2023 TV PILOT WINNER’S INTERVIEWS

TV - 1 HOUR

GRAND PRIZE WINNER - NEIMAN & AARON OUTLENGRAND PRIZE WINNER – AARON & NEIMAN OUTLEN – THE MIGHTY MIND OF IMANI STRONG

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?   

 

The idea of being worldbuilders is what sparked our interest in screenwriting. Being able to tell a story and have full control from beginning to end was an extremely exciting concept. Not to mention we really love TV and stories of all kinds so it felt natural to want to learn more about screenwriting. Things really started solidifying when we entered grad school for TV writing and business, the classes and teachers we had were really inspiring.

How long have you been writing for?

 

We have been writing since 2015.

Do you have a routine?

 

Each day we try and write something. Even if it’s just a page, a scene, or even a single line of dialogue. Nothing gets built unless you build it. Usually, we try and write within fifteen minutes of waking up, before the day gets going and all the distractions start creeping in. If we manage to get even twenty minutes in first thing in the morning it helps to set the tone of the day.

How do you find time to write?

Each person has the same twenty-four hours in a day. The time to write is there, but I think when we get into the habit of negotiating with ourselves—that’s when issues arise. For example, you may tell yourself you plan to write for one hour. But once you sit down to write that little voice creeps into your head and tells you it’s OK to only write for forty-five minutes and stop. You can’t listen to that voice. Make your own voice louder.

How many TV pilots have you written?

 

We have three pilots, though the one we submitted was by far our strongest. Over the years we’ve started and stopped on a variety of other scripts, so there’s actually another few we could throw on the pile but they need a little more work.

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

 

Our pilot was inspired by our shared passion for education, the importance of family, and the need for diverse representation on and off-screen. Then maybe we saw a commercial or something that sparked a thought, then that thought was sparked by something else, and it kept going from there. That’s kind of how creativity works—it comes from so many things.

How long did it take to write?

 

This pilot actually started off as a fifteen-page short. After receiving some positive feedback we decided to expand it and flesh out the characters and story. It took two months to go from a short to an hour-long pilot. Though with writing it sometimes feels like you’re never finished!

What do you enjoy most about writing?

 

The feeling of completing a script is indescribable. In many ways it’s that rush we’re constantly chasing. It’s important to take your time, however. And that’s why consistency is so important. Keep writing, stay committed, and before you know it your script will be finished.

What do you struggle with the most?

 

Progress. Some writing days are better than others. But you just have to keep going, stacking scene after scene until you’ve finished the script. Then you can go back and see what’s working. But yeah, it can be hard when you don’t always feel productive. We try and think about writing like physical fitness—one gym session isn’t going to produce any results, but the daily act of working out will.

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

 

Things are changing and now access is more widespread than ever. It’s important to remember that you need to be your own best advocate. Pushing your own work, making new connections, and pitching your abilities is what we think gets you embraced by the film industry.

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

 

No. We think what’s been difficult has been the idea of what’s next–what happens when someone reads your script? That is why Shore Scripts and other contests are such great tools for writers who aren’t super connected in the industry. These contests are a great foot in the door.

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

 

It was extremely validating to learn that our script had been shortlisted. Obviously, you want to feel good about your work, but being recognized and eventually announced as the Grand Prize Winner was surreal in the best way.

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

 

We found Shore Scripts through Coverfly. After reading the contest rules for Shore Scripts it seemed like a no-brainer to enter.

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

 

It would be awesome to get our pilot made or even get picked up into a series! I mean isn’t that every writer’s dream? At the very least we hope this script can open doors and start conversations that lead us to whatever comes next. Shore Scripts has been great in that being a part of this competition has served as a neat confidence booster. You can do it. Just start writing.

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

 

Writing has no limits. With so many competitions and fellowships out there, there’s no excuse not to start working on something today with the goal of putting yourself out there. Also, you should read as many scripts as possible. A simple Google search will likely turn up any script you can think of. Find what you like to read or watch and figure out how to make your own version of that story. Study the craft and analyze scripts. You really do improve over time, just stay committed.

SECOND PLACE WINNER - PHILIP ENCHELMAIERSECOND PLACE WINNER – PHILIP ENCHELMAIER – RUDY CHAMPION AND THE EDGE OF THE EARTH

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

 

I’ve always been interested in dramatic/performance writing, but I started out wanting to write music and lyrics for intelligent, sophisticated musicals like Sondheim or Guettel would write. Then I realized there are about five people in the world who can make a living doing that, and my aspiration was always to do for a job what I’d do for love, so I shifted my focus to writing non-musical theatre, and then, with the same aspiration in mind, I finally shifted my focus to screenwriting and found that while it’s only marginally easier to make a living than in theatre and musicals, it turns out to be a creatively-freeing craft that fits snug as a glove.

 

 

How long have you been writing for?

 

I’ve been writing seriously (as in, taking myself seriously as a writer, which is half the challenge) since the age of 12 or 13 when I stopped playing with action figures. I’m just on 39 (!) and I’m not great at math, so… you figure it out.

 

Do you have a routine?

 

I would love to write full time but I have a day job and a beautiful family to look after, and so my writing routine is dictated by those responsibilities. I try to get up early in the morning to write, or sit at a café near my workplace for half an hour at the start of the workday, and get through what I can. While long stretches of writing are ideal, I’ve developed the habit of writing in short bursts; in lieu of that thing we call ‘flow’, I try to just pick up where I left off – and to leave off with some kind of question or idea that I feel energized by, something propulsive so that in the next short burst I’m not spending half the time scratching my nose.

 

How do you find time to write?

 

With difficulty.

 

How many TV pilots have you written?

 

Hard to say; probably around half a dozen – one of those in particular has taken various forms, with some drafts being almost completely different from others.

 

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

 

My pilot Rudy Champion and the Edge of the Earth is about a Flat Earther. For most, the idea immediately feels comic – and I certainly lean into that – but I also wanted to find a way to empathize with people who hold extremely opposite views to our own. In these polarized times, it struck me that one such vehicle for empathy would be this story about a teenage kid who’s been brought up with Flat Earth doctrine – and who clings on to it because it’s the balm he needs for the wound of not having a father.

 

How long did it take to write?

 

I wrote the first draft in about three months, in between my 9-to-5 day job and family commitments.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

 

If good writing is good art – and I aspire to that, even if I don’t often achieve it – then it can reveal a deep truth about who we are. To me, good storytelling is a vehicle for empathy that can transport us into the worlds of people who are very different from us and yet human, like us, and therefore worthy of compassion and understanding. Finding those moments of deep truth – in the work of others or in my own writing – is a great joy.

 

What do you struggle with the most?

 

The innate unhealthiness of my ego, and the inexorable forward-march of time.

 

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

 

The film industry embraces whatever makes business sense. I don’t say that as a criticism; it is an industry, and one of the hardest lessons to learn is that, to make a living in the industry, you can’t just write for yourself, you must write for an audience. Fortunately, the industry is somewhat aware that there is a big audience for fresh, original storytelling.

 

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

 

Yes and no. I live in Australia, where the industry is quite different from Hollywood. It’s much smaller, so you don’t need an agent or manager to get to top-flight producers and have your work read. Conversely, because it’s a much smaller industry, there are fewer buyers, fewer avenues for your work, and (crucially) fewer training grounds for emerging writers to learn their craft.

 

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

 

Thrilled! It’s delightful to have this recognition.

 

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

 

My trusty Coverfly e-news subscription.

 

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

 

My goal with this script is twofold: it works as a strong sample, and I’d love for it to bring me to the attention of a few managers and agents in the US and UK; I also would love (of course) to see it produced one day.

 

In terms of my future career – I would love to write full-time, ideally, writing on my own creative concepts across series, features, plays, and novels.

 

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

 

Be patient. Be in it for the long haul. Write lots and often. Be prepared to write a lot of terrible scenes before you write one good scene. Also, don’t let it become the most important thing in your world to the exclusion of all else. Otherwise, we’ll end up awash with stories about writers rather than stories about life.

TV - ½ HOUR

GRAND PRIZE WINNER - JASMINE AZIZ & DAN MCNEILGRAND PRIZE WINNER – JASMINE AZIZ & DAN MCNEIL – HERE SHE COMES

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?   

 

JASMINE: I sold the option for my novel Sex & Samosas to become a movie. When the option was returned to me, I decided I would try to write the script myself. Dan and I took a screenwriting class to learn the craft since it is so different from novel writing. We fell in love with screenwriting right away.

 

DAN: My wife made me take the class. But seriously, I always thought that my first novel, “The Judas Apocalypse” would make a great movie so I wanted to learn how to do that, and hopefully sell it.

 

How long have you been writing for?

 

JASMINE: I’ve been writing, truly, for as long as I can remember. When life gets hard, as it often does, I turn to writing to process my emotions and get the stories out.

 

DAN: I’ve been writing since about 2003. I have two published novels but recently, I decided to take a shot at screenwriting.

 

Do you have a routine?

 

JASMINE: We get up at 4 a.m. and write before work. We take our weekends to polish up the writing and work out new ideas. Basically, if there’s a spare moment, we take it to write or work on writing.

 

DAN: I thought we were getting up at 5 a.m. but she controls the alarm…so yeah, we write at 4 a.m.

 

How do you find time to write?

 

JASMINE: You make the time to write. If you don’t, you likely never will.

 

DAN: You just do it. Sometimes it isn’t easy, but if you really want the results, you have to make the time.

 

How many TV pilots have you written?

 

JASMINE: Just one.

 

DAN: So far…

 

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

 

JASMINE: As a follow-up to my first novel, I was editing my memoirs based on the time I sold sex toys and was in my first long-term relationship when it occurred to me that this would make great television. During our screenwriting class, I mentioned it to Dan in passing but never really gave it much thought. One night, when I had wicked insomnia, I tweeted the actress I thought could play me in the show, and to my surprise, she wrote saying she wanted to read the pilot. We’d only talked about it at that point but somehow managed to write a draft in two days. That pilot evolved over the next few years into what it is today.

 

DAN: She bribes me with homemade chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms. In all seriousness, I believe it is a great idea and is a story that will resonate with viewers when it makes it to the small screen.

 

How long did it take to write?

 

JASMINE: From the first draft to the final draft it took close to two years.

 

DAN: And many, many cookies.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

 

JASMINE: It sounds super sappy but what I love most about writing is spending time with Dan and watching him act out scenes he wants to keep in our scripts. I especially love it when he tries to mimic making samosas in a deep fryer while saying lines the way he thinks I would say them.

 

DAN: What I love most about writing is finishing a project. Getting it to a place where I feel proud of it is very satisfying.

 

What do you struggle with the most?

 

JASMINE: I struggle with finding balance in life. It isn’t easy to work full time, be a caregiver, and be the world’s best wife while also giving importance to chasing my dreams.

 

DAN: I’m all about the plot. I’m all about twists. And I’m all about characters. Formatting, story arcs, and world-building isn’t my forte so I leave that to Jasmine who is WAY better at that stuff than I am.

 

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

 

JASMINE: It is tough to break into this industry especially living in Ottawa, Canada. But I have faith that our stories can fill a niche and will find their way into the right hands.

 

DAN: Let’s find out!

 

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

 

JASMINE: We’ve had some interest in our Christmas script. The television pilot has impressed a number of people in the industry. We’ve made most of these connections on our own by networking and making email inquiries. Is it difficult to do? Yes, absolutely! It is pretty much a full-time job getting your work out there.

 

DAN: Yes, it is difficult but I’ve learned in life that if your work is compelling enough, it will eventually catch the right pair of eyes.

 

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

 

JASMINE: When we made the semifinals, I was absolutely elated. When we won, I swear you could hear me screaming from the moon. I haven’t stopped celebrating the win since we found out and I likely never will.

 

DAN: I’m still waiting for my hearing to come back from when Jasmine screamed down the phone line and told me to check my email. It feels very exciting to win. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished.

 

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

 

JASMINE: We googled the best contests to enter and Shore was in the top picks. From the level of care we’ve received since winning, and the excellent feedback from the coverage we received, I wholeheartedly agree.

 

DAN: Actually, I did the googling.

 

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

 

JASMINE: My goal has always been to write full-time. I’d love to see us writing this television show and shining a light on South Asian stories while removing cultural stigmas. We also have movie scripts that blend our two cultures which I really look forward to seeing on the big screen.

 

DAN: To sell scripts, to write more scripts, and to sell those scripts.

 

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

 

JASMINE: My main advice would be to surround yourself with people who truly support you and your dreams. It is far easier to quit on yourself than it is to go the distance. Find like-minded souls and do whatever you can to help them realize their dreams as well. And if you can, marry an editor so they can help you polish your work.

 

DAN: Start writing. I know it sounds cliché but if you don’t start, you can’t accomplish the hardest part – finishing.

SECOND PLACE WINNER - ANA-MARIJA STOJIC - STEFANSECOND PLACE WINNER – ANA-MARIJA STOJIC – STEFAN

 

What first got you interested in screenwriting?   

 

I first became interested in storytelling through theater. I wrote a couple of short plays but that didn’t seem to fully quench my thirst.

 

It was 2018 and I had been doing comedy for a few years after graduating with my Master’s in Theater. That year I submitted a web series I co-created and was selected for Netflix’s Diversity of Voices fellowship at the Banff World Media Festival and was one of 20 applicants chosen for their industry pitch program. At the festival, I had the fantastic opportunity to meet people in the industry and just talk about film and TV for an entire weekend. It was heaven to me. After that experience, I realized I definitely wanted to work in TV and film.

 

How long have you been writing for?

 

I have been writing since I was a kid. I loved making up stories. Sometimes, I’d write them down, but more often, I would take my friends through narrative adventures I would weave during recess.

 

Developing my comedic voice over the past 10 years through standup, improv, and character comedy has helped fine-tune my writing capabilities, which has been hugely helpful in writing for TV and film. I would say I’ve been writing consistently for the screen for the past 5 years.

 

Do you have a routine?

 

I do have a routine (of sorts). I write best in the morning and early afternoon. I generally need to finish all my creative writing before 3 p.m. Then, from 3 p.m. onwards, I do admin work for myself or do live performances. My routine consists of waking up and having a cup of cashew yogurt with some cereal. Then, I grab a cup of coffee and write on my laptop. I like to feel calm when I start writing, so if I’m not in the right headspace, I may first sit outside for 10 minutes or light a candle to create a nice, cozy space.

 

How do you find time to write?

 

Now that it’s become part of my routine, I find it harder not to write. I always keep a notebook on me, and when I don’t have a notebook, I have a thread where I email myself ideas I have for things I’m working on. So I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and write down ideas I have that come in that period between being not-quite-awake and not-quite-asleep. I also constantly try to find new writing partners to work with and ensure we have regular meetings. This forces my hand and brain to keep writing and being creative. It’s like having a running partner but for writing. This has been the most helpful for creating circumstances where writing is inevitable instead of something I need to force myself to do.

 

How many TV pilots have you written?

 

I have written 8 original pilots. They are all dark comedies that focus on societal outcasts. Two are adult animations, the rest are live-action.

 

What gave you the inspiration for this Pilot?

 

The seed of this pilot occurred when I was taking a Drag King class in Toronto in 2019. I remember going to my Drag teacher, full of disappointment, as I looked around the class. I told her I was upset that my Drag King didn’t have the “sex appeal” of my classmates’ performances. She laughed, shook her head, and said, “No, your Drag King is not sexy. Your Drag King is more like an incel.”

 

After that, I started to experiment more with playing a guy who had incel-like tendencies. And my classmates loved it. They found it cathartic to laugh at this character, who is normally so terrifying. Shortly afterward, the pandemic happened, and though I could no longer perform the character I had named Stefan live, I knew I wanted to keep doing something with it. That’s when I started working on the pilot.

 

How long did it take to write?

 

This pilot has taken me 4 years to write. It’s changed immensely over the years through 3 completely different iterations of the story, character, and world.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

 

I also have a background in improv, so I approach writing like an improv scene. Whether writing out an outline or working out dialogue in a specific scene, I apply the principles I’ve learned in improv to each activity. And it’s the act of doing this that I enjoy most. It’s like I’m performing an improv scene with the tips of my fingers.

 

What do you struggle with the most?

 

What I struggle with most is the feelings of hopelessness that encroach on my creativity. It’s a slog going from one rejection (or, more often than not, non-responses) to the next. This feeling of wanting to give up is what I struggle with the most. It slows me down and can stop me in my tracks altogether. When this happens, I need to allow myself to process these feelings, as the more I struggle with them, the longer they seem to last. In such times, I find it helpful to do writing-adjacent things. Like reaching out to writers I know to talk shop or meet for a low-pressure hangout. 

 

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

 

I think that it’s difficult for the film industry to embrace new writing talent as they’re always looking for a sure thing. This is why pre-existing IP is such a lucrative and appealing space for industry to create stories out of. It has an existing and proven market. I don’t think it’s an intentional omission of new talent. It’s based on uncertainty, trepidation, and an instinct to gravitate to what is established and what’s already been proven to work.

 

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

 

Yes, definitely. People tend to be busy. Everyone struggles to get things made for themselves, their clients, or their current roster of development projects on their slate. This means that there isn’t much time left over to read a script from someone they barely know.

 

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

 

It felt shocking and wonderful at the same time. I kept refreshing the page to ensure it wasn’t my eyes playing a trick on me or a mistake that needed to be rectified on the part of the server. It felt like the first time in a while I had hope that the needle was shifting in my favor. I’m excited about the people I will meet and the relationships I will form.

 

How did you hear about Shore Scripts?

 

I was doing a Google search with something like “Legit screenwriting competitions” or “Screenwriting competitions that are worth submitting to,” and Shore Scripts came upon one such list.

 

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

 

I want to sell my script and write my own show. I eventually want to star in a show that I sell.

 

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

 

I have so much advice for upcoming screenwriters, so here it is in bullet point form so I can get as much of it in here as possible:

 

  1. Read as many books as you can on screenwriting; many lists are available on essential reading for upcoming screenwriters, so Google that and pick your favorites.
  2. Re-watch a bunch of films and pilots of your favorite shows/movies.
  3. Of those shows/movies you love, choose ONE or TWO to transcribe. Literally, watch the content and start and stop with a laptop in front of you, writing out each dialogue and action sequence that occurs until you get to the end of the episode/movie. This will help you feel what it’s like to write a really great script, and you’ll be able to see what such a script looks like on the page.
  4. Start a screenwriting group – invite a bunch of your friends (or if you don’t know anyone, then post in a screenwriting group online that you’re looking for participants). Decide what kind of group you want this to be if you want it to be an “accountability” group or a group where you read each other’s work and share notes. Conduct the group sessions over Zoom for ease and meet weekly.
  5. When you have a strong script, send it to people you trust and get their feedback. You can also do a table read of your script. This can help you hear what things work and what things don’t work.
  6. Once you have a polished script, look up screenwriting competitions worth submitting to and submit to those.
  7. Another route to take if you can’t afford to submit to screenwriting competitions (as they often do require a submission fee) is to submit to fellowships (those have a totally different set of criteria, and there are a lot of resources online already on how to submit to those)
  8. Try and find a literary manager if you want to, but also that’s really hard to do. If you want to do this, keep in mind the following:
    • You can ask your friends with literary managers to pass your name and scripts along.
    • You can cold email people (this is boring and tedious, but some people have sworn they had luck with this – though I haven’t). If you want to cold email people, you can purchase IMDPro, look up writers, and look at who represents them; more often than not, there will be an email there for their literary management rep that you can message.
    • Some industry members I’ve spoken with have said that they hate cold emails and never ever read them and resent that they exist. Others have said they’re open to cold emails and sometimes even read them. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how someone will respond. The best advice I can give is to personalize the email as best you can. Look up the person and start with a compliment for them on something they’ve worked on and express your genuine admiration for their work. Then go into what you’re looking for, who you are, and your work
    • It helps the industry you reach out to know right away what kind of person you are. Imagine if your script writing were to have an IG or TikTok page of its own, what would you put in the bio section? IE: “Horror comedy scripts from your fellow ENBY writer!” Then, put that short blurb in the first line of the body of your email and maybe even in the subject line of your email.
  9. Find different and creative ways of getting your work out there. Use social media, make a comic book, podcast, web series, low-budget puppet show, or whatever you can think of to get your voice and your stories out there!
  10.  And finally – it’s never too late until you’re dead. So, guess what? If you’re reading this, you’re not dead yet, therefore it’s not too late!

Our TV PILOT contest offers writers the opportunity to have their scripts read by our 300+ Industry Roster. Plus Cash and Development Prizes. Follow us for all the updates: Mailing ListFacebookTwitterInstagram