By Laura Huie
Alexander Cox and Rob Bell began writing and directing separately before teaming up to write their short film ORA ET LABORA ET MOR (Pray & Work & Die.)
Ora Et Labora Et Mor is a story about two medieval monks who reckon they’ve found a shortcut into paradise after the death of their monastic colleague. Alexander and Rob entered the Shore Scripts’ Short Film Fund with a combined contest & coverage entry and placed in the Top 15 Finalists.
We asked Alexander and Rob to chat about their story, their screenwriting journey, and their experience of receiving Shore Scripts’ coverage and placing in the Short Film Fund.
How did you get started in screenwriting and what led you to become a duo?
It was when we started playing Dungeons & Dragons together over the pandemic we found that we enjoyed telling stories together, and we found someone other than ourselves who thought we were hilarious.
These two monks have actually now led to us writing together professionally for high-profile clients and production houses. So to say it’s been a mad month is an understatement.
What inspired this particular story/script?
Honestly, we just wanted to find an idea we could write and film ourselves. We wanted minimal set pieces—just a conversation, in a field, in a hole.
Unfortunately for us, the vision became grander and it snowballed from there. Somewhere along the way, it became a way of verbalizing our struggles with the corporate grind. Thinking about how we’re working away every day for this heavily fabled land called retirement.
Somewhere along the line, the monks left the hole and it grew into a bigger and (hopefully) better script.
What led you to choose Shore Scripts for coverage?
A track record of successful alumni, not just the winners but finalists as well. It speaks to how even if the judging panel isn’t perfectly targeted for your script, or if there happens to be a better script in that year, all hope is not lost.
What did you get out of your coverage? Any specific learnings?
First off, I think the confidence we’ve had boosted is a key part. It’s all well and good showing your work to friends and family, but they kind of have to be nice to you. This was a complete stranger sitting in anonymity. They could say anything, so receiving a favorable review from someone with no obligation to be nice to us was huge.
Getting feedback of this type has given us the confidence to keep writing. Our reviewers pulled out some key points & themes that were showing that were unintentional on our part but were a welcome insight that we’ve built upon in later revisions.
Example from Alexander and Rob’s coverage on their strong themes that were built upon after receiving coverage:
“The premise is both silly and thought-provoking. The two protagonist monks sense something is wrong with their day-to-day lives and their attempt to find happiness is even more funny because it is logical to their world-view but ridiculous to our modern world-view.
Although the script doesn’t provide an “aha” moment of comparison or symbolism, it does force the audience to consider life’s most important questions: how does one find happiness in living and what’s the point of it all? The resolution provides an uplifting theme. Nothing is keeping us where we are; go out into the world and seize life.”
What convinced you to enter the Short Film Fund?
Honestly, we entered purely for coverage. This being our first script we thought we had no chance of placing, we just knew that the feedback would either help us improve, or help us kill the project and move on to the next thing. The response we’ve had was completely unexpected but undeniably welcome.
What has your Shore Scripts contest experience been like so far?
It’s been incredible, even before the finalists were announced we’d had a meeting with a producer interested in bringing Ora to life. The feedback helped improve the script and a responsive and energetic team over at Shore kept us excited about our own writing. All this got us looking out for the other competition deadlines on the platform, and thinking of scripts we could enter into those.
It’s been wonderful sharing a dialogue with a team that is equally excited for us and about screenwriting as a whole.
What are you working on now or next?
We have some TV pilots in the pipeline that we’re really excited about. Offers have come in to have Ora optioned which has been an exciting development, so we’re also refining that. We’ve also been asked to script out an anthology series to take to investors so that’s pretty cool, and hopefully a sign of big things to come.
Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?
We honestly don’t think we’re in any position to be handing out advice, but one thing we have for certain found helpful is having a writing partner to bounce ideas off. Not only does it help to get into the rhythm of writing, but having someone unafraid to tell you an idea is bad when it is, is very helpful. It stops you from getting into a rut or getting too carried away with a particular idea that isn’t actually working.
We’d also say find your own writing style. We struggled for a while to find a method and a rhythm that worked for us, but once we found one that suited the way our minds worked the writing became easier and the characters and dialogue started to come alive for us.
For more information about Shore Scripts’ coverage service, please visit https://www.shorescripts.com/screenplay-coverage/
Laura Huie is an experienced writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds.
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