d seen a film, my friends and I would gather and I would recount the story of the film for them. I loved doing this because sometimes I would embellish the story by adding extra bits and turning it into my own version – I guess this was my first approach to storytelling. As a teenager I attempted to write my first novel without ever having read one, it did not work out. But it was a great start because from there on I always made notes, wrote short stories, stage plays, thought about plots and put down story outlines. When I made it to Italy in 1980, at the age of 19, people were always amazed by the stories I would tell them – even though they were real stories from my own life, such as; because I was a Kurd I was not allowed to study in Kurdish, or when at the age of 14 Saddam’s secret police arrested and tortured me and I was miraculously saved from being hanged to death. Then how I made it to bribe the Iraqi passport office to get a passport and go to Italy on a two week holiday visa but stayed there and did not go back. Italy, because I was mad about Italian cinema and in love with Claudio Cardinale.

How long have you been writing for?
Apart from that attempt as a teenager to write a novel, I wrote my first short film script, PASSAPORT, in 1987, and turned it into a short experimental film as part of a film study course, which I also directed. In 1991 I wrote a feature film script, not in a very good shape, and sent it to Ixtlan Productions, I thought Oliver Stone was the perfect director for the story which was about the first Gul War. In 1993 I moved to London and started to work as an actor in TV, Radio, Films and on Stage. I also wrote proposals for documentary films about the Middle East and especially Kurdistan and I made films for most of the broadcasters in the UK. Alongside I was educating myself more and more about how to write screenplays properly. In 1998 I had my first treatment optioned by a production company in London and obtained a degree in Film & Media Studies. In 2007 I wanted to write and direct my first feature film. That was a painful process, it took a few months of searching through the dozens of synopsis, notes, loglines, treatments and story outlines that I had written over the years, trying to decide which one to pick up for my first screenplay, only to end up with a new fresh story forming itself in my head. When I started to write, it just did not want to become a screenplay but insisted on becoming a novel instead titled, LETTERS FROM A KURD. This was the first novel written by a Kurd in English and was published in the UK. It is a work of fiction, a homage for filmmakers and film lovers around the world. Finally, in 2011 I started to write my first feature film, BLINDFOLD SHOES, followed by many short scripts, including GO CRAZY. 

Do you keep to a routine?
Writing is not the only job I do. I work as an actor, documentary filmmaker and I direct my short films. Therefore I don’t keep a routine, but I am always lost in one story or another and therefore I make lots of notes. I probably have ideas to write another dozen shorts and three times more feature films. But usually I first live with my story in my head, discuss it with myself over and over while walking the dog, making more notes, considering, letting the story shape itself like a film that I can start to visualise. This process continues until I can find a gap from other work and I start writing the script. I don’t like to write screenplays whilst doing other jobs because I like to focus and write the story that has formed in my head from beginning to the end in a few days without interruption. Then, when I start to write the script, I love to keep a morning routine if possible. This was tough in the past having had three energetic children, now grown up and away – so it feels like a luxury to be able to sit down, on my own, in my corner and get lost in my fictional world. I guess I could say I have a routine by always starting to read from page one and then carry on writing for a few hours. I repeat this process over the coming days/weeks until I finish my first draft. I go over it and when I feel like I have nothing to add, I then put it away and let it mature like a tasty conserved cheese or wine. I immediately start thinking about writing or developing another one of my stories and after a few months, or a year, I go back to my previous one when I feel ready to read it again and with fresh eyes.

How do you find time to write?
I write in between jobs, but if I am hooked on writing one of my scripts I try to hide away from doing anything else and even avoid paid work, if possible. That is a risk, especially if not commissioned because writing a script could take a long time and is a gamble. But a gamble worth taking if you are passionate about your story and in love with your characters.

How many short screenplays have you written?
Seven shorts, four made into films that I have directed. My novel, Letters from a Kurd, and three feature film scripts.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
I read an article, a very small announcement in a corner of a newspaper about a tragedy that involved a teenage girl and a taxi driver – it hit me in my gut – it really shocked me how some people’s lives can be so easily wasted for nothing but old meaningless rules and traditions. I made a note of it as I always do for stories that grab my attention, created a new file titled Go Crazy and I left the note there until I decided to turn it to a short script. I am delighted for this particular story to get this recognition from Shore Script.

How long did it take to write?
I invest a lot of time in my writing because in most cases I also want to direct my films. I would spend from six months to a year sporadically for a short like Go Crazy including the re-writes and new drafts based on notes from fellow filmmakers, readers and script editors.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
For me almost everything we do in life is storytelling, everything. I love the thrill of the creative process of script writing – how you start with an image, a shot you have in mind, a sentence, an action, anything that is probably no more than a few words and a year or two later you have created a whole new world. I also love to express my views through my writing with the freedom to put down what I want to say. I find it really intriguing in the process of writing when you come to know and like the characters that you have created. At the beginning you don’t know them well but then they slowly became master of themselves and I love it when they start to take different decisions from you and go in the opposite or in unexpected directions – when they turn the situation upside down to something that you did not foresee – that discovery always surprises me and keeps me interested to go on writing.

What do you struggle with the most?
I write in English and it is not my first language. But it is the language I can best express myself since for political reasons we were not allowed to develop Kurdish – our mother tongue. Fortunately, my wife loves most of the stories I write and very kindly she is always there for me to proof read. I also struggle with picking the next story from the amount I have lined up – but once I start writing I usually always take it to an end.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
I don’t have much experience with the industry especially in the fiction world. I hope to be in a better position to answer this question in the near future as I now feel confident enough to approach the film industry with my work. But the news I get from my fellow writers and filmmakers; Yes, it is hard to be spotted and embraced as a new talent but it is possible and Shore Script is one of the great doors to push open to get yourself noticed.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
I learnt early on that I needed an agent to get my work out if I wanted them read by professionals. I was lucky to find a literary agent because of my novel, but that did not work out for my scripts. I find it very frustrating when I want to send my work to production companies I like and believe they will be suited for my work, but then I find out they will not read unsolicited scripts. However, this did not stop me from trying in other ways. Fortunately, you will always find someone somehow prepared to read your work, you just need to keep at it, try and take every opportunity without hesitation – sooner or later you will get there. I was also lucky because my stories are so personal and come from a very different background, I guess you can say they are original, therefore whenever I have put out a new story, I generally have had a positive reaction. They did not all became films but were read by professionals, producers, production companies, fellow scriptwriters, script editors and often their feedback and positive reactions gave me more confidence to carry on with my storytelling. 

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
I usually submit my short films to festivals and not my scripts, so this was the first time I sent Go Crazy to Shore Scripts and to a script contest. To be honest, I was so busy this past few months making a documentary film, then acting in a feature film, attending a few festivals, writing a new feature… I completely forgot about it. Then I recently spotted an email from Shore Scripts and I could see in the subtext: Congratulations – that was even before I opened the email. I was happily surprised and in a flash it all came back to me; the whole Shore Script submitting process! I opened the email and was delighted when I saw I won 2nd place. My last two short films, I AM SAMI and A SPECIAL GUEST, both won many awards in international festivals around the world, but wining Shore Script, meant the world to me, we opened a bottle to celebrate.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
My true passion has always been for fictional storytelling and recently, after my previous two shorts did so well in festivals, I felt more confident and started to approach the industry and therefore also searching for script opportunities, competitions, festivals, and fortunately I came across Shore Scripts – winning for the first time for storytelling, so this will always remain as a special moment for me.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
I would love to turn Go Crazy into a short film and direct it. I look forward to collaborate with Producers and Production Companies in the UK for this script and my other feature film scripts. Although they are different stories and are set outside the UK – they are written with a universal language to appeal to every when and everywhere. These stories and subjects are very important to me and I want to turn them into films that I also love to watch – films with a universal approach that has some magic about it, crossing all boundaries. Films that entertain with a heart. 

If you had any advice for aspiring screenwriters, what would it be?
Love your story before you spend months writing it, write your story as if it was a quest, an adventure, a journey to the unknown, take the thrill of writing and enjoy the destination when you get there – take it to an end and no matter what or why don’t ever write to satisfy someone else, it is yours and must stay yours. This doesn’t mean you should not take notes and consider feedback – like making a film is a Team Work – writing screenplays also at some point becomes a Team Work – So share your baby with other creative people and enjoy the ride.


SHORT 3RD PLACE WINNER – JEROME VILLARIN

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I can point directly to Christopher Nolan’s MEMENTO as the genesis of my interest in screenwriting. Until then, I mostly watched whatever blockbusters were at the local multiplex. MEMENTO was the first time I became consciously aware of non-linear storytelling, and the possibilities that concept presented were just intoxicating.

How long have you been writing for?
I’ve been writing for twenty years, with a substantial part of that being short stories. In terms of screenwriting specifically, I’ve been doing it for thirteen years.

 


Do you keep to a routine?
I don’t keep to a routine.

How do you find time to write?
The writing makes time for itself.

How many short screenplays have you written?
I don’t remember the exact number of short screenplays I’ve written, but there have been more distinct drafts for each than total separate scripts.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
ROUND TRIP is partially informed by a former relationship with an addict. I’m also a huge fan of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. My general approach to writing stories is to explore my own life experiences through that lens of simple horror Rod Serling and his team excelled at looking through.

How long did it take to write?
The script was born a while back. It started its life as a spec for a production company I worked at years ago. I’d always come back to it, but I’d never be satisfied. Shore Scripts was a reason for me to do some more work on it, and everything finally clicked just in time for submission.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
The part I enjoy most about writing is hiding the mechanics of any given story. For me, storytelling is about evoking a reaction, and while the ways by which I catalyze that can be satisfying to create, it is the burying of those machinations from the audience that is the most fun to me.

What do you struggle with the most?
To me, searching for every character’s unique voice is probably the most challenging part of screenwriting. Looking at a story like a machine, I think it can be easy to view characters as pieces on a board. I find that striking a balance between the technical and organic aspects of the story is a constant battle.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
I don’t feel as though I’ve been (for lack of a better word) present enough in the film industry proper to have an opinion either way.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Honestly, until this competition, I’ve been writing mostly for myself. Shore Scripts is finally inspiring me to present more of my work out there.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
All the surprise and joy came at once when I received the e-mail that I was a winner. Totally blindsided me.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I heard about Shore Scripts on Twitter, through Keith Calder. Love the work he and Snoot Films put out and I figured that was a good a sign as any to submit. (P.S. Still holding out that Snoot Zine gets made… one day.)

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
In regards to plans with the script, I’d like to direct ROUND TRIP at some point. For my career in general, I just want to continue amusing myself and, hopefully, engage a larger audience in the process.

If you had any advice for screenwriters, what would it be?
Before anything else, I’d like to emphatically state that I don’t feel I’m in a place to dispense screenwriting advice. However, if there’s one thing that’s been useful for me, it’s trusting your own process. 
Read other scripts, maybe some books but don’t worry if you find yourself doing it differently than it’s presented. Just do the work – whatever that work might entail for you specifically.


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