Making It As A Screenwriter | Anthony Florez

By Sarah Chaisson-Warner

Our entire focus at Shore Scripts is discovering and nurturing new writers and supporting their career development in the entertainment industry. Our Short Film Fund – which runs twice annually in the spring and fall – offers an opportunity for emerging screenwriters and filmmakers to have their short films financed and produced. Short Film Fund winners and finalists have gone on to premiere their finished short films at major festivals around the world and win awards.

The 2020 Short Film Fund winner, TwoBears, is one such film. Written by Anthony Florez, the film tells the story of Casey TwoBears, a Marine Corps veteran, ex-junkie, and former county inmate. While working as a janitor for a boxing gym, Casey volunteers to be the sparring partner for the local “champ” to prove his worth as a warrior in the ring, but also to prove himself as the modern warrior that his daughter and granddaughter can depend on.

Anthony shared his inspiration and goals for the film as follows,

“I came into this industry really wanting to say different things than what I had seen, especially about the Native community. It was an inspiration of how can I portray and represent the people I know personally and shed light on the different experiences people have on the Rez and be truthful to the good and the bad and possibly tell a story of how it can be overcome.” MovieMaker, 2022.

Anthony brought some of his family’s experiences into the script, “There are so many misconceptions and so many things that people don’t understand and know what native people are doing through right now. I want people to realize how many things we have in common…I want them to see the similar stories there.” He wanted his audience to walk away understanding and thinking, what don’t I know?

Produced by Annika Dawson, the film received $15,000 in funding and free equipment rental from our partners at ARRI Rental as part of its prize package from Shore Scripts.

“Funding from Shore Scripts was invaluable,” says Annika. “It allowed for us to elevate our post-production and contributed to a better production value of the film. We couldn’t have made the short we did without the aid of Shore Scripts and are extremely grateful.”

Anthony also found the support from Shore Scripts to be integral to his ability to make the film. “Receiving the Shore Scripts film grant was intensely rewarding as a writer and director. It not only gave me the confidence to know my script was ready to be produced, but it also helped elevate my film by providing essential funding for production and post-production essentials!”

The film was shot on the Paiute Reservation in Nevada in 2021, following standard on-set COVID protocols. Luckily, the script itself didn’t require a lot of changes to meet COVID protocols. “I felt comfortable with the protocols and followed the SAG-AFTRA white pages, as did my actors and my crew,” says Anthony. “How many background actors who were in the scenes was certainly affected though!”

However, COVID did place limits and some challenges to preparation, though. “Restrictions didn’t affect communication once we were on set. It was more about the lead-in and prep communications,” says Anthony. “We had to do Zoom readings. Those roundtable readings where actors get to talk and collaborate and figure characters, and trying to get everyone together in LA for scene work, these things couldn’t really happen because we had to limit interactions and it required a lot of testing.”

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Once completed, TwoBears premiered at the Palm Springs Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Short, and also played at the HollyShorts Festival. Anthony went on to win Best Director at IMDB’s Independent Short Film Festival as well.

Since the making of TwoBears, Anthony has gone on to work as a staff writer on THE Netflix original western series Deputy and the AMC drama series Dark Winds, starring Noah Emmerich. The series debuted in June of 2022 and follows two Navajo police officers in the Southwest in the 1970s who are forced to challenge their own spiritual beliefs when they search for clues in a double murder case. Dark Winds has already been nominated for “Best action/thriller TV series” by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films.

So, what advice do Anthony and Annika have for aspiring writers and new filmmakers?

First, prioritize trust. “Surround yourself with people you trust, who are as dedicated as you are,” says Anthony. “When I was making TwoBears, I didn’t feel for one minute that everyone on my team wasn’t giving it their all…That made me feel very comfortable, and that was the attitude I brought to it. It was my first narrative film and I wanted to trust and surround myself with experienced people who knew what they were doing so I could ask for direction or turn things over to them in an areas where I might not have known what to do.”

Get feedback, early and often. Annika advises other writers and filmmakers to workshop their scripts as much as possible before applying to competitions. Make sure you have a clear direction for the short and a plan of action in how to fully execute your short film.” Having clarity about your plan of action will help you better know what financial and creative goals you will need to achieve when applying to competitions.

Third, actively seek out resources – both people and dollars. As the producer on another one of Shore Scripts’ Short Film Fund winners, CHAMP, Annika knows how important funding for short films is to quality, authentic storytelling. “Funding for short films is vital for allowing emerging filmmakers a platform to share stories from all over the globe,” she says. “It allows audiences to experience other cultures and provides opportunity to filmmakers and crews to elevate their craft.”

Anthony agrees. “Do what you can,” he says, “Having money, all that stuff is going to help you out for sure. You can get more equipment or costumes, but there are ways to work without it. Ask around, I think there are people who really want to help out at the end of the day…If you don’t ask, you’re definitely not going to get any help.”

Last, consider your options. The changing environment for filmmaking, influenced by the ongoing pandemic, digital technology, and streaming platforms has increased the demand for short films. Annika also suggests that working on a short film is always worthwhile, “they can also be utilized to showcase a unique talent or perspective that might only be done in a short format and is still meaningful storytelling.” And it can help you develop your craft, and gain experience, and contacts in the industry and it can sometimes grow to become a feature film or television program in the future.

See Sam Baron’s The Orgy, another Short Film Fund Alumni, who, since its run on the festival circuit, has been approached by a number of producers to develop the short into a television show.

“I think the future of short filmmaking is exciting because it’s so accessible to new voices in the medium. It’s also becoming a more recognizable and tangible form to tell stories. Many places are distributing short films which is opening the space for new and interesting creative stories to be viewed.” -Annika Dawson

After 15 years of working in state and national politics, Sarah Chaisson-Warner is moving into the entertainment industry. As the former Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Athena Magazine for Girls, Sarah is now focusing her passion for creative arts through screenwriting. Many of her feature-length scripts focus on the often unseen experiences of gay women throughout American History, and she is also currently writing sci-fi and a family Christmas script. Her script, Serafina Stavinovna, was placed in “The Next 100” in the 2021 Nicholl Fellowship Competition.

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