2020's Grand Prize Winner met with three top development executives: one whose company has produced over 20 films as well as a talent manager from Kersey Management, and producer, Justine Wentzel. Our grand prize winner also received an hour long consultation with script notes. Other finalists received consults with reps from First Fridays and Fictional Entity. Please note that these executives are not judges in any way shape or form. They are people we introduce our winners to after they've won our contest.
Great film festival and screenplay contest. Professional all the way. Look forward to entering again. Highly recommended as a way to get your material in front of the right people
Well, what I can say. My script "Blood Trigger" was chosen as the grand prize winner of the 2020 Faith in Film International Screenwriting Competition. I personally received a phone call from the festival director, letting me know my script had made the list of three finalists. The next day, I found out I was the winner! In the short time since I won, my script has been submitted to six production companies and managers. Hoping great things will happen. Thanks again!
Delighted to have 'Love is Mute' as a part of the Official Selection of Faith in Film's competition! Appreciated how quick and communicative the festival was.
My screenplay, "Flash Drive" was a Semi-Finalist in the 2020 competition. Congratulations to those who became Finalists. I want to thank everyone at Faith In Film for giving us faith-based writers an opportunity to participate in this competition.
Many thanks to Joseph and his team at Faith in Film. Our script "Challenger" was named one of three finalists in this year's competition. Just a few days after a notification call from Joseph, the script and log line were distributed to production and management companies with proven track records. Credit goes to Faith in Film for creating genuine opportunities for screenwriters.
I am so honored that my script, The Good Shepherd, was selected as a semifinalist in the 2020 Faith in Film competition. It is one of the first competition outings for this story of a 1st century Galilean shepherd whose life intersects Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus, so I was grateful that Faith in Film provided written feedback from the last round reader. That will be very helpful. In my interaction with the festival staff I felt they demonstrated a real concern and respect for writers and supporting writers in pursuing their careers. Congratulations to the other semifinalists, finalists, and Grand Prize Winner! A great opportunity!
Grand Prize Winner!
Blood Trigger by Ron Podell
Go, Doctor Banting by Scott Sollars, Eric Sollars, and Kyle Sollars
Challenger by Mike Budalich & John Kirk
Camp Hero by Joseph Kovler
The Good Shepherd by Judith Sears
Tongues of Men and Angels by Elizabeth Hayes
Go for Broke by Stephanie Parker
Capital Loss by Xavier John
At the Mercy of Faith by Samuel Lee Taylor
Mysteries of Lake Brosno by Serge Okhotin
Love is Mute by Jean-Marc Le Doux
Flash Drive by Dan Herman
Down is Up by Ligia Maria Storrs Rojas & Justin Storrs
The following is from an interview with 2020 Winner, the brilliant and talented, Ron Podell.
1. What's your background? How long have you been writing? And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting?
I’m a journalist by trade, having worked as a reporter professionally for newspapers in Indiana, Florida and Maryland. I’ve also worked for national transportation newsletters in Washington, D.C., and have continued in public relations at Eastern Michigan University and, now, the University of Wyoming. So, I’ve always written for a living.
I have always loved movies. As a kid, I grew up watching Saturday “Creature Features,” and old John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart movies with my parents, who introduced me to old films. My first movie I ever saw in a theater was the re-release of “Sleeping Beauty.” I was hooked when the evil queen morphed into a dragon. Over the years, I have watched thousands of movies. Some are great, some not so great. But, I can always learn something from watching just about any film.
As far as transitioning to screenwriting, I remember watching a movie. It was around 2007. I sat there and could predict every plot point and bad line of dialogue. I said to myself, like I’m sure many others have, “I could write a better movie than that.” I just decided I would write scripts of stories I haven’t yet seen that I would like to – and hopefully audiences would like them, too. Every genre has been done. The key is to find a new twist or new way of telling something familiar that will entice an audience to take that journey and experience a little something new along the way.
“Pulp Science Fiction” is the first script I ever wrote. Basically, I wanted to write “Pulp Fiction” as a horror movie, using Tarantino’s tricks of characters overlapping into multiple storylines and writing the story time out of sequence. Maybe it was a little too ambitious for a first script. But, the first festival I ever entered, a little horror festival in Milwaukee, named it the screenplay winner and presented me with a $250 check. That certainly provided positive incentive to keep going.
2. What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs?
I’m pretty much self-taught. The first screenplay I read was “Chinatown.” Early on, I bought some of the familiar “how-to” screenwriting books, like Syd Field’s “Screenplay,” Robert McKee’s “Story” and “Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman. The one I use when writing, especially to check some of the more rare rules of formatting, is Dave Trottier’s “The Screenwriting Bible.”
I did once attend a one-day screenwriting workshop in Tampa, Fla. While helpful, the conversation from the screenwriter later dissolved into Scientology, which made many in the room a bit uneasy.
I think just watching films helps you become a better screenwriter. I think I subconsciously take in the story beats and they become ingrained in your writing DNA.
As far as breakthroughs, winning Writer of the Year at the 2016 Action on Film International Film Festival in Monrovia, Calif. (at the time) was big. The honor allowed me to become a WGAW member through the Guild’s Independent Writer’s Caucus. I’m very proud to be a card-carrying member of the WGAW.
While I have had some of my scripts read by Eclectic Pictures (“Olympus Has Fallen”) and legendary producer Mike Medavoy, I have not yet made that screenplay sale that has started actually making a living at it.
3. What else have you written? What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking?
To date, I have written six feature screenplays and 15 short scripts. I have written drama, comedy, horror, science fiction, action, romance. Whatever I’m feeling at the time is what I write. I have had had three of my short scripts made into short films by directors I met at film festivals. Each of the shorts screened at a few film festivals.
The latest feature I wrote, called “The Cross-Over,” was with a fellow screenwriter named Lana Lekarinou. She approached me with the basic premise and I agreed to co-write it with her, which was the first time I ever wrote a screenplay with someone else. It took us a few weeks to find our working rhythm. Once we did, it was a nice give-and-take and a rewarding collaborative experience.
The premise of the story is a born-again hitman must conceal the murders he didn’t commit from the mob that ordered them. We recently obtained professional notes. Once we incorporate those, we plan to send the script to actor Daniel Baldwin, who has expressed interest in playing the lead character.
As for my writing habits, I sometimes go weeks without working on a script. But, I will always have a story gestating in my head. When I am ready to pour it out onto the page, I typically shoot for writing three pages a day. Three good pages. That can take an hour or two, depending. I usually write at 10 p.m. for a couple hours. I can’t really do it right after work, as my day job requires me to sit and write on a computer. I need a little break from the screen.
I typically do my screenwriting in my den at home. Sometimes, I mix it up by taking a yellow legal pad to a coffee shop or a park outdoors. It just depends. I remember I wrote one of the crazy, frenetic action scenes in “Blood Trigger” while simultaneously sitting in a bar listening to loud music. I think the chaos of that environment helped me channel writing a crazy action fight scene.
4. What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?
The title of the script I entered in the Faith in Film International Screenwriting Competition is called “Blood Trigger.” It’s about a female assassin who has to protect her unborn child and struggle to build a new life as she battles the company that won’t let her go. I see it as a female “John Wick” with faith-based elements.
Because of the script’s faith-based elements, I decided to enter the script into your contest. I’m glad I did, as you named it the grand prize winner of your competition. Thank you. This script, to date, has won 14 top awards at film festivals and contests, three second-place awards, three third-place awards and a couple honorable mentions.
5. Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script?
I usually just write movies that I would like to see up on the big screen. Every story has been told. The trick is always trying to find a new spin to surprise audiences within a familiar story. Luckily, I’ve retained my vivid imagination since childhood, so I can make things up. As a journalist so many years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and interact with people from all walks of life. You absorb a lot of human nature and mannerisms, which is all very useful when creating characters on the page.
As a journalist, I also read the newspaper every day. This provides potential for stories or ideas to use within my scripts. People in different professions talk In their own unique way. When you see someone quoted in the newspaper, you can pick up rhythms in dialogue that can be useful down the road.
6. Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or, do you simply sit down and let it flow?
I just sit down and let it flow. If I know my first scene and last scene, I know I can get from A to Z and finish the script, which I have always done. It might not necessarily be as I first envisioned, as my characters often take the story in directions I did not initially imagine. When the writing is flowing, it is usually because the characters are writing themselves. But, before I sit down to write a script, I must emphasize the story has been gestating in my head for some time. So, I usually know my story when I finally sit down to write a new script.
7. What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?
I had a wonderful experience with your festival. Back in January, I ran across your screenwriting competition on Film Freeway. I had not entered “Blood Trigger” in a festival or contest in a while, but something was telling me I needed to enter your competition.
I’m glad I did, as you named my script your grand prize winner this year. What I have enjoyed about my experience is that the festival director took the time to call me on the phone directly and let me know “Blood Trigger” was a finalist and took a little time to get to know me.
Joseph, the festival director, has kept in very good contact since, in terms of letting me know when he has sent out my script to readers, managers and production companies affiliated with the competition.
As far as what you could improve upon, I have no complaints. Gaining access to professionals who can potentially help advance my career is the kind of prize that screenwriters desire.
8. What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future?
Currently, I’m digesting reader notes I have received for “Blood Trigger” through your competition and notes I purchased from a professional reader for my latest feature (with my co-writer Lana Lekarnau) “The Cross-Over.” So, rewrites are up next. I do have a script in my head that I have been thinking about. But, I typically don’t talk about a script until it is written.
9. Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?
Have patience. A script does not happen overnight. While Sylvester Stallone may have written the first draft of “Rocky” in three days, most of us are not going to be able to do that. I always like to say “Three pages a day for 30 days. You’ve got 90 pages.” In some cases, that may be a feature script. But, feature scripts are typically 90-120 pages. So, it could take a little longer to complete. A little writing each day leads to a whole script. Stick with it.
I remember listening to a screenwriting seminar hosted by John Cleese, who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1989 for “A Fish Called Wanda.” He talked about how it was not an easy road to finish that script. He said he would sometimes “get stuck” in his writing. But, he said he always “got unstuck” because he kept at it. One day, he faced a dilemma on how a scene should proceed. He just couldn’t figure it out. A few days later, it came to him how to write that scene and move the story forward. I’ve had that happen myself. I ask myself “How is this going to work?” A few days later, the answer is as clear as a bell.
Again, have patience. As a writer, you also have to be able to spend long hours by yourself in front of the computer screen. Listening to music while I write helps.
10. Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA?
The biggest victories have come from professional contacts made through your competition. Todd Murata, vp for development and production with MarVista Entertainment, provided me with a one-hour consultation with notes on my script. He was very thorough, and there was a nice give-and-take. He stressed that this was only his opinion, and to use what notes I thought work. I received a “First 15” consult through Roadmap Writers with Justine Wentzell who, I understand, was a former MarVista development executive. She offered a few good notes upon reading the first 15 pages of my script. She wanted me to add something, even a clue, to show a little more back-story about the main character.
And, perhaps, most promising, was a “First 15” consult with manager Andrew Kersey of Kersey Management. He was very complimentary of my writing and said I definitely had my own voice. He said the main character was memorable. From reading the first 15 pages, he asked questions that led him to learn more about what was coming up in the script. He said I definitely was thinking in terms of marketing and audience with my script.
As a result, he said he wanted to read the rest of the script, which was extremely kind of him. I threw out the logline on my latest script “The Cross-Over,” and he was intrigued enough to request I send him that screenplay, too. So, here’s hoping something good to advance my screenwriting career is coming around the corner. Having a manager would certainly open some doors in the industry for me. We’ll see what transpires. I’m hoping I will receive a call back from him soon.
Grand Prize Winner!
Project Omega by James Norris
Arizona Sunrise by John Martins III
The MicroCosmic Cartoon Show by Prema Rose, Hugh Rose, and Suryananda Rose
Full Distance by Jeff Malphurs
Relentless Love by Sandon Yahn
Savior by Bo Sanders
The Watchmaker by Steven D’Addieco
Barrington Bunny by Sandy Wolf
Throw Away a Miracle by Jerry Perez
Executed and Risen by Salvatore Bono
Shroud Trinity by Frank McEvoy
Runaway Cruise by Theodore Soderberg
Quest for Light, Adventure of the Magi by Byron Anderson
Seven Thousand Islands by G.R. White
Ricky Unidas by Carmen Lindsay
Last years winner's were personally introduced to several talent managers. In addition to our grand prize winner receiving a one hour consultation with talent manager, Chris Deckard at Fictional Entity.
"It was a great honor to be included in this screenwriting contest."
"I am thrilled to be named a finalist for my animated/live action musical adventure. Thank you all at Faith in Film. To receive the kudos, "Fantastic... Absolutely brilliant" is mana for my soul. This has been such a long journey....and on and on it goes!"
What's your background? How long have you been writing? And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting?
I wrote my first teleplay, "Yellow Alert" a spec script for Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) in 1988. I went out to Los Angeles and found an agent with no science-fiction TV experience to represent me, and he really dropped the ball, the details of which I won't go into. But "Maurice Hurley (second season Executive Producer and creator of the Borg!) let a pile of 110 spec scripts pile up on his desk at the end of the second season when it was decided (by him or Gene Roddenberry - I don't know the details) that he would not be returning for the 3rd season and that it made it through four cuts and into the final 10 scripts under consideration of which none were produced. But as a result I was given a letter allowing my subsequent 3 scripts to be submitted to Paramount without representation.
I decided to write "Yellow Alert" In the summer of 1988, after attending a ST convention in Denver CO. An ST supporting cast member had just finished his talk, and the MC was warming up the crowd for a big-name (I think it may have been Leonard Nimoy) and asked the audience who they'd like to see at next year's convention. The obvious names, Shatner and Stewart (now "Sir Stewart"!!!), etc., were all called out.
And then someone called out, "Will Wheaton!". The crowd went berserk, and not in a good way. After at least a minute of cat-calls, the MC got the crowd under some semblance of control, and said something to of the effect of, "Yeah, right. What do y'all think would happen the moment Will Wheaton took the stage and opened his mouth?". The audience replied in one, very loud voice, "Shut up, Wesley!".
So, I wrote a spec teleplay, "Yellow Alert", to try put a less annoyingly perfect face on Wheaton's character. ST hadn't dealt with drug addiction ("Mudd's Women" certainly didn't count!), and I thought this was a perfect vehicle to talk about the pressure young people are under today, or rather then--I remember stories at the time about parents doing crazy things to get their children into the right pre-school so that their children would be able to get into a good college! (Now they just make up a sport that their post-high school aged children supposedly excel in and bribe a coach.). In the teleplay, Wesley, suffering under the pressure of being an "acting" Ensign, becomes addicted to a holodeck simulation some of the brighter kids on the Enterprise-D have developed. Unfortunately, "Wesley" was Gene Roddenbery's middle name, so...
What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs?
I have no formal training whatsoever. Everything I know about writing teleplays I learned by reading STTNG teleplays I bought at ST conventions and watching the episodes with the teleplays in hand.
Breakthroughs? Well, winning the Grand Prize in the 2018 International Faith in Film Competition with my original one-hour teleplay Project Ωmega: Nina Blacke. PΩ was also a Quarterfinalist in the 2017 Creative World Awards Competition and a Semifinalist in the 2019 Emerging Screenwriters Writers Competition.
What else have you written? What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking?
Well, I wrote three more STTNG specs--none got produced, and the fourth one was submitted after they had finished writing all of the 7th and last season's episodes, so I don't really count that one as a failure.
I've got four novels in various states of non-completion, the space opera (I hate that term, but Lord help me, that's what it is) The Loops of Time, Book 1 of the Timeloop Trilogy is a little more than half done at 179 pages--it's about a 22nd century physicist who can't do physics anymore due to a brain injury who discovers that there is a God, but s/he/it is unaware of and indifferent to its creation. There's the speculative fiction The Order of the Brotherhood--about a fifth completed at approximately 70 pages--the warden of a prison, who is, himself, an ex-convict, in a post-apocalyptic Illinois who must defend the democracy of the Brotherhood, i.e. his prison population, against an autocratic ex-Senator who is the de facto leader of surviving population of Peoria. Another about-one-fifth-done high fantasy novel, A Broken Ruh, Book 1 of the Djinn War trilogy, in which an Afghan War vet must decide if his moral autonomy is more important to him than saving the life of the woman he's come to love. Then there's a Christian fantasy A Desolate Habitation about Judas Iscariot who has been reincarnated time after time since his betrayal of Jesus which I've only really just started at almost 30 pages. I've written a number of short stories that have been published online and in print.
The thing that works best for me is to sit down right after breakfast and start writing--this is true for all of the forms I write: teleplays, short stories and novels. With teleplays and short stories, I start writing and don't work on anything else until the work is completed. Novels, on the other hand, I work on one until I run into a snag I don't know how to deal with, and then work on one the others until run into a snag I don't know how to deal with--my unconscious is way smarter than my conscious, and if I give it some time to mull things over, it always comes through for me.
I work at home almost exclusively, because I work best with music, but don't like cutting myself off from the outside world by wearing earphones. I've never written in a coffee shop as I'd feel obligated to buy something, and coffee makes it hard for me to ignore the little voices.
What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?
Project Ωmega- Nina Blacke is the title of the teleplay I submitted to the 2018 International Faith in Film Competition and which won the Grand Prize. The log line is:
A retired Army colonel must deal with his son's ritualistic murder, his wife's suicide and his loss of faith in God, as he, his experimental psychologist daughter and a professor of Religious Studies expose a fraudulent spiritualist before she swindles a widow while filming their paranormal-busting reality TV show pilot.
Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script?
I don't look for inspiration for my short stories and teleplays--inspiration usually finds me. My first published short story, "Izzie Tells No Lies" was inspired by a song entitled "Annie Told Me" by the band "The Motels" (raise your hand if you remember this 1980's band). My second published story "Angel of Death" was inspired by a piece of poster art entitled "Summon the Reaper" by Anne Stokes I happened to see in an Oriental curiosity shop. I can't think of a single short story that I've written that I made up out of whole cloth, nor one where I had idea and went looking for inspiration.
I've already talked about my inspiration for "Yellow Alert". My second spec for STTNG, "To Better the Instruction", was inspired by a conversation I had with wife, Kathryn Kerby, of my best friend from high school and college, Paul C Powers, when I was out in LA trying to find representation for "Yellow Alert"--Kathryn had a fairly well developed plot-line and asked me what I thought of it; I liked it and wrote the teleplay when I got back to Denver; I sent her the first and second drafts for comments and then submitted it to Paramount. "veStaHneSwI'a'" (Klingon for "The Ultimate Warrior") came about from a really bones concept--what if the Enterprise-D found a lost colony of Klingons?--given to me by my roommate at the time, Stuart Schillinger; Stuart moved out by the time I finished the teleplay, and we didn't really talk much about it before I submitted it to Paramount. The fourth and final STTNG spec teleplay was inspired by a very simple question prompted by an episode of Superntural--some of the best TV ever!!!--what STTNG were to do a Halloween episode.
My novels seem to be a different story. These seem to have all been delivered to me by Calliope--I can't point to any occurrence in my life that prompted any of them. Well, except for Judas's story in the Bible for A Desolate Habitation, of course.
Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?
I am totally a plotter. I come up with "the big question" of the story first, then develop the characters, write up an outline, and start writing. One of the things I find most useful is something that I may have invented--I find this hard to believe, but I've seen anything like it in the literature on writing--I call them Character Relationship Maps (CRM), and they answer the 6th W--which I "discovered" -- of the 5 W's:
What does s/he want?
Why does s/he want it?
Why can’t s/he have it?
What must s/he do to get it?
What’s at stake if s/he fails?
Namely, who is the character in relationship to the other characters with arrows that show which characters are connected to other characters and how. For an arrow between two characters, Character A (xxx)→(yyy) Character B, (xxx) is how Character A sees or feels about Character B, and (yyy) is how Character B sees or feels about Character A. I create these CRM's with a piece of online software called LucidChart.com and I do it for everything I write longer than a short story.
CRM's force me to think about a character's relationship with the other characters, and I've found that it generates more possibilities for conflict, which, as we all know, is the key to good storytelling.
What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?
Well, I won the Grand Prize, so my experience with the 2018 International Faith in Film Competition was quite positive and I'm pretty happy with my involvement. My teleplay was sent to five industry people, one of whom gave me notes. .
What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future?
I'm writing a one-hour TV pilot for pay!!! Not a lot of pay, but if it goes well, I'll be able to put a paid writing credit on my imdb page. And it may lead to Show Creator, Executive Producer and/or Showrunner duties!
Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?
Well, I've never written a feature-length screenplay--just one-hour teleplays--so I'm not in a position to give advice regarding this topic.
Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA?
Project Ωmega was a Semifinalist in the 2019 Emerging Screenwriters Writers Competition, not placing as well as it did the 2017 Creative World Awards or the 2018 International Faith in Film competitions, but still, it was a placement. While attending an International Screenwriters' Association's "Table Read My Screenplay" event in Park City UT a few weeks ago, I met a Producer/Screenwriter who agreed to read and give me coverage for Project Ωmega which he though was a "solid" teleplay, but, of course, could use some additional polish. Most importantly, he knows the actor I would love to see play Project Ωmega lead, and has agreed to pass Project Ωmega onto this actor once I polish Project Ωmega based on his coverage. He also offered me an opportunity to take an idea of his for a one-hour supernatural/procedural and write the pilot teleplay for it.
Grand Prize Winner!
God’s Photo Album by Susan Arnout Smith
Pokey Nose by Tami Ryder
Songbird by Rebecca Williams Spindler
Love Is Free Will by Amanda Samaroo
Special Report by Joseph Carpenter
The Christmas Notes by Craig Clyde
Runaway Ship by Theodore Soderberg
Florence by Charlotte Scholer
Close Enough to Perfect by Dan Williams
Saving Esperanza by Betty Sullivan
Sarah Soldier by Cara Winter
Wayfarers by Arnon Shorr
Resurrection by Christina Shaver
Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin by Candyce Petersen
Forces of Balance by Maurice Lewis
Saving the Moon by Brian Shoop
The Day Little Black Pearl Found God in the Center of a Sunflower by Mildred Langford
Dark Matters by James Beeler
At The Mercy of Faith by Samuel Taylor
"My experience with the International Family and Faith Screenwriting Competition was enjoyable from start to finish. I found the entry fee reasonable, all of the people I talked to in connection with the contest have been friendly and encouraging, and all promises have been kept. I highly recommend this festival!"
"It was a great honor to be included in this film festival and screenwriting contest."
"Great people to work with, and I was honored to be a finalist. I'd recommend this festival to any writer who's working in the Family/Faith genre."
What's your background? How long have you been writing? And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? My professional experience includes being a writing instructor for a community college, script editor, event coodinator, recruiter, HR staffing, patient and family advocate and community relations manager. I come from a very diverse family deeply rooted in faith and love. My desire for writing stories began when I was nine years old and received my first typewriter. Many years later, I transitioned from writing short stories into screenwriting. It was a fairly natural transition for me since I love writing characterized dialogue. For the past 14 years, I have created content for short scripts, feature scripts, and TV pilots. I have expanded my experience into producing short films too.
What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? I have attended Writers Bootcamp - LA, attended writing workshops at Nashville and Austin Film Festivals. In July 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to be a Rocaberti Writers Retreat fellow and was matched with Jennifer Grisanti, she became my mentor. Jen is a past CBS Executive and worked alongside Aaron Spelling on the 90210 series, she has the incredible ability to get writers in tuned to the heart of their story.
What else have you written? What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? I have had 5 short stories published, 3 novels (co-written with my daughter), blogs with ScreenCraft and Huffington Post and built a portfolio of over 16 screenplays. When I was younger, I burned the midnight oil and would write into the early hours after my family went to bed. Now that I am an empty nester, I write in the morning and any open time I can. I prefer to write at home, near a sunny window, with my chai latte and dog nearby. And I'll admit, I do write notes on my phone when I overhear a conversation that's too good to forget!
What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about? Songbird (see next question 5 for description)
Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? My cousin gave me a wall hanging, it says "Your Story Begins at Home" and that's the true inspiration for me. I have a very large family filled with rich history, unique people and life changing events. I draw from them for inspiration, it's an organic process as I include their essence and add my own fictional touches. Songbird came about after I watched Carrie Underwood's music video, "Blow Away", it's about a teenage girl growing up in a troubled home, wishing a cyclone would come and blow all her troubles away. I built a story about a teenage girl with a troubled mother and a dark past, dropped in the EF5 tornado that hit Joplin (in 2011) and gave this girl a second chance in rebuilding her life with a high school choir teacher who helps her fulfill her dream of being a singer.
Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow? I do a bit of everything when building my story. I make notes on the world/setting. I create lengthy character descriptions and synopsis with theme and plot points. Beat sheet and story worksheets are also great tools.
What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on? Joseph offered me the opportunity to send my script out to producers. A couple producers expressed an interest in reading it. I am humbled and thrilled that my script was a Top 2 Finalist in 2018, it gives me validation that my story can grow wings!
What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? My current projects are family comedy TV pilots and TV pilots for women of a mature age. I also have a passion project of a medical drama TV series based on my professional work experience with transplant patients and families.
Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay? Just write it. Don't dwell on what you need to fix. Get that first draft done, then celebrate because that's a big accomplishment. Then, go back and polish it up. But before you polish, give it to other writers to read it and give you notes to help you edit it in the right direction.
Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA? I have been pitching Songbird to producers, executives and managers via Stage 32 and Roadmap Writers. Producers have complimented this script, saying it's one of the best scripts they've read. I submitted Songbird to the Rocaberti Writers Retreat and have received admission for their 2020 retreat in France. Songbird was also a Second Rounder (coming in the Top 10%) in the 2019 Austin Film Festival competition, out of a record-breaking 12,000 scripts! I'm still working on gaining representation and have been to LA to network this script.
Winter 2017 Winners!
Grand Prize Winner!
The Heart of a Tiger VI by SreyRam Kuy
The Chariots of Motown by Christopher Sansone
Gideon by Randall Hahn
The Jihadist’s Opera by Salil Kapoor
The Joby Project by Michael Long
Bad Christians by Tyler Straessle
Perceptions by Lou Mulford
Halfway Home by David Schroeder
Resurrection by Christina Shaver
Heaven’s Light by Barry Pagel
A Private War by Christine Inserra
Finding Beauty by George Anson
Split Rock by Kyle Hammersmith
Perfect Contrition by James Palmer
LevelLand by George Anson
The Translator by Al Sproles
Bronze by Kerri Weston
Emails from Heaven by Carissa Steefel
Inglorious Pastors by Tom Riffel
Always Something There to Remind Me by Terry Gau
Cadillac Arrest by John Kestner
Whispering Hope by Alvin Easter
Aflame by Deena Martinelli
Perfidies by William Baber
The Hollow by Abigail Taylor Sansom
The Fallen Angels by Charles Kowalski
Resurrection, Nevada by Noelle Nelson
Quest for Light by Byron Anderson
Good Again by Jeanne Dukes
Arizona Sunrise by John Martins III
"If you've got a screenplay where faith plays a part in your story. Then Faith in Film: International Family and Faith Screenwriting Competition is the contest for you... It will get exposure to top faith based production companies."
"Thank you Faith in Film for all that you do for emerging writers to help promote our projects. I was very excited to receive a call from your team to notify me of my prize. Also, Janet Lee is the absolute best director - making everything run smoothly. I look forward to more wonderful connections through Faith in Film!"
"Thank you Faith in Film!"
Summer 2017 Winners!
Grand Prize Winner!
Burden Stone by Bill Ray, Emilee Danielson, and Chris Danielson.
Even a Just Man by Mark Christopher Boyd
Quest for Light by Byron Anderson
Kick Back by RC Atchisson
"Loved it. Really cool projects and people."
"All contests start out having to get their feet wet with the process. I'm so glad this contest is pushing forward because I think it'll be a major contender if they keep to their goals. I love the fact that faith films can be cutting edge; I love the fact that this contest actively looked for that. I'm a firm believer that family and faith films need to "cross-over" and speak directly to the heart of the wider audience. Thank you for the prize and accolades. Best to you as your festival grows."
The following is from an interview with the talented prior grand prize winner Bill Ray.
Being fortunate enough to win the Spring 2017 Faith in Film contest has been one of the greatest blessings of my writing life. Though Burden Stone has yet to find a producer, winning the contest has given it a credibility that has led to various producers paying attention to it, the latest producer writing, “Thanks for the privilege of letting me read Burden Stone. Both my wife and I enjoyed it. I am not in a place to move forward with it at this time, but I will keep it on my back burner if someone doesn’t grab it before I get back around to it.” These were unsolicited comments—in fact, I wasn’t even aware he was reading it—so I’m hopeful something might turn up down this road.
In addition, I turned the script into a novel that sells regularly on Amazon and receives inspiring comments from readers. I feel like one reason it finds buyers is the tag, “Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 International Faith in Film Competition” featured prominently on the cover.
Perhaps most importantly, those times I find myself wondering if all these lonely moments writing are really worth it—feelings that I’m sure are common to most writers—I remember my experience with the Faith in Film contest and am encouraged. I have since plowed through to finish two science fiction novels (The Lost Colony and The Journey) and am on the homestretch of a screenplay about Ulysses S. Grant.
All of this and I’m an old fogey—almost 60! I’ll always be thankful for the Faith in Film contest.