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2020’s WINNERS INTERVIEWS

FEATURE

GRAND PRIZE WINNER – DAVE PATERSON

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I think when I saw La Haine as a teenager, I was a tad envious of the French for having this film in their ‘catalogue’ and I really wanted to write the Australian version. That, and I’d grown up under a few colourful characters as a kid and they all just told the best stories; I think that’s where I learned how to tell a good yarn.

How long have you been writing for?

I started in my teens, so about 20 years.

Do you have a routine?

I write my plot/page points and set up a work calendar to keep on track. I don’t stick to it the whole way through but it’s a good structure that’s there when I need. And the TV is always on for atmosphere – I can’t stand a quiet room.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

There’s a famous case of missing and murdered Indigenous Australian children in a small town called Bowraville here. The most likely culprit is a white man who was acquitted (and has since disappeared), and racial tensions are obviously quite high in Bowraville. It’s shocking and sad and so unjust; the lead detective is also a famous figure here, and had said, “If this happened to three white kids in any street in Australia, all hell would break loose.”  That        sentence struck a chord in me.

How long did it take to write?

About three months and one more for the revisions.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Creating characters; I love dialogue. We don’t really think about it, but the way we talk is a huge part of what defines us and how people remember us. Writing characters with a rewarding arc is rewarding in itself.

What do you struggle with the most?

Right after the midpoint, I can get the odd bit of story fatigue and I tend to start second-guessing myself/the script.

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

Yes and no. The Aus industry and its window for new talent is quite small but my experience with the US industry is fairly positive so far.

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

Getting work read isn’t the hard part so far, I think it’s more the process of optioning and everything after that; it’s definitely teaching me patience. Having a few things in the pipes is a good way to go.

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

Amazing! This is such a high caliber competition; I’m very proud and thankful for the placing. The Shore Scripts organisers have been really lovely. Excited for what happens next.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

Have known of it for a while, probably originally through one of the old submission platforms.

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

I’d love to see The Blind Sea made and I’d really like to find representation with an American agency and start my career there (and option my bag of features and pilots!)

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

Keep writing, keep learning and honing your craft. Enter comps and festivals and back yourself. And a bit oxymoronic, but don’t listen to absolutely every piece of advice or feedback you receive; choose your mentors.


ACTION/ADVENTURE GENRE WINNER – PETER SHELDRICK

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I loved the magic of movies, and as early as elementary school I was often accused by teachers of being a daydreamer (I would rather have been watching the latest James Bond adventure, or Rocky film, than sitting in class; I was daydreaming about which movie I’d watch when I got home from school!).

As a teen, my tastes in films expanded, but my child-like wonder stayed the same; I knew magic was happening on the screen, and I was in awe.

Although I consistently showed talent and high marks in Creative Writing, I actually went to university for theater and acting, and for several years after graduating, I was a working actor (mainly commercials and stage-work).

However, I became less and less passionate about acting, and more and more passionate about storytelling and writing.

So I started to write one act plays and produced them in little venues around the city (Toronto).

Then I took one of these plays and wrote a short film and shot it myself. It wasn’t very good, nor did it go very far. But it caught the attention of an agent.

He asked me to write a feature script.

So I did.

When I submitted it, he was up front and said that my work wasn’t very good at all.

That was a punch to the gut, but it ignited something within me. I now had a mission: I was going to become a screenwriter.

I bought every book and read every script I could get my hands on.

And I wrote and wrote and wrote, many poor scripts…

As I honed the craft of writing, I explored different genres to find out which ones spoke to me.

Once I was comfortable with a couple of genres, that’s when my “voice” started to be seen more in my writing, and my progress started to soar.

And now I want to continue to grow every day; to read as many scripts as possible, respect the craft and the art, always approach each of my scripts with the greatest humility and to stretch myself to areas of discomfort.

And most of all, I want the reader to be entertained (and not to feel that they wasted one hundred minutes on something I’ve written)!

How long have you been writing for?

Coming up to eleven years.

Do you have a routine?

My routine: wake-up at 4:30 a.m. and write until 8 a.m.

I eat a high-protein breakfast with a cup of berries for mental and physical nourishment.

I hit the gym by 10 a.m. and I’m home by noon.

Another high protein meal with lots of water and bone-broth.

I sit down to write again by 1 p.m. until 3 (this writing block is usually another script I am working on, not the one I was working on in the morning).

From 3 p.m. until about 4:30 pm I do my reading.

I take my two Goldens for a walk from 4:30 p.m. until about 5:45 pm, where I can listen to a podcast and/or think about ideas for future stories…

I start dinner for the family, and while it’s cooking, I get 90 more minutes of writing in (this is usually a third script I’m working on, and/or exploring concepts).

Once I finish a draft of a script, I put it away and I won’t look at it again for weeks and weeks, or even months (I get on and continue writing and developing other stories).

When I pull out the script again, I print it up. Read it in one sitting. Then…

I get out my red pen and I go through every single line of that script. It’s a bloodbath and I’m ruthless (I have photographic evidence of what these “red-pen edits” look like- it ain’t pretty).

After I finish red-penning that draft, I type it into Final Draft, put it away again for weeks and weeks and weeks again (or months), and I repeat this until I’m ready to send out to colleagues who will then read it to give me their feedback…

Most important to my routine: every single script always starts with thorough outlines and character bios before I even consider putting a story into script form.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

The inspiration for THE WITCH-HUNTER:

The first fight sequence in Kill Bill Volume 1 (when the Bride battles Vernita Green). It played in my head over and over and over.

And as it played in my head, I wondered who my protagonist would be if she was ever in this type of fight; who is she? Why is she in this battle to the death?

And that’s when I developed the character of Mel, the human-witch hybrid who hunts down and assassinates witches (with extreme prejudice).

A nice backstory grew out from Mel: who she was, her upbringing, how she was an outcast, the love for her Mother, and the love her Mother had for her…

And from this character, the rest of the script followed… all because of that one fight scene in Kill Bill!

How long did it take to write?

On and off for five years.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy so many things… But I think the number one thing is:

4:30 a.m. It’s dark outside. House is quiet. My dogs by my feet and a huge cup of black coffee by my side. Then I open the Macbook and I get whisked away into the world that I’ve been creating.

It’s magic.

What do you struggle with the most?

This is a good question, and I’m not sure I have an answer. It’s not that I don’t struggle, I do. But I’ve created a discipline for myself to embrace the struggles. If I’m worried about writer’s block, I force myself to write something, even if it’s one line (but that one line turns into getting back on the road again); I struggle with self-confidence, but remind myself to be humble, not to be afraid…

Writing is a struggle, and struggles will come in many forms. I have to embrace all of it…

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

Yes I do. I have immense confidence that everyone working in the industry is always looking for the absolute best story to invest in, and the very best story to share with as many people as possible. If that comes in the form of new talent, they will jump on it.

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

Yes, but that’s due to certain events in my life; I had a manager, and when he left the company, I dropped the ball in locking a new representative because my wife had a reoccurrence of cancer. During this time, and in her recovery, I wrote every single day, but I took five years away from getting my work out there (I wasn’t in the right frame of mind).

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

I lost my shit, plain and simple.

As I stated above, I didn’t look at getting my scripts out there for five years. This past year was all about re-entering the industry and getting professionals to read my work. What better way than entering competitions!

I was fearful. I had self-doubt creeping in.

And when I was short-listed, I was humbled and full of happiness. If it all ended for me at that moment, it was still a victory.

And then when I got the news I was a finalist, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was over the moon. And I didn’t care at that point if I won. I was already a winner.

And then when I won in my category, I cried. Absolute tears of joy, and it was such an overwhelming feeling. Then I screamed out loud. And then I ran into my kids rooms to tell them. Called my wife. Emailed Shore thanking them.

I couldn’t be happier. And I am so very grateful.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

Doing research on FilmFreeway.

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

I understand that Shore will be sending out the script to their industry roster, so I’d like to see what happens with this.

I’ll be sending out queries to managers and agents as well, seeking representation again.

And I’ll be doing research on what producers make films like THE WITCH-HUNTER, and query them as well.

In this Covid year, I have been re-writing and polishing existing scripts, and I’ve added three new scripts to my catalogue (all first drafts), just preparing for what the future might hold.

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

  1. Write every day. Every single day. Some days it will come easier, but still write on those days where you think you can’t do it.
  2. Choose a time to write every day, and stick to that time.
  3. Read scripts. Never stop reading them.
  4. Know your genre(s), and read as many scripts in that genre as you can; break-down those scripts and find out why they work so well.
  5. Re-writing is the best writing. Re-writing a re-write even better. Keep re-writing!
  6. Respect the process of writing; it’s very hard and we can’t skip steps. Just keep learning, reading, writing. It will take years, so buckle-up and ride those ups and downs.
  7. Respect the readers/producers/directors who have agreed to read your work. Give them the most professionally-executed script you can (not only from a story/character perspective, but look-out for all typos and errors).
  8. Be humble.
  9. Be thankful when given feedback. Feedback is a chance to grow.
  10. 10.Get fit in mind and body. Make sure to exercise every day, and eat foods that will help with brain-power.

COMEDY GENRE WINNER – JENNIFER GERBER & SAMUEL BRETT WILLIAMS

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

We have both been writing for many years so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact start of our journey. Brett (AKA Samuel Brett Williams) stepped into screenwriting via his path as a successful playwright and Jen primarily found her voice while studying writing and directing in graduate school at Columbia University. We reconnected in 2014 after both of us took a break from NY and relocated to our hometown of Hot Springs, AR. Being from Arkansas, we share a similar passion for stories set in the modern South and we quickly discovered a fruitful collaboration that has become the backbone for a lasting creative partnership.

How long have you been writing for?

We started writing Has Been Beauty Queen (HBBQ) in 2015. Shortly after, we got our first feature off the ground with Jen directing The Revival, a screenplay by Brett that was based on his critically acclaimed play of the same name. That production really solidified our collaboration and we are eager for our next story to reach the big screen!

Do you have a routine?

Each of us has our own routine when it comes to the writing process, but when collaborating we rely heavily on the story development phase and typically note card the movie for weeks to months before ever writing a page of the script. Once we are happy with the story as it is represented in the note cards, one of us tackles the first draft and then we hand it back and forth until we feel it’s ready for circulation. For HBBQ, Jen had a rough first draft to start with, but together, we took the story back to its foundation and still spent several weeks fine-tuning the notecards before moving forward with a rewrite.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

HAS BEEN BEAUTY QUEEN is a semi-autobiographical telling of Jen’s experiences growing up in Arkansas as a teenage beauty queen with a mother that is bipolar. This life experience gives Jen the unique ability to see the pageant contestant’s story from an up-close and personal vantage point because she’s walked literally miles in their high heels. It’s really important that this story not judge the characters and we set out to treat mental illness with the same sensitivity as both of us have an acute relationship with loved ones who suffer with ups and downs caused by a mental illness.

How long did it take to write?

Once the note cards are complete, a new draft takes about 4-6 months. About a year ago, we completed a new page-1 rewrite of HBBQ and that is the draft that was awarded “Best Comedy” in the Shore Scripts competition.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Both of us are passionate about telling stories in and about our home state and we aspire to shine a light on communities that aren’t often represented in the media. We are drawn to stories about the modern South that illustrate the complexities and politics of small US towns. Many of our stories are set in our hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas because this location provides a constant source of inspiration with its larger-than-life characters and beautiful scenery.

What do you struggle with the most?

Knowing when to take notes and how to incorporate them can be challenging, especially when a story is still finding its shape. Over time, we have improved our ability to distill notes into productive changes in the script and we have a small network of people whose feedback we sincerely trust. But it can be a difficult aspect of writing to manage if you are not clear on the intention of your story.

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

We are grateful for the support we have received from Shore Scripts and we are so thankful that platforms like this exist to help emerging talent get discovered. Getting a movie made is harder than ever, but we are fortunate that we have found support within the industry for this script as we continue to cast and lock financing.

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

Platforms such as Shore Scripts definitely help to bring exposure to new work! We have a pretty strong support network, which helps to get the script in the right hands. We are thrilled that people have been responding to this script and we are very focused on getting this story into production as soon as we can.

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

Following a year with so many disappointments and struggles, it means more than ever to have received this recognition. This award helped us move the project forward and we are very grateful for the support!

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

Coverfly.

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

Our sights are set on production! The film is mostly cast and we are currently focused on raising the financing. Our goal is to get this story into production shortly after COVID-19 lifts and we plan to continue collaborating on stories and bring them to life for many years to come!

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

We live by the motto of “write what you know.” We think it’s important, especially as you are starting, to tell a story that only YOU can tell. HBBQ wouldn’t be what it is without the up close and personal connection we have to the world represented in the story. You don’t necessarily have to be in LA, just tell a story that only YOU can tell and we believe that will help set your story apart from the rest.


DRAMA GENRE WINNER – ALEX GEORGE PICKERING

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to storytelling. After school I would shoot my own amateur movies with friends in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. All aspects of filmmaking fascinated me, from operating my dad’s old VHS camera to editing on two side by side VCR’s, inspired by flashy adventure movies like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. It wasn’t until college, however, that I realized just how fun, freeing and imaginative screenwriting can be, and how essential it is to the moviemaking process.

How long have you been writing for?

Truth be told, I have been writing all my life. But as far as screenwriting goes, I began at Georgetown University. An English degree with a writing concentration later and I was accepted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts M.F.A. Production Program. Since then, I have worked tirelessly on honing my craft. The years since graduating from USC have been some of the most formative of my writing career.

Do you have a routine?

Writing during the unprecedented year of COVID-19 certainly presented challenges, especially as the father of a young child with a remote preschool schedule. But I always pushed myself to find quiet moments to meet the “write everyday” rule. Writing faster and at my same level of quality while juggling family obligations, freelance directing/editing jobs, a part-time teaching career and pandemic restrictions has been an enormous challenge. And oddly enough, I have found 2020 to be one of the most prolific writing years of my life.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

I wanted to write a movie that takes an unabashed, authentic look at children with non-verbal autism and, most importantly, gives them back their agency. I grew up with a special education teacher for a mom, and my wife Lindsay is now a devoted school psychologist who works with children with special needs. My family would attest that neurodiversity in cinema has often been limited to the same negative tropes and archetypes. As the parent now of a child with special needs, I have witnessed firsthand just how wonderfully dynamic and even gifted children with special needs can be. I remember my wife showing my son the alphabet just one time, and he memorized the order when he was only a toddler. In preschool, he’s now typing simple sentences with numerous sight words that he’s memorized. At the same time, I worry about his verbal communication skills. Developing Heard was my way of tapping into those complex feelings. That the process resulted in such a powerful, well-received story warms my heart.

I asked myself—what if a non-verbal child was kidnapped and taken into the wilderness? How would he survive? If he has a photographic memory and heightened spatial-cognitive abilities (what some might call realistic “super powers”), how could he outsmart a pair of armed bandits? Or escape a charging bear? Or survive a deadly rainstorm? Told largely from the POV of a boy with these very savant traits, Heard is a father-son drama packaged in the wrapper of a riveting survival adventure thriller movie—a family caught in a crisis situation that pushes their relationship like never before and challenges them to grow.

How long did it take to write?

Heard was the fastest feature script that I have ever written, taking about four months from conception to a polished third or fourth draft. I attribute the speed not only to my progress growing as a writer, but to having finally found my voice. I had heard all the platitudes before about the importance of a writer’s voice, but never quite understood the meaning. Sometimes you just know, this is what I should be writing. It just clicks somewhere deep down, gut level. This is my own unique story to tell, the narrative burning deep inside of me that has taken ten formative years and the birth of my amazing son to realize.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the raw creative side of storytelling. Some call it brainstorming. It’s the inventing—the tinkering with a partially-formed idea, turning it over and over again in my head. Often, I will take a walk with my son and just let the ideas play out in my mind with a digital notes page cued up on my iPhone. And when the pieces begin to click together, structurally, thematically, it is one of the most satisfying feelings. Best of all, those “a-ha!” moments can come at any point in the process: during development, writing or revising.

What do you struggle with the most?

After reading a script for the hundredth time, it can be hard to look at your words objectively. I often wish I could temporarily wipe my memory and workshop my own writing like a third party, but the closest alternative is seeking some reliable feedback from my trusted few. A read-through by my Aunt Nancy, a typo/grammar wizard if there ever was one, always precedes my polish pass. On some scripts, I even have a writing partner named Matthew Breault, who helps talk me through the themes and plot points, as well as keeps my feet to the fire with deadlines (and vice-versa). Outside of the writers’ rooms of scripted TV, writing can be a very solitary endeavor, which is why it’s important to build and foster creative circles.

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

I have always been optimistic about industry access. There are so many great initiatives, organizations and partnerships out there for rising writers, and success can come in many forms. One of my first big breaks was co-writing animated webisodes of Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda for DreamWorksTV (now under Peacock Kids) through a friend’s referral. Often, it all boils down to relationships and good timing. You can’t control whether or not a company or investor puts money behind your dream script. All you can control is the quality of your work. And when a new opportunity presents itself, make sure you have the best piece of writing ready.

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

Getting industry reads is always a challenge. When you reach out to an agent, producer or production company asking them to read your work, you are creating a problem for them. It’s an unfortunate reality that screenwriters must double as salesmen too. So, it helps to find avenues that invite traffic back your direction. Before winning Best Drama in the Shore Scripts Contest, I won the Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition and advanced in others like the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft, American Zoetrope and more. In many cases, these placements led to industry outreach. I also used the popular screenwriter database Coverfly as a way to summarize and showcase all the awards that I had accumulated. Recently, after one of my scripts Crate (co-written by Matthew Breault) made Coverfly’s “Red List”, I was even able to secure an up front paid option deal.

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

I felt extremely grateful and validated that the Shore Scripts readers and judges connected with Heard. I remember sharing the good news with my wife Lindsay, who along with my son had provided much of the inspiration behind the story. As a school psychologist, I know how much neurodiversity means to her. More so than any other script, the victories associated with Heard feel deeply moving to our family.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

Coverfly, the popular writer-industry connection platform, has a “Competitions” tab where writers can browse through contests. In my efforts to build up my Coverfly score for Heard and other projects, I stumbled upon the compelling-sounding Shore Scripts page, and the rest is history!

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

I fully intend to get Heard off the ground and onto the silver screen. This is a movie waiting to happen, shedding an important spotlight on the special needs community and neurodiversity in film. It’s also just an exciting story of survival and perseverance against impossible odds.

I also plan to continue promoting my other projects. Along with signing an option deal with Wavelets Entertainment for our thriller/horror Crate, my frequent writing partner Matthew Breault and I wrote a deeply researched biopic called Jumpman about the creator of Super Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto, and the historic rise of Nintendo. I also wrote an award-winning USC graduate short film years ago called Fig (directed by Ryan Coogler and distributed on HBO), which I have since adapted into a feature script in development with Day 28 Films. Additionally, Phase Out, Impulse Control and many other projects in my portfolio have racked up some great awards. I am optimistic, grateful and excited for the possibilities in 2021!

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

When it comes to script sales, flip the formula. Make reading your screenplay an opportunity for them—the producers, investors and industries pros that have the power to green-light your work. There is an old cynical saying that “no one wants to read your script.” This is unfortunately true to an extent. Asking industry insiders to read a 100+ page document just creates work for them unless there is something of discernable value. But how can you convince someone of something’s worth sight unseen?

The answer is manifold. It comes with building a reputation for your script via contests (like Shore Scripts) or platforms (like Coverfly or The Black List)—avenues that can vet your screenplay for you and give it some clout. There are also attachments you could work towards, like famous actors or directors, or even life rights to something compelling and historic. Of course, nothing substitutes for the obvious: an idea that is fresh and original, and writing that is strong and easy on the eyes. Simply put, when the invitation to share your work comes your way, make sure you have the best possible piece of writing to show. And leave the rest, as they say, to fate.

Finally, keep writing daily and use your personal experiences to find your voice.


FAMILY GENRE WINNER – MARY BRONAUGH

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

Weirdly, Shakespeare! I started as a high school theatre nerd who wrote and directed short films based on my favorite Shakespearean plays.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been writing poetry, short stories, and plays since middle school; but I didn’t write my first feature film screenplay until sophomore year of college.

Do you have a routine?

I tend to write the best at night – which, admittedly, isn’t the most healthy. But I get all my best ideas after the sun goes down! However, I’m always jotting down ideas for characters, dialogue, and scenes that I get all throughout the day.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

Over two decades ago, I was found on the ground outside a police station in Guangzhou, China. Back in the 90s, China’s one-child policy encouraged poorer parents to abandon their baby girls, instead hoping to conceive a boy who could take care of them in their old age. The basic story I’m told is that my mother was likely poor, but loved me so much she fought to leave me in the city where I could be found. It’s a hopeful story, but it asks more questions than it answers, right? These difficult questions led me to write Jade and The Legend of The Lost Emperor – a story about the birth mother I never knew. I researched the history of my home province, the spirituality and people, and even my own ancestors’ ancient traditions. And it developed into a joyful exploration of my identity. It was the first time I ever felt true pride in my heritage. It also felt like my voice, and I had more fun writing it than I’d ever had before.

How long did it take to write?

I started my first draft of it in junior year of college, but returned to it on and off over time as I improved as a writer. So all in all, two years from conception to final draft!

What do you enjoy most about writing?

So much! The process of the writing itself helps me express and process difficult emotions or existential questions. And the process of sharing my writing helps me connect and relate to others. I love how writing can illuminate hidden personal truths or bring about emotional revelations for both the writer and the readers / audience.

What do you struggle with the most?

Perfectionism! I’ve had to force myself to just start something and not be afraid to have terrible, terrible ideas.

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

In my experience, it has; but that’s partly because I’ve been surrounded by awesome people who’ve championed me + other women and POC writers. Before I was ready to show my work around, I did plenty of very grueling unpaid work – which seems to be a norm (and one that severely disenfranchises already financially-disadvantaged young people from the industry, by the way). Recently, the industry has been doing a better job of launching diversity labs and programs, like the Disney TV Animation Writer Program, which I’m currently a part of. But it can always do better!

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

No. Going through USC’s Writing for Screen and TV B.F.A. Program really aided me with supportive peers and mentors who were willing to give my work a shot. I think that’s the #1 thing I got out of going to film school.

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

Absolutely thrilled! A story about a young Chinese-American girl coping with grief wouldn’t have made anyone bat an eyelash ten years ago. It’s exciting to see how telling your own personal story can be seen as valuable to others as it is to you.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

Through online research!

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

I’d love to see Jade and The Legend of The Lost Emperor produced! However, questions about my overall career goals are tough, because I love writing both features and TV! My overarching goal is to continue writing for both, and see where each individual project takes me. In terms of film, one of my passions is acting as writer-director; which I clarified last year by participating in Film Independent’s Artist Development Program (geared to support minority writer-directors telling diverse stories). Within 5 years, I’d love to have directed my first original feature. I’m inspired by the careers of Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, and Lulu Wang; as they write and direct deeply personal stories – with strong original scripts at the core. However, if my TV career takes off faster, I’d continue working my way up through a writers room, or have sold my own show (if I’m very lucky). As a TV writer, my work tends to land in the coming-of-age / dramedy / comedy genres. I’d aim to sell a show in one of those genres, as well as direct some of my own episodes. Finally, I’m very passionate about film education. In college, I founded and ran a student organization that connected production and screenwriting students to collaborate with and teach each other. One of my long-term goals would be to continue to broaden film educational resources for those who can’t afford to access them.

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

Always try to find ways to be resilient, flexible, and generous. Work smarter and harder for everyone you collaborate with than the day before. And truly enjoy that collaboration! In my opinion, it’s the most rewarding part of filmmaking.

 


HORROR GENRE WINNER – BILL WHIRITY

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

I was obsessed with movies from a young age. Around 6th grade, my friends and I started filming little improvised comedy sketches and it eventually evolved into shorts with actual scripts. After high school, my friends all went off to college to prepare for real jobs whereas I went off to film school.

How long have you been writing for?

I wrote my first feature screenplay with some friends back in high school when Project Greenlight first started, so about 20 years ago. The old saying is true, “After you finish your first screenplay, put it in a drawer and start your second.” It was pretty bad, but it got the ball rolling.

Do you have a routine?

I had a routine before the pandemic. I know it seems as though this lockdown would be the perfect opportunity to write, but it’s been quite a challenge since my writing routine was always to get out of the house to avoid all the distractions. I would head somewhere to write for a few hours from about 10/11am-1pm. My main focus is the outline stage, it’s a lot easier to edit and cut things that aren’t working when they’re only a few descriptive lines in an outline. I put a lot of work into that and by the time I move onto the script I’ve gone over the scenes so many times in my head that it just flows quicker, I still hit blocks, but at least I have the outline to fall back on. I also try to end my writing for the day BEFORE I hit a wall and get stuck, this allows me to start the next day with some momentum rather than right back at the previous day’s wall.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

There were a few key ideas that I had and eventually connected. Mainly, there was the idea about conformity. It’s a very interesting concept, because it’s human nature to want to belong to a tribe, but we also want to be individuals. So there’s this conflicting duality of trying to fit in while also remaining a unique snowflake. And to me, this internal struggle is strongest when we’re in high school. So that informed my decision to tell the story through the lens of a teenager. The second big idea came from a friend of mine who was wearing these big BluBlocker sunglasses while watching TV. I asked what the deal was and he told me about circadian rhythms and blue light from screens disrupting our cycles. And this was long before phones and computers had features to warm tint your screens at night. So I began to think about how people are so attached to their phones and what if they’re actually these alien pod people who have different circadian rhythms that need blue light all the time. And from there all these ideas began to flow and it just naturally lent itself to teenagers today who are always on their phones and struggle to find their own identity in a world of curated lives via social media.

How long did it take to write?

I wrote and directed the short film for Semblance back in 2014 and did a festival run with it. I always saw the short as the cold opening to a feature, but I didn’t quite have the full story yet, so I focused on other projects. Eventually, a bunch of ideas began to gel together and I began writing it in 2018. I did the vomit draft in about four or five months. I worked on another two drafts and a polish on and off for about another year.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

To paraphrase Dorothy Parker – “I love having written.” Just kidding…kinda. What I enjoy most is those little “ah ha!” moments when ideas seem to fall into place. Something clicks and you have a breakthrough. It feels like a real victory, like I know what I’m doing, and it helps fuel me to keep pushing forward.

What do you struggle with the most?

Probably deciding what to write next. I always have a few ideas that I’m really excited about and deciding which one to spend the next few months on is always the biggest challenge. Especially when they’re different mediums like a pilot vs a feature or a smaller indie script vs a studio sample etc… The answer always seems to come back to “Write whichever one excites you the most” and that excitement and enthusiasm will come through on the page.

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

I’m sure they do, I just haven’t experienced it yet. Been on a lot of generals and it always seems to be a lot more talk than action. There’s plenty of excitement in the room that just seems to fizzle out in the follow up emails. I’d equate it to being ghosted on a dating app.

There seems to still be that “chicken and the egg” thing — Executives want to play it safe and hire someone with produced credits, but how do you get that first job without having credits yet? It really just comes down to meeting the right Exec who’s willing to take a risk on a project they love.

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

Yes and no. It’s definitely hard to get someone to commit to reading a script. It seems like there’s a lot more writers biding for Execs’ precious time. BUT I’ve found once I actually do get someone to read a script, if they enjoy my writing, the door is then open to keep sending them stuff in the future or asking them pass it along on your behalf. The most important thing I’d say is to make sure you’re sending the best possible version of your script. You only get once chance for a first impression.

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

I was actually quite aloof. A friend of mine texted me “Congrats on being a finalist” and I had no idea what he was talking about– I hadn’t received the email yet. And then it was really a shock later when I found out I was a winner. It was definitely a much-needed pick-me-up during the pandemic when I began questioning myself a lot.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I applied for the Coverfly Talent Discovery program and was awarded a list of fee waivers for about a dozen screenplay competitions. Shore Scripts was on that list so I submitted.

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

I’m hoping to direct Semblance soon. I have that and one other project I’m trying to get off the ground. Directing has always been my primary focus since film school, so getting to direct one of these projects is my main goal for the future.

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

To read more. I’m always surprised at how many screenwriters I meet who don’t read other scripts. I think you should read as much as you can. Read scripts for classic movies, read new films that you enjoyed, and also read bad scripts every once in a while. There’s so much to learn from seeing what NOT to do. That’s a lesson I don’t think people give enough value to. Reading definitely helps improve your writing. After I read the script for Nightcrawler, its formatting changed the way in which I write. That script definitely shook things up for me in the best way. And obviously don’t limit your reading just to scripts, read books, graphics novels, etc… I have an unhealthy addiction to buying books faster than I can read them.

Oh, and one other piece of advice for writers. Don’t stress over getting an agent or a manager. They’re not the silver bullet you think they are. Just focus on writing good material in your own voice and they’ll eventually find you.


SCI-FI GENRE WINNER – ELEONORA MIGNOLI

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

My parents instilled in me the love of books and films, but there are no artists in my family. No matter how many movies or TV series I devoured, it didn’t occur to me that being on the other side of a screen was a real profession, not just a hobby. But being a spectator was not enough. By an intellectual process of trial and error, I finally understood that screenwriting is not only a real job but also the perfect combination of my passions: visual expression and storytelling.

How long have you been writing for?

Since I can remember, though not in a structured way at first. Books are my inseparable companions, and growing up, I developed the habit of telling myself stories to fall asleep. Every evening I would pick up where I left off the previous one, until I got bored and started a new one. This is still how I get most of my new ideas, though I sometimes end up staying awake until the small hours of the morning because I’m really into the story. My own special movie theater, in a way!

I wrote my first short story when I was a teenager, but at the time, I spent most of my free time drawing – a creative outlet with an immediate result. This led me to train in Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin. Yet somehow, the canvas was not enough. Who were the protagonists of my illustrations? What did they want? It took several years and several fortunate encounters to finally embrace screenwriting as my true calling. Among those encounters, I count myself very lucky to have been tutored by Brian Hannant – writer of Mad Max 2, to have found my reps and receive the BFI and BAFTA support.

Do you have a routine?

Sort of. It’s more that I’ve learned to know myself and how long it takes me to achieve specific tasks, so I try to plan accordingly. For example, I’m not a morning person, but I now acknowledge I need time for my brain to get into the writing mood, so I try to get up as early as I can in order to have a long working day ahead of me. I know that I routinely overestimate my productivity, so if I’m confident that something will take me one week to finish, I give it two weeks. I am also aware that I’m unable to write without an outline, so I’m careful not to start laying out the script too early, or it will just be wasted time.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?

My first screenplays were all bigger budget – something that works well for competitions but less so in terms of achievable production goals. I got word that a production company was looking for a contained script set on a spaceship, so I used my “go-to-bed-and-tell-yourself-a-story” technique.  After a night of tossing and turning, I had the bones of the narrative. I remember going back to the 2001 Space Odyssey opening and imagining the slowly rotating femur turning into a lipstick – a lipstick that floats in space. From that first glimpse of the lipstick, everything slowly unfolded. It was very much an unconscious creative process.

How long did it take to write?

The first draft of Seed of Knowledge came about quite quickly. From the night of “creation” to the outline, it took about ten days of writing in my free time. After that, I spent another ten days of solid writing to reach a finished first draft. After submitting it to script consultants and competitions, I worked on it on and off for a year. The current draft is the 7th, though I would say there have been really three main rewrites to get it in the current shape. The core story, however, has stayed the same, as well as the characters.

Of course, not all of my projects proceed at this speed. Sci-fi and fantasy scripts are faster to write than drama scripts because I know the lore very well, and I need very little research. I’ve got other projects that have been stuck at the treatment stage for years…

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The ‘having written’ part, for sure. I love getting to the end of a script, looking back, and realizing that yes, those words on the page are mine. Those characters are mine, they come from inside my head, and now I can share them with other people. At the core, I’m a storyteller and a worldbuilder. I continuously develop ideas, and the one-pager and treatment stages are the ones I have more fun with. Writing the script is less exciting because it’s like watching a film I’ve already seen. I wish I could pluck the story from my mind and transfer it on the page!

What do you struggle with the most?

The ‘not-writing’ part of the job. Yes, some scripts frustrate me and give me a run for my money, but I know from experience that given enough time and determination, I can get to the final page of any script. But the actual writing is only half of the job. The rest involves pitching yourself and your word-babies to strangers, which requires a lot of energy and resilience. I have quite a few projects on the go, so knowing which one to prioritize is sometimes a challenge.

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

I don’t think there’s a straight answer to this question, and I believe there are a couple of points to make first. One is that ‘new’ encompasses a vast segment of writers. It goes from ‘baby’ writers who are putting the first word on the page, to ’emerging’ writers with a dozen contest-qualifying scripts under their belts who have been doing it for years. Another point is that the industry has changed so much in the last ten (twenty?) years that it’s hard to define what ‘the industry’ is. My feeling is that independent production companies have multiplied, which has opened doors that didn’t even exist before.

What I can say is that, in my experience, the industry responds to honesty, hard work, resilience (and luck). I have gained representation and got scripts optioned with zero contacts, but it took years. Every time I knocked on doors when I wasn’t ready, they didn’t open. And there are many, many organizations out there – competitions, talents labs, funding bodies – that are honestly invested in pushing talent forward. Indie production companies are keener on betting on new talent, especially if it comes with low-budget ideas.

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

I’m a bit of a rule-follower, so I have never attempted to send my scripts out to production companies that didn’t accept unsolicited screenplays. However, I have done my fair share of cold-calling, but I introduce myself first and tailor each individual’s content. Usually, 9 out of 10 people ignore those emails, but those who answer are quite generous and take the time to respond, read, and give feedback.

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

Seed of Knowledge has done quite well in competitions, and I have to admit I was not surprised when it got shortlisted. But once I got to the finals… well! It’s pretty humbling to think complete strangers have read your script and thought it’s “almost the best”. Unfortunately, I lost my dad the same day as the final placement announcement, so even though I was delighted about it, it was not at the forefront of my mind. Plus, getting to the finals felt like such a significant achievement, I didn’t dare raise my hopes for a possible victory. I stopped thinking about it – until my mobile phone exploded with notifications from my friends congratulating me for the win! It came as a total surprise, and I spent a couple of hours repeating to my family, “Wow, I did not expect this.” It was bittersweet not being able to share the news with my dad, but I know he would have been proud of me. If there ever was a moment in which I needed a piece of good news, it was that one.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

It’s been on most of the “top competitions” lists I’ve found. Plus, it’s on Coverfly, so easy to enter!

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

After the Shore Scripts win, I think it is fair to retire Seed of Knowledge from the competition runs and focus on working on the final draft. I believe it’s an important story that shows us something we haven’t seen before, so I hope it will find a home with a production company that embraces the core message.

In terms of my career, my short-term goal is to expand my slate and have a very diverse portfolio. I’d also love to work on adaptations and be part of a Writers Room. Thanks to my reps, I’ve had some very productive meetings in 2020 that have opened important doors, so now it’s a matter of keeping them open.

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

If you have the chance, work in development. This will allow you to understand the industry from the inside, and it will give you a lot of contacts. Even just reading scripts for competitions will dramatically improve your writing because it forces you to explain why a script does or doesn’t work, and you can apply that knowledge to your own material.

If you don’t want to go down the development route, my advice would be to research the industry. Look at upcoming writers’ CVs. How did they get there? Do they have representation? If yes, what did they do before? Were they accepted in any Script Lab? Did they place in any competition? Finishing a script is as important as coming up with new ideas. It’s helpful to have a few strong specs in different genres before reaching out to people (managers, agents, etc.). Some super lucky writers got their first script produced – yes. But they still get asked, “What else have you got?”

And always, always get professional feedback on your script – it’s the best investment you can make.


THRILLER GENRE WINNER – BRIAN T ARNOLD

What first got you interested in screenwriting?
I love movies. I could try to make it sound more flowery or interesting, but it’s exactly that simple for me. When I was growing up, movies were a rite of passage. When I hit different ages or milestones, or my dad just felt like I was finally mature enough, he’d sit me down and excitedly show me a favorite movie of his. Airplane, Caddyshack, The Usual Suspects. The list goes on. So from an early age, movies felt special to me. Magical. And, I didn’t know how, but I knew I wanted to be part of that world. I mailed audition tapes to Hollywood. I wrote to studios about ideas for movies my friends and I could totally star in. And, when I was 14, I wrote my first script: X-Men 2. I sent it to Fox but for some reason, never heard back. I guess they went with someone else? I dunno, I didn’t follow up.

How long have you been writing for?
Thankfully, my failure to get traction on my X-Men 2 spec at 14 didn’t seem to deter me. I’ve been writing consistently since about that time, so… twenty years I guess? Jeez, it feels weird to have been doing anything for twenty years. But, I probably didn’t really take screenwriting seriously as a career until around when I moved to L.A. in 2012. I started taking improv classes at Upright Citizens Brigade and writing on a sketch team at iO West. All the while, piddling on features and pilots in a vague hope someone would read them someday.

Do you have a routine?
I wish I did. I probably need to develop better habits and routines if I’m going to keep doing this to myself. I know people say you should write every day, and there’s probably truth to that. But, I’m more of a “write a basic outline and then let the movie percolate in your head until it’s time to frantically pour it all out before it dissipates completely and forever” kind of guy. Yeah… I could probably use a healthier routine.

What gave you the inspiration for this screenplay?
Hoo boy. So, my script Friend of the Show is a political thriller about a Right-Wing television pundit who accidentally inspires domestic terrorism and can’t accept that his outrageous rhetoric has instigated violent revolution. And, as I’m writing this response, I’m watching the coverage of Capitol Hill being taken over by armed rioters in a terrifying act of violent sedition. So, I think my inspiration is pretty self-explanatory. I’d had this basic idea for a script for years, back when certain networks and news personalities were spending every night attacking President Obama. But, it wasn’t until the election of Trump that I felt like I had to write it. And, I have to say, it’s been surreal to see a script I conceived and began writing years ago coming true in such a tangible, heartbreaking, horrifying way. I think it’s an important, relevant message. That’s why I wrote it. But, man, I do wish it was a little less relevant right now.

How long did it take to write?
From inspiration to sitting down to actually write the thing? A couple years. But, the first draft came out in a seven-day flurry. Then, I spent about 6 months rewriting, which is where it really took shape.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I grew up in a small town in West Virginia. I was told it used to be a booming coal and railroad city, but by the time I was born, those industries were already on the way out and it felt like the whole town was slowly fading away. I’m not going to pretend my life was crazy hard. I’m privileged in multiple ways. I had a great, loving family, some close friends, and I never went to bed hungry. But, growing up in an old-fashioned dying industrial town can be tough for a sensitive kid interested in the arts. A lot of the time, I felt like a lonely little weirdo. Great movies made me feel seen. Made me realize that I wasn’t alone. The things that mattered me, that affected me, that made me cry, that made me laugh, that made me rage, were real and valid and other people out there somewhere felt the same way I did. So, I think I mostly write from that place. I want to reach people and connect with them on that level, to make someone in the audience feel seen in a way they might not in their day-to-day reality.

What do you struggle with the most?
Staying true to who I am. Staying true to my voice. It’s important to be collaborative and take notes and work with people who want to make your script better. But, in that process, you can’t lose yourself. Writers write because when we’re not wallowing in imposter syndrome, we believe we have something we have to say. We have ideas that we fear would rot and metastasize if they were left inside of us. That’s what drives us. And, every script I write, I work hard to make sure I’m saying exactly what I want to say, in the way I want to say it. I believe in this art-form, in its power, and I want my every script to reflect what inspired me to write it in the first place.

Do you feel that the film industry embraces new writing talent?
I truly believe that it wants to, but movies are big expensive beasts, and new writers are an unproven risk. So, it can definitely be hard to break through. I think if you’re trying to get started and you don’t have a ton of connections, you have to work so hard. You have to read great scripts, you have to write constantly, and you have to be persistent. If you keep at it, there will be an opportunity.

Have you found it difficult to get your work out there and read?
Yes and no. For a long time, Hollywood feels impenetrable. But there are different methods that eventually get your work in front of people: the assistant track, fellowships and competitions, producing some indie stuff, networking, etc. For me, it’s largely been script contests. But, if you talk to 10 different writers about how they got read and got their first opportunities, you’re gonna get 10 different answers. And, sure, it’s frustrating there’s no one guaranteed path to point to, but that also means there really aren’t any fatal roadblocks. If one path isn’t working, take a detour. Just don’t stop moving.

How did you feel when your script was shortlisted, then a finalist, and then one of our winners?
I mean, it’s a flood of emotions any time a writer’s work is recognized. I was thrilled. Grateful. Hopeful. Writing comes with such delayed gratification. So much time working mostly in a vacuum. So, when anyone says that this thing you put so much of yourself into is good and you didn’t waste your time writing it, it’s indescribably validating.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?
I first heard about Shore Scripts on the Coverfly website when I was researching various active contests to submit to, and it was immediately clear Shore Scripts had a great reputation in the industry and with other writers. I was excited to submit, and still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to call myself a winner.

What goals do you have for this script and your future career?
This script is such a passion project for me, and I would be so excited to see it get made. I mean, that’s the ultimate dream, right? Words on a page are fine, but we do this because we want to see our story up on that big screen. Or on VOD. Or streaming services. Or whatever. As long as people get to see it. And, I want to keep writing stories I care about, trying say something that matters, hoping to reach people and show them a movie they didn’t even know they needed. Also, I still want to write an X-Men movie. Phone lines are open, Marvel.

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

Find your tribe. Writing is lonely and hard, and the journey is long. But the load feels so much lighter when you have people in your corner. Getting in a writers’ group, with people you know or with other writers online, is immensely helpful for your writing and for your well-being. I’m so thankful for my writers’ group and friends and family who read every draft I eke out, as much for their moral support and their friendship as for their notes. I wouldn’t be in this position without them. Lastly, I’d say, remember why you write. Wear your heart on your sleeve and write in ways that reveal it. You have stories inside you that you have to tell, and they’re worth fighting for.

Oh, and remember to spell-check.

TV - 1 HOUR

GRAND PRIZE WINNER – STEPHEN WOODWORTH

What first got you interested in screenwriting?    

As a reader, listener, and viewer, I have always loved storytelling in every medium. Books, plays, radio drama, comics, movies, television—I have written all of them. Film and television possess a unique immediacy and immersive emotional impact, and it thrills me to see my internal visions realized through the collaborative contributions of other artists such as actors and filmmakers.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been writing stories for about as long as I’ve been able to read. I began submitting short fiction to magazines as a teenager, and shortly after graduating from college, I won First Place in the Writers of the Future Contest, which led to the publication of my first short story in 1992.

Do you have a routine?

Although my work schedule varies from day-to-day depending on my other personal obligations, I strive to write at least something every day on a project until it is finished. Even producing one sentence on an otherwise dry day can help keep my mind in the groove to preserve forward momentum and prevent writer’s block.

How do you find time to write?

Even though writing has been my primary occupation for the last fifteen years, it can still be a challenge for me to schedule sufficient time to get substantial work done when there are so many mundane obligations vying for my attention. The only solution for me is to make writing the top priority. The laundry will have to wait until I’ve done my pages for the day!

How many TV pilots have you written?

Although I have previously written spec scripts for established television series, THROUGH VIOLET EYES is the first original TV pilot I’ve tried. But, I hope, not the last!

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

The source material for THROUGH VIOLET EYES is my first novel, a paranormal thriller of the same name. I first conceived of the book around the time of the O.J. Simpson trial as I wondered what our legal system would be like if mediums could summon murder victims to testify against their killers in court just like any other witness to a crime. I have since written a total of four novels set in the world of the Violets, and have plans for several more…in addition to the TV series!

How long did it take to write?

If you don’t include the year or more it took to write the original novel, I was able to adapt the story into the THROUGH VIOLET EYES pilot script in about three months. However, based upon feedback I received from several sources—including Shore Scripts!—I did a number of additional drafts of the script. These revisions took several more weeks.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

To me, a new story is a gift from the collective unconscious. Writing is like trying to describe a strange and wonderful dream I had, and it makes me very happy when I can convey the fascination of that vision to an audience to share my delight and amazement with them.

What do you struggle with the most?

It can be difficult for me to maintain enthusiasm for a project on those days when it feels like the work that ends up on the page falls so far short of the vision in my head. The challenge of finding an appreciative audience for my writing in a world where people have so many forms of entertainment to distract them can also be very disheartening.

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

While dauntless new talents manage to break through in the film industry all the time, the corporatization of the media and resultant aversion to creative risk-taking has made it exponentially harder for fledgling writers to gain entry, at least with their original work. The bottom-line mentality of investors prefers to bank on proven commodities, whether in terms of established talent or intellectual property, at the expense of bolder but uncertain choices.

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

See the answers to the previous two questions! Obtaining access to actual decision-makers in the film and television industry has always been an obstacle for writers because of the tremendous investment of money involved. However, the consolidation of the publishing industry and decline of printed media has made that business also similarly risk-averse. Few major publishers are now willing to consider unsolicited manuscripts, which leaves writers without agent representation with limited opportunities to have their work considered.

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

Having entered several screenwriting contests before Shore Scripts in which I received short-list placements, I was obviously excited to make it as far as the finalist round.

Nevertheless, I strove to temper my expectations because past experience had told me that the odds were still long about having my script chosen from among so many worthy competitors. My realistic hope was that a high placement, even if not a winning one, might mean greater exposure for the script and a tacit endorsement of its quality for a subsequent approach to agents and producers.

Of course, when I saw that my entry had actually won the Grand Prize in the 1-Hour TV Pilot category, I jumped up and down with joy like a kid at Christmas! Who wouldn’t?

It just goes to show that writers must persevere and pursue their craft and career despite times of tremendous adversity, for one never knows when opportunities and achievements may arise. A glorious breakthrough can occur even in a dismal, COVID-ridden year like 2020!

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

When I first completed the pilot for THROUGH VIOLET EYES, I was not very familiar with the universe of screenwriting competitions, so I did an internet search for advice on which were the best contests to which I might submit. Shore Scripts was one of the handful of competitions that came up on nearly everyone’s “Best” list as one of the most ethical, useful, and distinguished of the lot. It’s certainly #1 on my list!

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

Needless to say, I would love to see THROUGH VIOLET EYES produced as a TV series, thereby raising audience awareness of my Violet Series of novels and enabling me to write additional volumes. I am also at work on another paranormal thriller series that I think would adapt wonderfully for television. My hope is that any positive exposure for THROUGH VIOLET EYES will make my other fiction more appealing to both publishers and television producers.

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

Persist, both in writing new work and in striving to have your work read and considered. Given my own experience as both a prose fiction writer and screenwriter, I would also suggest that screenwriters remain open to working in a variety of media, whether comics, podcasts, or what have you, for any avenue that reaches an audience may also give aspiring writers the skills, exposure, and network of professional contacts to prosper in the profession.


2ND PLACE WINNER – KIMBA HENDERSON

What first got you interested in screenwriting?    

Initially I wanted to be an actress, but I was discouraged by the lack of diversity in roles for people of color in films and on television.

At the tender age of 8, I switched my focus to writing.

How long have you been writing for?

I wrote my first play at 12 and forced friends, practically at gunpoint, to play roles in it.

Do you have a routine?

Only that I write on a daily basis.

How do you find time to write?

I am single and have no children, which leaves me a lot of time to write!

How many TV pilots have you written?

Four.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

I have a degree in history, and I’ve always been fascinated by the1960s, as it was a time of tumultuous change in the US. This tumult also exposed how sharply divided the nation was. In the last few years, as issues of racial injustice bubbled over into the forefront, I was struck by how many of those same issues we’re still issues. It added a necessary relevance to THE HAIGHT for me, which truly fueled my writing.

How long did it take to write?

It took about four months to get through a first draft, as there was a bit of research to do. After I finish a piece like this, I walk away from it for a bit then dive back in with fresh eyes and do a meaningful rewrite or two then at least two rounds of editing.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Creating characters and stories that have an emotional and visceral impact.

What do you struggle with the most?

Overwriting & clarity.

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

I think in this age of trying to tell diverse stories, the industry embraces new writers who have interesting personal stories. When you are like me, someone who has a boring personal life, you feel the need to make up stories like “I once shanked seven people to escape a Turkish prison” for people to be interested in your work. I think it should be about what is on the page. I don’t need to be interesting to people in order to tell fascinating and entertaining stories.

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

Initially yes, but placing in contests and having my work selected for a prestigious showcase were extremely helpful in regards to securing a manager. My manager is a resource, who helps with getting me meetings and work, but I still keep my eyes open for opportunities as well.

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

I have had scripts shortlisted before, but I am grateful every time it happens! Then, I felt completely honored when I became a finalist.  But, if I am being honest, once I saw who the members of the jury were, who’d be selecting the winners, I felt like I would not move forward. Being an African-American woman, I wondered if they would really get and connect to my work. (Apologies to the jury!). So, of course when I was selected as a runner-up, I was taken by surprise and elated.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

A few years ago, a friend suggested Shore Scripts for script coverage. I sent a script in for analysis and have been a fan ever since.

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

I am obsessed with limited and anthology TV series. I would love for The Haight to be one season of a historical fiction series that tells stories centered around true events within the realm of the Black experience in America.

My overall goal is to create content for the big screen, little screen and the stage.

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

Always be writing. Always be learning. Celebrate, don’t envy the successes of others. Your path to success will most likely be as unique as the stories you tell.


 

TV - 1/2 HOUR

GRAND PRIZE WINNER – SARA CASEY

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

It’s kind of funny actually, when I was a kid, we had to do these weekly reading logs in elementary school. And most of the time, my dad was signing off that I read 30 mins here and 15 mins there. But one day I asked my mom to sign my reading log. When she saw it, she realized it said “Shrek, 30 mins” and “Invader Zim, 20 mins”. She made a huge stink about how I was watching TV not reading. I argued that I turned off the sound and was reading the subtitles. Long story short, she wouldn’t sign off. But I guess it was as early as elementary school I started thinking about TV and film in terms of screenplays.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been writing forever. My first project was a collection of re-imagined fairytales from a feminist perspective when I was in 3rd grade. The biggest crowd-pleaser was “Jacqueline & the Beanstalk.”

Do you have a routine?

God no. I wish I did. I’ve tried for years to be the type of person who writes for 3 hours after work each day. But as a showrunner’s/writer’s assistant, it’s really hard to make the time. I work on international shows, so my schedule can get really crazy. I recently had a stint of working 11pm to 8am for the last few months. But when I am working steadily on an idea I’m really excited about, I’ve developed a deadline process for myself — I set dates like “outline Act 1 by Friday” or “finish 3 scenes by Monday” and if I don’t meet those deadlines, I have to Venmo my partner $40. It’s been working very well.

How do you find time to write?

It’s really hard, and the hardest is brainstorming ideas. But once the idea strikes, it’s really easy to WANT to get it out. When I’m in that zone, I wake up at 5/6am and write as long as I can.

How many TV pilots have you written?

4 comedy pilots with my writing partner, 2 dramedy pilots alone, and 2 specs.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

I’d been wanting to write something about a woman going back to her hometown for a while, and in my town, we really do have a saloon where everyone gathers the night before Thanksgiving. Last year, while on my flight home for the holidays, the story just kind of hit me. To be fair, I’d just produced a series of horror short films and had recently re-watched HEATHERS and JENNIFER’S BODY, so I guess lady murderers were on my mind.

How long did it take to write?

Well I came up with a basis for the concept around late November, started outlining in late December/early January, finishing my first draft early February. Then I waited for friends to read and give notes, did a revision, then another revision, and then finally it was 99% complete (because as a writer it never really feels complete) in early April.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Creating new characters. It’s wild — once you have a solid character, it’s so easy to think about them as real people. Once I’m done with a script, sometimes I will actively miss my characters. It feels like you spend so much time with them, and unless you write another episode, you never get to talk to or hangout with them again.

What do you struggle with the most?

Balance. Balancing work and writing. I used to be able to separate when I worked in documentaries or original programming, but now that I work at Netflix and am actively on shows with my boss, it’s difficult to separate work creativity from personal creativity.

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

That’s a tough question. I feel like putting the “film industry” into a box is way too broad. I have been very lucky in that people have been really positive and encouraging with my writing, but I know others are not so privileged. But the people I know, and the assistants who are cutting their teeth to become producers and executives, I really think are going to revolutionize the next generation of storytellers and I’m really looking forward to seeing our industry progress.

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

Yes and no. I’m fortunate that I worked at a major network and have friends who were at agencies and studios, so they give really good notes. But in terms of representation, yes, it’s been difficult. It wasn’t until this year that I had reps actively reading my material as a possible client.

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

It was so surreal. I kept saying “if I just make it to the next round, I’ll be happy.” I remember pulling up the website for the announcement, already mentally prepared to see someone else’s picture — but there I was. I was so proud, which is something you don’t often get to feel as a baby writer.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts? 

I actually discovered Shore Scripts through Coverfly! Everyone has been so helpful and communicative. Truly the best competition experience I’ve ever had. 

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

While the dream is to make this show someday, as a modern HEATHERS meets GHOST WORLD, my more realistic goal is that someone reads this and wants me to develop or staff on a dark comedy.  What I hope to achieve someday is being a showrunner who can develop and create my own projects, but also collaborate with other voices and help them tell stories as well. 

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

Don’t believe that there’s only one way to be a writer. Every single road is different, so just write what you’d want to watch, love your characters, and don’t be afraid to share your work. Film/TV is all about collaboration after all, so the more eyes on your work, the better it will become.


2ND PLACE WINNER – MATT SCHULTZ

What first got you interested in screenwriting?   

I didn’t think much about screenwriting until pretty recently. I was lucky enough to get a job writing comedy for ClickHole.com back in 2017, which was really the only big-time goal I had after college, and I loved it. I figured I’d basically just do that job until they fired me or I died or something. But after working there for a while, I learned that a bunch of former ClickHole and The Onion writers had gone on to write for TV, which got me thinking, like, “Oh, I’ve kind of landed on a track that could possibly lead to me being allowed to write TV scripts someday. I should try that. Sounds neat.” It was a weird realization because just a few months before that I was a Sales guy for Coca-Cola. 

How long have you been writing for?

I majored in English in college because I wanted to be a sports journalist at the time, so yeah, I guess that’s when I really started writing more than the average person. I was just doing a ton of basketball writing for the school paper and some Philadelphia college basketball websites. Then a couple years later I got the ClickHole gig, which forced me to focus on trying to become a better writer and develop my own voice for the first time, which kicked so much ass. Since then I’ve been writing full-time, hoping I can keep this thing going so I don’t have to go crawling back to Coca-Cola.   

Do you have a routine?

I do! As much as my freelance writing schedule allows, anyway. But it’s basically just me waking up around 6 and writing straight through the day until I get hungry or my brain is fried, which — because of how long I’ve been keeping this routine, I guess — doesn’t happen until around 4. And whether or not I actually write anything good or useable on a given day is a total toss-up. It feels like it’s not even up to me, really. I just try to put the shots up, and if they go in, then that’s just a nice bonus. But after 4ish, I’m usually done for the day and I’ll eat some eggs. 

How do you find time to write?

I’m a freelance writer, so paid work kind of comes in waves. When I don’t have any pressing assignments to knock out, I’m able to commit big chunks of time to focus on scripts, which is great. I imagine doing this sort of thing would be incredibly hard with a 9 to 5. I don’t know how folks do that. Respect!

How many TV pilots have you written?

This pilot (The Out-Of-Towners) was only the second one I’d written! I’ve since written a third and am currently chipping away on a fourth.   

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

I went on this, like, two-year tear where I was only reading Stephen King books, and somewhere along the line I thought, “Man, the stuff that escapes the top-secret government lab is always so scary and terrifying and malicious. What if, for once, it was something that’s only mildly annoying?” That idea was so funny and interesting to me, so it stuck around. 

How long did it take to write?

I was kicking around this premise for over a year but wasn’t sure what to do with it. At first I thought maybe I’d pitch it somewhere as a scripted podcast, but 1) I was so excited about the idea that I didn’t want to wait for anyone’s greenlight to write it, and 2) the story always felt like it’d be most satisfying as a visual experience, so I decided to dive right in and write it as a pilot. Then I wrote a whole pilot with this same premise that I ended up scrapping. It was very different from The Out-Of-Towners, and, in my opinion, it was not great. From there I started fresh and landed on this version of the story, and I finished it in about three months.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It feels very good to write something you’re proud of and then look at it and feel, like, “No one else could’ve written that. That unmistakably came from my brain. No doubt.”

What do you struggle with the most?

When you’re in the middle of writing something, there’s no way to know whether it’s going to end up being good. It’s pretty wild. Like, all you can do is keep moving your legs and trusting your instincts and believing that regardless of the outcome, the effort you’re putting in is worthwhile. Even when it feels like everything you’re typing onto your little screen is dog shit. 

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

I sure hope so! I honestly don’t have much experience in the film industry, so I don’t know. But that’d be nice!

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

Oh, 100%, yes. Outside of my wonderful and smart and supportive circle of friends from my life and from ClickHole and The Onion, who I’m very lucky to have read my stuff, I don’t know who else to send my scripts to without seeming like a rude weirdo. That was a big reason I was excited to submit to Shore Scripts! The lineup of judges you guys have looked stacked.

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

Man oh man, those were some nice moments! I was thrilled every step of the way. 

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

I Googled “script competition TV pilot comedy should I submit” or something like that and Shore Scripts was one of the first competitions that popped up. I am very happy I Googled that.    

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

I’d love to get The Out-Of-Towners made. I have so many ideas for where this story will go, and I think people would really dig it. But, of course, it seems pretty tough to actually get stuff produced, so I’ll call that a long-term goal. In the shorter-term, I’d be thrilled to sign with representation that gets excited about the same kind of writing I do, and then land some jobs writing on other people’s shows.

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

Dive in and get writing and keep on writing, even when it feels like you’re churning out dog shit! Besides that, just try to control your controllables, put your shots up without feeling like they all gotta go in, and try to write something that reads like it only could’ve come from your brain.