2018’s WINNERS INTERVIEWS

FEATURE

GRAND PRIZE WINNER – JORDAN PROSSER

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I was always writing stories, from a very, very early age… and I’ve loved cinema my whole life, too. I guess there just came that point where I was old enough to put two and two together, and realize that movies don’t just magically appear… they’re made, and they’re written. And as soon as I realized that, I knew that that was what I wanted to do.

How long have you been writing for?

I wrote my first feature screenplay when I was in Grade 10 – it was about a school kid who gets brainwashed by an evil iMac in the school computer lab and becomes a sleeper agent for a nefarious government organization (naturally). But funnily enough, that ridiculous screenplay helped get me into film school, and I really haven’t let up since then.

Do you have a routine?

I certainly try to! Normally I find I get my very best work done as soon as I wake up and roll out of bed – I’ll try to cram as much as possible into those hours, before I get dressed, before I shower, before I even eat anything. If I get to 4pm and I’m still in my dressing gown, then I know it’s been a good day. But I can more or less write anywhere, anytime, as long as I’ve got some good, growling instrumental music in my ears (mostly Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross.)

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

When I went to Europe in 2010 I came back with a mysterious stomach bug (that turned out to be ameobic dysentery – lovely stuff). I was rapidly losing weight, and was quite unwell, so my friends began to joke that I must have a tapeworm. In my obsessive attempts to diagnose myself, I ended up reading an awful lot about tapeworms, and I suppose began to imagine the narrative possibilities there.

How long did it take to write?

Hungry Man exists as a short film that I made during my Honours year at film school – so that short film script took almost a year to write, and went through 14 drafts (for a 15-minute film!) It’s then taken me another six years of hesitation and procrastination, followed by six weeks of actual full-time work to get the first draft of the feature script done.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The moment when you realize you’ve put in the hard work, and the research, and things in the story start to click into place; characters connect in a meaningful ways, plot points tick along, the tension begins to escalate – and you can just get lost in the flow of it all. Suddenly it’s like you’re watching the film, like it’s already been made, and you’re just transcribing it. It’s a rare feeling, but it’s pretty magical when you get it.

What do you struggle with the most?

Second drafts.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

I guess from where I am right now, I can’t say either. On the one hand, it feels like new writers are constantly slogging away, trying to find a break, and never getting recognized – but on the other hand, it seems like every other day I see amazing films from brand new writers. So there’s clearly a formula, or a way in… somewhere.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Absolutely. But mostly because of my own hesitation, and fear of rejection. It can also be really hard finding someone who’s going to read your work and imagine it the same way that you did when you were writing it. I think that’s why there are so many dead ends.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

It was a couple of months of steadily building excitement, followed by total rapture! I had a script get through to the semi-finals last year, and that in and of itself was a wonderful surprise – so this year I thought, “hey, how nice, I made it through to the semis again!” And then it went one further – and one further – until I was hitting refresh on the Shore Scripts homepage at least a dozen times to make sure there hadn’t been some sort of mistake.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I think it was on one of those film blogs, in an article about international script competitions. I’d decided it was finally time that people read all the stuff I’d been toiling over for years and years – and submitting to a ton of script comps seemed like a good place to start.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

Well, naturally, I’d love to see this script get made one day. I’d love to see how it gets interpreted by a creative team. But I also direct, and act, so I’d love to find a way to balance my writing aspirations with everything else as well. Short term – I want to get back to re-writing, and make Hungry Man as good as it can possibly be.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

It sounds lame, but – don’t give up. And that’s not just a hollow, inspirational slogan, that’s based on genuine evidence. I think it was Steve Zaillian who once wrote this thing about the “probability” of being discovered or successful, and how every step you take towards a finished product genuinely increases your odds. X number of people around the world write screenplays every year, but only Y number of people do a second draft, and only Z number of people ever get someone else to read it. It’s a war of attrition in many ways – you just keep your head down, and hold on.


2ND PLACE WINNER – NICOLE JONES

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I always wanted to be a storyteller in some capacity. I was really involved in theatre, and was pretty passionate about it. I loved the way characters could be explored with more depth on stage. I dove seriously into screenwriting right around the time Sebastián Lelio’s movie GLORIA came out starring Paulina García. That film really motivated me to start ASAP writing screenplays. The way that filmmaker was able to flesh out such a complex character was inspiring.     

How long have you been writing for?

As long as I can remember. I started by making up stories in my mind when I was a child. As a young adult I wrote and performed my first play, which helped me obtain a theatrical agent. I then began performing stand-up all over the country to learn more about writing comedy. After becoming a mother, I wrote a book that combined my stand-up routine with real life stories. And finally, after dedicating years to reading scripts and finding my voice as a writer, I felt competent enough to tackle screenwriting. I wrote my first feature length screenplay in 2015.

Do you have a routine?

I walk. A lot. I create a story in my mind while zooming around with music blasting in my ears. One day I had the day to myself, so I started in the morning with a plan to formulate a script idea I had. I lost track of time. I finally noticed the sun was going down and my legs were really tired. I sat down looked around, only to realize I had walked over 30 miles. I took a cab back home exhausted. Once I have the story completely formulated in my mind, I can spew out a first draft remarkably fast.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

I was with a group of women who were working post-production for the film WONDER WOMAN. Though we were all incredibly grateful there was a female superhero film, we admitted we wished the genre itself would evolve. I casually said, “Though I can truly appreciate a sweet, young, iron-bustier wearing goddess, I’d like to see something different. How about the female version of the Marlboro Man? Maybe a woman in her 60’s? Think Frances McDormand? Someone like that and…” The women literally cut me off mid-sentence and all screamed “YES!” I am not exaggerating. Then they told me to stop talking and go write this story. They are a tough crowd to please, so I knew I must be onto something.

With those women as my initial inspiration, I combined that with a little bit of my personal history, growing up a  non-Mormon in Utah, my ancestor’s polygamist roots, and a disfiguring accident I had as a child. When I combined these elements the script basically wrote itself. But instead of it becoming just another Superhero script, it grew into something more.

How long did it take to write?

First, I probably walked over 100 miles formulating the story in my mind for about a month. Then I sat down to write it in February of 2017. Within a week or so I had a polished first draft.   

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy the walking I do while creating the story, then flying through the first draft. I enjoy getting notes and doing rewrites. I know I am one of the few writers that does. But I seem to have a knack for taking constructive criticism well, while still being pragmatic enough to assess what notes to take, what notes to debate, and what notes to toss. On a more personal level, I also love the possibility that I could be writing a story that could potentially uplift someone else. When I was writing SHRIMP, I knew if I did it right, it would be a very special story to those it resonated with. Now that there is a tremendous amount of excitement coming from those who love the story, I feel like I’ve already accomplished that goal regardless of outcome. Which leads to the other thing I love about writing. I can now reward myself by writing something completely self-indulgent that is of no use to anyone. Something trashy that gives me an excuse to sit on my butt for a few hours and entertain myself with my ridiculous nonsense.

What do you struggle with the most?

Time. Fortunately I have two teenage boys, who will soon enter college. I have been planning my escape from caretaking for quite some time. By 2020-2021, I will be able to be a full-time filmmaker and my days will be my own. I hear many parents fear the empty nest. I feel bad for them. I personally am counting the days. (To my boys should they ever read this: Don’t take that too seriously. You know I love you. My greatest joy is being your mom. My second greatest joy is getting you out of my house.)

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

I think it’s best to respond to that in first person, because it depends on who you are, what you write, and what is currently selling. With that in mind, I ask myself that question in a more productive way. “How can I embrace the current industry as it is?” What that means is while I may be doing well with SHRIMP, I also make sure I have other scripts in my arsenal. I’ve had two production companies say SHRIMP wasn’t in their wheelhouse, but they really loved my writing style and voice. I sent them a list of what else I had. They both ended up requesting to read the same screenplay from my library. A horror script I wrote starring a teenage boy.  (Read into that what you will.)

That said, I would love to help be a part of the change I feel this industry needs. My demographic does not need another horror movie starring a teenage boy, (though I found it fun as hell to write.) My demographic needs more interesting mature female characters. So I am writing both in order to play this game of chess as strategically as possible. 

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

I had been experiencing a bit of beginners luck. This was my first year submitting a script to contests. To my surprise, SHRIMP placed in nearly all of them. So when it was shortlisted on Shore Scripts, I was extremely happy and honored, yet it was the tenth placement I had received in a relatively short period of time, so it didn’t come as a complete shock. When I actually won, that was entirely different. I was blown away. I believe my jaw actually did hit the floor. The moment I found out, my son walked into my office. I excitedly told him. He congratulated me, hugged me, told me I was amazing, then asked me what we were having for dinner. That brought me back down to Earth.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

Coverfly. I am a huge fan of that platform. I also researched online all the top contests and Shore Scripts repeatedly came up on all the lists.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

My goal is to get SHRIMP made. I am grateful to say this project already has legs. SHRIMP is currently out to several production companies. We have managed to raise a nice chunk for the budget already, (estimated between 2-5 million.) A company I work with is able to do all post-production and marketing, (thanks in part to the women I mentioned earlier who championed the idea in the first place.) Now we’re just putting it out there to see what we need to do to get it in the proverbial can.

As far as future career goals, I see most of my contemporaries pushing to get with managers and agents. I have begun that process as well. However I’m not waiting on that to get started on my projects. I invested in a Sony FS7, an AVID editing system in my office, and created my own production company. I am making films as we speak. Currently I’m finishing up a documentary about The Three Strikes Law, and a group of remarkable attorneys who started a not-for-profit organization called The Decarceration Collective. They work to get people, who are unjustly serving life in prison for non-violent drug charges, commutation of their sentences. I’m also filming a documentary on the process of getting a script with a 62-year-old female protagonist made. And last, over the past two years, I have written and directed two short films that have been in over 40 film festivals worldwide, and counting. I’m now getting ready to shoot my third short film in early 2019.     

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

Three tips come to mind that are less about writing and more about the actual career you are trying to build.

1. Be conscious and cautious of what advice you take and give. Well-meaning people can give advice that can hurt your career. An example of this is I had a screenwriting teacher at UCLA give me two bits of advice. “Don’t waste your money entering screenwriting contests. Don’t waste your time writing scripts that have a woman over 50 as the lead.” Had I followed either one of these bits of advice, you would not be reading this interview. Not to mention the notes given from readers of contests, (including the great coverage notes I received from Shore Scripts,) have been far more helpful to me, then the notes given to me by the man who taught this class. Yet that class was a lot more expensive.

And the reverse can happen too. You can inadvertently give bad advice.

I’ve found it best to speak mostly from personal experiences, so others may compare notes.

2. Avoid the curse of becoming the cliché bitter screenwriter. It’s bad for business. The empathetic and compassionate side you have as a writer is a great tool for gaining actual employment. Consideration and confidence compliment each other. Sincere kindness and a positive attitude will help strategic and pragmatic plans move forward more efficiently.

3. Embrace the dark side you also probably have. It helps when writing. And it makes you less boring.


3RD PLACE WINNER – SOON 


4TH PLACE WINNER – ZAC KISH

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

When I lived in Peru as a kid, we had a house with six foot walls around it, broken glass on top of the walls, and an electric fence on top of the broken glass. Most of the time, I was stuck inside and would just inhale movies, so eventually it became time to vomit out some of my own.

How long have you been writing for?

I took my last math class my sophomore year of high school, let’s just say that.

Do you have a routine?

Heck yes. That’s how I maintain momentum. I’m an LA cliche through and through. Usually it’s a few hours at a coffee shop writing, then I’ll read a script, then a few hours writing with tea, followed by watching something.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

The climactic scene of yet another disaster movie where for some thin reason the hero had to sacrifice his life to save the world. The thought popped in my head “what if he said no?” and then the champagne bottles popped as that idea-baby was born.

How long did it take to write?

First draft was probably a month or two? But you’re never done. Been editing, updating, and tweaking since!

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Getting into a rhythm on a new idea and completely falling into it — nothing else exists. It’s amazing.

What do you struggle with the most?

The space in between projects. I’m a work horse and my satisfaction is almost completely linked to my productivity. So when I have to wait to decide on what to commit to next, I’m slugging.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

Definitely. Fresh voices, fresh content… they open eyes. One of my day jobs is reading for a production company, and when I read someone’s work that’s new and exciting, I CAN’T WAIT to pass it up the chain. In my limited experience, I think the biggest problem new writers face is getting in their own way. If your stuff is good enough and you find a way to gain access (contests, fellowships, developed contacts) stepping into your first few meetings can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect/have prepared, and being green isn’t attractive.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Before I had a grasp on how everything worked, I thought so. Get better, hustle, and be smart about it. At any given point of my career so far, I thought I was ‘ready’. In some ways, I was. In other ways, I wasn’t. Eventually, if you get good enough, it’ll click, and then you’re looking at the next peak to climb to.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

Good, then great, and then excellent! Rejection emails usually start with “Thank you for entering…” and this one did too, so I was like “Bummer—OHWAITITSAWINNER!”

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

All credit goes to the Google.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

There’s a place and a time for FUCK YOU, JOHN, and I’m determined to find it. I recently adapted FYJ into a pilot as well, which would seriously kick booty as an animated series.

As for my future career, I’ll sum up my desires simply: to make cool stuff. Also to never be stagnant — always get better.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

One of the first things a mentor told me when I moved out to LA was to do five things:

  1. 1. Read a shit ton.
  2. 2. Watch a shit ton.
  3. 3. Write a shit ton.
  4. 4. Make a shit ton (of content).
  5. 5. Repeat, until you’re so good they can’t ignore you.

5TH PLACE WINNER – BRUCE BRANIT

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I’ve been writing short stories since I was 10. That transitioned into making short films as I got older. At some point I realized that just writing long form prose, notes and descriptions for what I wanted to shoot in a short film wasn’t really efficient and there must be a way the pro’s do it. So I started reading scripts for my favorite movies and studying screenwriting.

How long have you been writing for?

I wrote my first feature about 12 years ago. It’s embarrassingly bad. But I’ve finished about a feature a year since then (as well a lot of short film screenplays) and each been progressively better than the last.

Do you have a routine?

Whatever, that routine is, it usually involves me looking up and seeing that it is somehow 4am. I tend to live with a project for a few months. Making notes and developing a quasi-outline. Nothing too rigid, just getting a sense of the story and what makes it cool and who lives in it. Before I know everything I pick a place in the story and start writing. I like discovery writing and seeing where it leads me. These are usually 5-10 hour bursts where I’m just trying to get the story out. And type fast enough to keep up with it as it’s coming out. This usually destroys large parts of that quasi-outline, but that’s okay. Somewhere in there I get the whole story down, and start over from the beginning.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

Loop Thief (now called The Branch Manager) came from another scrapped idea about a bank heist. It was a story more about classes in America, the have’s and the have-not’s and the digital divide of technology. But it was a big sprawling story, and I wanted to write something that I could afford to make for a feature debut, so I found a way to tell a smaller story and keep most of the action in and around the bank and in the getaway car.

How long did it take to write?

This was one of my quicker screenplays. The longest part of this one was plotting out all the loops and branches of a time-travel narrative and keeping them interesting and upping the dramatic ante with each reset. Keeping character arcs fresh was also tricky with many characters literally not changing through the story because they were not aware of the resets. The bulk of the writing was done over about a month. Then drafts and revisions probably took another 2-3 months.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The process of living as a character and letting the story come to you. In everything I have written there are moments when you are writing on the edge of nothing. You have no idea what you are about to type or what a character is about to say. It’s great when your own story surprises you, as you hope it will surprise the audience. It is less like writing and more like you are the first to get to experience a movie. Like some super-natural court stenographer.

What do you struggle with the most?

Many say the blank page. I don’t find that a problem. I have a lot of ideas and given the permission to start writing I can’t stop. My biggest struggle is maybe finding the sweet-spot in revisions. If I read my own work, I will change every line of dialogue as I read it. Then a week later change it again.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

Sort of. But I’ve been new writing talent so long, that I’m old writing talent. I think in the end, talent finds it’s way to the top. There is just so much noise that it is hard to find those voices. It’s a marathon to get your work noticed. You don’t just put up a “screenplay for sale” sign and say you’d better love it! You have to have a love for what you want to do, find a storefront to rent, apply for a business license, advertise, fill the store with product, pay your taxes, be good to your customers, help the community. And then, one day someone who loves what you are doing will tell someone else about your amazing little store, and they’ll recommend it to someone else and lo and behold, Steven Spielberg will jingle that front door bell.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Yes. Trying to blind query agents, managers and producers has been a no-win game for me up to this point. I’ve created some short films that create buzz and get me meetings, but nothing has ever come from them. I’ve spent the last 10 years studying and growing as a screenwriter. I think I am ready to study the business of the business a little more now.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

It felt great! I was very surprised. I have semi-finaled in a few other contests before, but nothing like this. What feels best is that rounds of judges read the script and at each round appreciated it. It’s the best validation I’ve had.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I’ve been aware of Shore for a while. I entered a short script in the Coveryfly Reddit contest (and won).

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I am hoping to get this script financed and be shooting or cutting it this time next year. That would be the big target. It’s a big idea but a small, shootable-on-a-budget film. That’s the goal. But in the game of field position, I hope this script, and being a Shore winner, can advance my career closer to being a financially stable working screenwriter and filmmaker. I write in my off-time from a very time-consuming career in visual effects. So trading some hours from that career into more time to write would at least be moving toward that goal.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

I’ve seen the same advice on every website and festival panel on screenwriting and it’s true. You have to read scripts and write scripts. Know that your first ones are not going to be great. You might think they are the best thing in the world, and that the world must pay attention to you now. But know that future you, who has become a great screenwriter is looking back at you, thinking you are adorable and urging you to keep writing and get better.

TV

GRAND PRIZE WINNER – LUKAS HASSEL

What first got you interested in screenwriting?   As primarily an actor, I have always been fascinated by storytelling. However, I started to write mainly because I realized that I had something to say beyond exploring characters others had written for me. It felt freeing to be the creator, the controller of the entire narrative. Ultimately, I want to direct my screenplays as a way of seeing those visions through to my own satisfaction. I have directed three short films thus far, and I’m beginning to wrap my head around directing my first feature film, hopefully next year.

How long have you been writing for?  I started taking writing seriously some 15 years ago. I always knew I could write but didn’t have the tools with which to liberate the creativity within myself. I joined a writing group, Present Tense under Mick Casale, and brought in my first flawed, though well-intended, screenplay and started learning the craft from there based on receiving feedback from other more experienced writers, but also from giving feedback to them on their works.

Do you have a routine? Starbucks is my office. I have my set of music playlists that I know inside out (so I don’t pay them too much attention) and then with earphones on, I work in the corner with my decaf iced coffee. The sound of ice in the coffee is a trigger. It means focus. The energy and bustle of a Starbucks cafe helps me from sagging or sleepiness. I don’t write well from home. I work almost every day. Even when I’m not sitting with my laptop, my head is kneading a particular scene or character. Often before going to bed, I plant a conundrum from the current script in my head, and sometimes I wake up with answers.

How do you find time to write? I’m an actor, which means I have periods of down time between projects. I don’t know I could have done this had I held down a “regular” job. I’d be too exhausted. I admire people who can do that. So I organize my day around writing, when I’m not acting.

How many TV pilots have you written? This is my first TV pilot. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with writing screenplays only to have the realization that spec scripts are so yesterday. I knew I needed to understand TV pilot writing to keep up with how the industry is developing. So I adapted a screenplay I had already spent years with and set the challenge for myself to use it to learn the format of writing a pilot. It was not easy. In fact, it was surprisingly difficult as character and location unfolds completely differently to screenplays. Pacing even. In the end, I’m very happy with the result. I knew Galapagos would make a great film, but always suspected it would make a better TV series. I had to sacrifice so much in order to fit the story and characters into a two hour screenplay. Giving it over to a series, allowed me to delve into specifics in a different way.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot? I’ve always been drawn to the dark corners of human nature. This pilot goes where some people are not comfortable. It explores death. Hope as a theology. How people deal with desperate situations in different ways. My point of view is that even in the darkest of circumstances, there will be light.

How long did it take to write? This has been a long time coming. I plodded around the feature version for years. Dropped it. Took it back up, did a complete over haul only to have it advance to the semi finals of Nicholl Fellowship this year as a screenplay. That’s when I realized I wanted to make a pilot. Took another year. Still tweaking it.

What do you enjoy most about writing? The control. As an actor, I’m so used to handing over my power in a casting office, crossing fingers I’ll get the job as I walk out. Or having a director edit a film in a way I don’t necessarily agree with. As a writer, I make the decisions, I control what I put out and I can finesse the details I feel are important. It’s a laptop dollhouse. Also, I enjoy my own company. 🙂

What do you struggle with the most? Figuring out how to master the structure of TV writing. Unlearning some of the things from screenplay writing, in terms of how things are revealed or arcs explored.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent? Tough to answer this one. I’ll tell you if and when I receive some kind of breakthrough. For now, I’m on the outside knocking to get in. All I can do is do the hard work, try to constantly improve, be open and hope for the best. I take nothing for granted and always have plans a, b and c. As an actor writer and filmmaker, I’m not waiting for others to hand me a bag of money. I try to make things happen regardless of the industry.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read? That’s a huge challenge. Lets assume I have become a good writer due to hard work etc, then my pet peeve was always: Am I writing to the void? As in, how do I get my work into hands of people that matter? Winning the Cinestory Fellowship a few years back, and being a top 30, a top 40, and then a semifinalist in Nicholl’s with different scripts has helped. With this pilot, I was selected to go to NYSAF filmmakers lab at Vassar for readings and mentorship. Made great connections.  I have built up a great network of super talented writers and industry folks whom I respect, and can ask for feedback from. So getting my scripts read is less an issue now than it was ten years ago.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners? I never assume my work will get noticed. When I learned that Shore Scripts had shortlisted Galapagos I was elated. Someone else gets my work! As a finalist, I felt a wonderful sense of validation. This pilot is worth fighting for. And then winning the 1st place grand prize literally took my breath away as I scrolled down the list. I’m incredibly happy that all those hours, days, week, months and years of work have been recognized. Incredibly grateful for any help in getting my voice heard.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts? Doing research on screenwriting competitions and where to submit – it’s a jungle out there – Shore Scripts consistently came up as a highly respected, and highly recommended contest.  With a real sense of support and love of the craft. In the end, submitting to Shore Scripts was a no brainer. Thrilled I did.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career? My trajectory has always to direct what I write. Obviously, with a TV pilot/series the real control lies in the writers room with which I have zero experience. So, hoping to learn more about that. In the meantime, I shall be honing my filmmaking skills with projects of my own. I will always be acting, hopefully in quality productions. Writing will be taking up more of my time. I don’t see myself being a writer for hire, but writing stuff I can be involved with.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be? Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Look at your own work, and at others, and recognize you can only improve by listening to better writers than yourself. Don’t fear feedback. When you meet someone whose work you admire, reach out and learn. Always move to improve and question your shortcomings. Nothing annoys me more than hearing writers boast they wrote their script in a week. “Ready to shoot”. Yikes.

Also, read screenplays. Be generous with other writers. Share work. Don’t get paranoid about being ripped off. It happens, sure, but if you don’t share your work, you won’t improve.


2ND PLACE WINNER – STEVE BLAME

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I had been fired from a job and was looking for something to do with my life. I started writing to work through the humiliation and pain I felt. It got it all out of my system. As I’d always been a fan of movies, I decided to try and write a screenplay. I nearly sold it. The company wanted to buy me out with a very limited payment and no credit so I turned them down and decided to go to University to study screenwriting instead. After that there was no turning back.

How long have you been writing for?

12 years. But the last 4 years have been the most intensive. That was when I moved back in my with mother to be her primary carer. I wrote for 4 hours a day, either when she was asleep in the afternoon or when she was watching a film in the morning. That has increased to 6 hours since her death.

Do you have a routine?

2 hours writing in the morning at a local cafe. A further two hours whilst eating lunch at home and another 2 during the afternoon or evening. 7 days a week. No exceptions.

How do you find time to write?

I reduced my lifestyle completely. I work only to pay the rent and for living expenses. I put writing as a priority. It doesn’t mean that I’m a hermit. I still go out. But the most important thing is to carry on writing. I love the process. It’s the most satisfying career even though I haven’t yet had anything made.

How many TV pilots have you written?
This is second. The first one has been rewritten as a film.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

I moved to London during the early eighties. As a gay man, I would occasionally receive abuse. One night whilst going out with my boyfriend we were set upon and beaten up. There were occasions where people shouted AIDS carrier or other abuse. I generally felt ostracised by society. When I was searching the recesses of my mind for an idea I came up with a what if. What if that person became a killer because of what he had experience. What if the person hunting him down is dealing with the same problem. What if a third person was confident enough in his or her own skin. I set it in the 80s because that was an era I knew well and one where homophobia was rife. The German angle appealed because I’ve always though the 80s and 30s were two hedonistic eras, and as someone who moved to Germany many years ago, I’ve immersed myself in German history. Weave it altogether and you get Fits the Crime.

How long did it take to write?

I started in 2016. It’s been through many incarnations. But it was this year that I knew it had reached a better level.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the way writing deals with my own psyche. I write about identity and who we are in this world. This is obviously my own personal fight. In Fits the Crime, with the theme of sexual identity, it’s probably more self-evident than in my other projects, where the theme appears in more subtle ways.

What do you struggle with the most?

I don’t feel I struggle anymore. I used to be impatient about what I was writing, wanting it be good before it was time. I’ve learned that putting something aside for a while can be the healthiest thing for a script. Sometimes there are frustrations, but writing would actually be boring without all the frustrations and disappointments otherwise the highs would not feel so good.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

I think we are in a golden period for new writing talent. But even if that wasn’t so, would a writer stop writing? I don’t think so. I am not yet successful. I haven’t had anything made. But I believe that will come and I use that as motivation to keep moving forward.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

It’s always tough to get it read. The air is thin in all creative jobs. But getting something read will depend on the idea. Rejection is par for the course.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

I didn’t take it at all seriously. Not until it got into the final. I’m extremely happy about it. It’s definitely given me a measure of confidence and now I am trying to use the good news to look for representation.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I had read a list of competitions on the Script Angel website and Shore Scripts was the current competition listed. When I saw who were the judges I almost freaked. All I could think was that Jeremy Irons, one of my all time favourite actors, would make a brilliant Dona Drama.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I’m aiming to get representation and get this script made. I think the idea and script are strong enough. There is no reason why it shouldn’t get made. As far as my future is concerned I’d like spend some time in a writing room, continue writing screenplays and develop a larger body of work. I’m not anchored to one country so if this was L.A I’d definitely go.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

Write. It sounds facile but the one thing that I wish I had been told, and maybe I was but didn’t hear it, is that if you want to be a writer you have to write at least 4 to 6 hours a day. Every day. You have to make it your life. Once you’re really into it you’ll never want to do anything else. The second piece of advice is rewrite. Never think something is finished. It isn’t. Each rejection is a reason to rewrite. Apart from writing and rewriting learn to enjoy the process. The life of a writer can be very satisfying but you have to enjoy the process as that will be the majority of your life. I absolutely love mine.


3RD PLACE WINNER – AMANDA PRENTISS

What first got you interested in screenwriting?    

I’ve been writing my whole life – including a collection of short stories I wrote as a kid that are hilariously cringe-worthy, to say the least. I took a screenwriting class early in college that really opened my eyes to the technical aspects of screenwriting. I couldn’t get that script off my mind, and spent years trying to make it work. It never did, but I caught the screenwriting bug and haven’t stopped writing since.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been seriously pursuing screenwriting for the past nine years.

Do you have a routine?

I’m a planner. I’ve never been able to ascribe to the model of writing every day – I usually end up thinking about what I’m going to write for a day or two before I write. Then, I’ll write as far as I’ve planned through, take another day or so, and write some more. Also, I’m very much a night owl, so I’m usually the most productive from 7pm to midnight.

How do you find time to write?

I’m insanely blessed by the position I’m currently in – I’m in grad school for screenwriting, so my main obligation at the moment is writing. That takes up most of my time and energy, which I couldn’t be happier about. I usually have 2-3 scripts at different stages that I’m supposed to be working on at any given time, so it’s more a juggling trick (especially with multiple deadlines for each) than a time struggle.

How many TV pilots have you written?

This is my second pilot I’ve finished (currently working on a third). I also have two features completed and another in progress.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

A long, snowy solo drive across half the country in the middle of winter. It gave me a lot of time to think. I’ve always been fascinated by crime, and I love procedurals; however, I wanted to focus more on the psychological fallout of a crime rather than the mystery of uncovering it. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to set up a murder where from the start the audience was aware of all the whos, hows, and whys of the crime, and instead focusing on the impact and devastation of that event across an entire community.

How long did it take to write?

About six months, including nine rewrites/revisions.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

When the story takes on a life of its own. There’s a moment when the characters really come alive, and almost seem to direct the story from their perspective (which can be annoying when they take it in a direction I hadn’t initially anticipated). But it’s great to see the change and evolution of a screenplay throughout drafts.

What do you struggle with the most?

Letting a story go. I firmly believe there’s a point of diminishing returns where further edits will only weaken a script … it’s just sometimes hard to realize when you’re at that point.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that question. I’m hoping they do (please hire me).

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Yes. It feels like there are a lot of gatekeepers, roadblocks, and catch-22s to get a script into anyone’s hands. I think that’s one great thing about submitting to contests; if your script does well, there’s a chance it opens a few doors.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

Honestly, I was pretty surprised. I actually submitted three scripts (one pilot, two features) into this competition and would’ve put money that either of the other two were going to do better. Obviously, I was wrong (which I’m totally okay with, I just didn’t anticipate that). So, when Lyre was the one that moved forward, I was shocked. And continued to be shocked by every subsequent notification. I love this script, and I believe it’s a great story. I just didn’t think it would win, for some reason. But hey, it’s proof you never know how readers are going to connect with your writing and/or what captures a particular reader’s attention.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I did a massive search of screenplay contests and then narrowed down my own shortlist of ones I felt were worthwhile and beneficial to enter. Yay, Shore Scripts!

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

It would be amazing if Lyre got made, but ultimately, I hope it gets in the right hands and catches the attention of the right people. As long as it leads to something (anything), I’d be happy. That’s what I’m trying to do right now – get my work out there and drum up interest. I’m graduating from my MFA program in May, so the forefront of my concerns is figuring out how to transition into being a working writer. Finding an agent and a manager are huge pieces of that puzzle, and we’ll see how it all plays out. My goal would be to find a way to make a living doing what I love – screenwriting.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

Just keep writing. Don’t be afraid to explore ideas. If your screenplay doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, keep working at it. Everyone writes crap sometimes (I know I have) but the important things are dedication and persistence. Write, write, write, and eventually it’ll pay off.


4TH PLACE WINNER – DOUG SPALTRO

What first got you interested in screenwriting?    

I always wanted to act since I was able to reach the TV knob – yes, a knob – an old black & white. My father told me I had a face for radio so I figured acting was out. I loved film, television and story telling & written creatively in some form: poetry, music, lyrics, short stories. After I retired from the USAF in 2007 I lived/worked in the Middle East. It was there I finally wrote my 1st screenplay – in Word. I purchased books and read articles on the craft. When I returned to the US in 2010 I chose not to further myself in defense aeronautics academia but rather earned a BFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment. And from there I discovered the best avenue for me to create – script format.

How long have you been writing for?

Since breakfast. In some form of creative fashion most of my life, but more specifically in screenwriting – since I graduated in 2014.

Do you have a routine?

Most evenings after the family settles in. My home office has an old-style military DV leather reclining tandem seats  – with pull out food tray. This is my most coveted and inspirational writing spot. Then I write until I fall asleep. Weekends I put coffee on at 4am-ish and write in a quiet, sleeping home.

How do you find time to write?

It’s a necessity – part of my routine like eating or sleeping.

How many TV pilots have you written?

I wrote my 1st pilot last year after my feature it was adapted from placed in the Page International – the pilot made the AFF. Then this winter I wrote 3 additional pilots – one of which was WASHED.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

One’s moral compass fascinates me. What makes their needle point true north and what’s their “Bermuda Triangle” that sends it spinning. I wanted to put 4 characters from completely diverse backgrounds that have been consumed by a charismatic leader they followed with blind faith. I researched each group, from Scientology to Christian Identity (white supremest) and created these 4 characters – each with their own skeletons that eventually emerge.

How long did it take to write?

As fast as my two index fingers and a thumb or two could blaze over the keys. It was completed in eleven days – writing nights & weekends. I wanted to challenge myself as if a clock was ticking to meet a deadline – I wanted it to feel as though I was in a writers room.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Being able to unleash the characters and voices in my head, freeing  them to the page brings a great thrill to me. I constantly have ideas, dialogue & scenes playing in my head, and to see them on the monitor is always a great relief.

What do you struggle with the most?

Writing and bleeding onto the page knowing it may never be shared. Sometimes it may never make it past the first reader and that’s a gut-punch that can be difficult dealing with.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

Yes. It’s ALWAYS thrilling when a new writer makes it. A new voice – something different. I often feel that a story of mine may have already been told – but not by ME.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

Yes. Nine out of ten of my scripts (6 features & 4 pilots) have placed in competitions. I’ve queried some companies – even tapped agents/managers from agencies I found on LinkedIn to entice them for a read – I hate doing that. I felt desperate, I suppose. I did have one request loglines but he kindly let me know there was no interest. It’s hard and there’s always that Catch-22 hovering around.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

My apologies for being long-winded here. I worked for a large aeronautics defense contractor – 70 hours a week. Had no energy to write, let alone being a Dad to my young daughter. I quit a great-paying, high stress job to stay home with my daughter and to write. My 6 month hiatus yielded 2 features. I found Shore Scripts online and submitted. Re-entering the work-force (sad face), on an early October 2016 morning I saw the email from Shore Scripts. My features was a QF. Bare-footed on cold tile I cried like a baby. My efforts were not wasted. It freed me. And now with my pilot this year I was in public when I learned. Ok, I cried like a man!

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

While looking for an avenue to get my first screenplays into competition, I found Shore Scripts online in 2016.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

The ultimate would to have WASHED birthed into life with a talented team of creative and edgy thinkers. We all dream of our creations being the next big-always-talked-about hit. But if it only serves as a writing sample introducing me to another project, well, that would be just as great too!

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

Don’t ever give up.  More importantly, don’t ever be swayed by someone telling you it can’t be done – no matter how close they are to you. Have your long-term goal and align short-term goals to arrive at your end-game.  Live life like it’s your last day and let it inform your writing. I’m 53 and didn’t give in to the haunting passion until just a few years ago – I dreaded letting 10 years go by and asking myself, “I wonder what would have happened if I had tried.” So I tried because I knew I had stories to tell.


5TH PLACE WINNER – NATALIE HOWELL

What first got you interested in screenwriting?    

Two years ago, I was sitting in my university’s library signing up for my last semester of classes when I had a bit of a panic attack. I wasn’t satisfied with what I had done while in college, and I was uncertain about if the path I was on was right for me. I had always loved writing, so I signed up for an Introduction to Screenwriting course. I loved it immediately and my professor was extremely encouraging. I felt like I had finally found my voice.

How long have you been writing for?

I have been writing my entire life, but I didn’t get into screenwriting until my senior year of college two years ago.

Do you have a routine?

I probably should have a routine by now, but I don’t. I try to write as often as possible and write down ideas when inspiration strikes.

How do you find time to write?

Nights and weekends are crucial, even if it’s just writing for an hour or two.

How many TV pilots have you written?

Ink Stains is my first TV pilot.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

I majored in journalism and was the editor for my university’s student-run newspaper. While the plot and the characters are completely fictional, what the characters go through – feeling overwhelmed, getting too carried away, desperately trying to find their place – is very real. Ink Stains really focuses on the absurdity of taking yourself too seriously.

It’s funny, I promise.

How long did it take to write?

It took me about six months on and off to write the pilot once I finally got my act together.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I can express myself through writing. I am very quiet and reserved, and writing has always been the best way for me to get my thoughts out there when speaking fails me.

What do you struggle with the most?

I’m very impatient when it comes to writing and story building. I just want to hurry up and get to the good parts, and that really isn’t how writing works.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

I have had very little experience with the film industry, but I sure hope so.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

What has been difficult for me is having no idea where to start. Writing is the fun part, what’s scary is figuring out what to do next.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

I cried every time I got an email from Shore Scripts. Making it past each stage felt totally surreal. I really worked hard on Ink Stains, so the fact that people in the industry saw something in it is huge for me. Plus, it’s good to know that people outside of my friends and family think I’m funny.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I found Shore Scripts while looking for contests to submit a screenplay I was working on. Then Ink Stains happened, and it became a priority, so I finished the pilot and entered it. I’m still working on the screenplay.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I really want Ink Stains to see the light of day. I want to keep working on it and find somebody who believes in it and wants to work with me. When it comes to the future, my goal is to be able to transition into writing full-time, either as a writer for television or finding success through my own work.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

I’m not sure I’m in the place to give advice, but I would say to just go for it. If you have an idea that you believe in, put in the time and get it out there.

SHORT

GRAND PRIZE WINNER – SOON

2ND PLACE WINNER – SOON


3RD PLACE WINNER – MATT MUCHKA

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I never saw myself as a writer. In fact, I hated writing. I struggled with grammar and proper sentence structure throughout my entire academic career. (I’ve probably over-punctuated the hell out of this answer already!) I only started writing scripts when I decided that I wanted to start making short films and I needed something to shoot.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been writing short scripts for about four years.

Do you keep to a routine?

I believe that having a routine helps immensely in keeping you productive. I, however, do not have a routine. I’m actively trying to set myself on that path now.

How do you find time to write?

I normally work out ideas as I run in the morning or on my commutes into work. My most productive writing sessions are usually late at night after my kids are in bed.

How many short screenplays have you written?

I’ve written about seven short screenplays. The actual number is a much higher but often ideas from multiple scripts will end up merging into one project.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

The inspiration for Do Unto Others came from a news story about a woman who survived the Rwandan genocide. This saintly woman had not only forgiven the man who murdered her entire family, but was currently helping this man to put his life back together. This woman didn’t believe that her hate would help the world, but that her love might.

As a father, I tried to imagine myself in this position. What would I do if I discovered someone had harmed my children, could I ever forgive them, would they deserve my forgiveness? I then tried to construct and interesting way of exploring those ideas, which I think are easily relatable.

How long did it take to write?

The initial pass only took a couple of hours to write, I came back to the script a couple of times over the following month or so to do some polish passes.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy world building more than anything else. I really like to create stories around extraordinary situations, but to have them grounded with the emotions of the characters.

What do you struggle with the most?

I have a list of ideas that I love and really want to develop into scripts but I struggle to decide on what to move onto next. Often times I’ll ignore this whole list and write whatever inspires me that day.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?

I don’t think that the industry as a whole embraces anything until it’s a proven commodity. I think that in the independent world, smart and interesting stories can embraced, it’s just a matter of finding the right person to embrace it.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?

I think it can be very hard to get any artistic work out into the world. There are so many platforms to distribute content, but so much competition that it’s easy to get lost in the abyss.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?

I had just come off of a year where my first short film, The Hostage, was rejected from all 20 of the festivals I submitted it to. As you can imagine, this was pretty deflating and I became a little gun shy of shooting anything else after that.

I decided to try to get a script out into the world in an effort to get some feedback before moving forward on another short. Shore Scripts was the first competition that I entered. To have the script embraced by the readers was a little hard to accept at first, especially after experiencing so much rejection. Each announcement brought disbelief, excitement and a bit more confidence.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

A screenwriter friend had mentioned Shore Scripts, the chance to have my script sent out to so many people in the industry was too good to pass up.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?

I plan on making Do Unto Others and submitting it to various film festivals. I hope that the project will connect with people enough that they’d be interested hearing about other scripts that I have. Ultimately, I enjoy telling stories and I hope that people will be open to listening.

If you had any advice for upcoming screenwriters, what would it be?

Keep an open mind; you never know where the idea for your next script may come from. Watch movies, read books, listen to podcasts, go for a walk, talk to your kids there are countless places to be inspired.