Maximum Z Autumn ’21 Script Showcase

I’ve always been a big believer in supporting the writing community, and wanted to offer up the opportunity for as many writers as possible to put their material on full display for all to see. While there may be other sites that do this – most for a small fee, I thought it would be nice to do something similar – and for free.

Think of this as another tool in your personal kit of marketing materials. This is your chance to shine a spotlight on your script. Spread the word. Post the link. Toot that horn, and do it proudly.

What you will find below is a virtual treasure trove of material of 34 screenplays and 18 TV scripts. A vast spectrum of genres, many with accompanying awards and accolades.

But the most important part is that each and every one is available for you to read.

Something grabs your attention or piques your interest? The writer’s email is right there for you to click on and tell them “I’d like to read your script.” Maybe they’ll ask to read something of yours.

This is what networking and establishing professional relationships is all about.

So settle in and take a look around. Bet you find a script or three you like.

(And as long as I’ve got your attention, feel free to hit the ‘like’ button way down at the bottom of this post. Maybe even take it one step further and start following this blog. Management is dangling some enticing incentives for an uptick in numbers.)

FILM

AFTER EVER AFTER

David Schwartz

Animated Family Fantasy-Comedy

A royal princess has two weeks to rescue her prince from a powerful warlock, or else her sister will take over as Queen.

david@davidschwartzconsulting.com

ANNA’S EVERY-VERSE

Brian Tuttle

Drama

When a risk-averse accountant hits her head at work, she suddenly finds that every time she opens a new door, she steps into one of a dozen alternate versions of her life. She realizes the only way to get home is to keep opening doors, even if it means confronting every fear she’s ever had.

8 on The Black List

briantuttle11@gmail.com

AN UNDOCUMENTED RUMOR

Philip C. Sedgwick

Action-Adventure/Border Drama

A journalist for an US-based Arabian TV network heads to the Arizona border to sleuth out a rumor regarding a terrorist attack formulating in Mexico. When the rumor proves true, the reporter enlists a most unlikely team to intercept the attack and take on the even more unlikely forces behind the operation.

Best Original Screenplay, Burbank Film Festival, 2016

Best Feature Screenplay, San Antonio Film Festival, 2019

Official Selection, San Pedro Film Festival, 2019

Finalist, Official Selection, Beverly Hills Film Festival, 2016

Finalist, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, 2016

philip@philipcsedgwick.com

BANGK!

Mark Wesley

Crime/Heist/Thriller

A charismatic hustler devises a high-risk scheme to con the Bank of England into moving gold bullion to a location that’s easier to rob – if the New York mob don’t kill him first.

Quarterfinalist – 2020 Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards

markwesley13@gmail.com

BLACK OMERTA

Victer A. Levell

Drama

A corrupt Marine Corps Officer / Investment Banker with an old school Black and Italian upbringing reflecting on the origin and consequences of his actions after Federal conviction. Hiding in plain sight his entire career with Black Panther Party, and Gambino Crime Family affiliations. Living with a dark family secret, child abuse, and teenage PTSD results growing up into an adult broken with a Machiavellianism dark side.

usmc4457@gmail.com

CALYPSO

Fiona Faith Ross

Supernatural Thriller

When Granddad dies, a bereaved young American woman travels to the ‘old country’ to find her last living relative, an aunt who insists she is the immortal sea-goddess, Calypso.

Best Feature Screenplay – May/June 2021 round, Pinnacle Film Awards, LA

fionafaithross@gmail.com

DRAWING DEAD

Kelly Parks

Horror

Six poker pros tricked into a game of Texas Hold’em with The Devil must win or die.

2nd Rounder – Austin Film Festival

Top 25% – Coverfly

Quarterfinalist – 2021 Emerging Screenwriters Genre Competition

kelly.parks@gmail.com

FORSAKEN

Jeffrey Stackhouse and Wendy Lashbrook

Action-Adventure/Horror

A Confederate officer rides an urgent trail when the shocking brutality of a Black family found slaughtered forces him to choose a path of blood-soaked retribution, with only an adolescent Black girl as an ally.

PAGE Awards – Bronze Award – Action-Adventure

shadowlandonline.net

stackk@usa.com

FREEDOM FORT

Clint Williams

Historical Action-Adventure

Following the War of 1812,  withdrawing British forces turn over a fort and its armory to former slaves and Native Americans. But calls for an assault by the U.S. Army threaten the thriving community.

Winner – Final Draft Big Break – Historical/Period

Grand Prize Winner – Write/LA

clintwilliams3@gmail.com

INSENSIBLE EXISTENCE

Mark LeClair

Action Drama

A Special Forces veteran realizes his revenge slaying of the gang that killed his family won’t bring them back, nor his emotions, which makes him a valuable tool for the Feds. With help from his veteran-brothers, he agrees to take care of a pest problem for the FBI & DEA, but realizes too late that he is being set up and not expected to survive. The most dangerous person alive is one with nothing left to lose.

Semifinalist – 2021 Filmmatic Drama Screenplay Awards

mark.leclair@hotmail.com

KISS ME DEAD

Ken Henderson

Fantasy/Thriller

A hard-boiled ex-cop stays on a missing person case even after he’s murdered.

Winner – 2019 PAGE International – Thriller/Horror

Semifinalist (top 50) – 2014 Nicholl Fellowship

Quarterfinalist – 2019 Final Draft Big Break

2nd Round – 2019 Austin Film Festival

Quarterinalist – 2014 Scriptapalooza

kenhenderson@gmail.com

LUCKY DIP (short film)

Brian Weston

Drama

Everyone dreams of winning life changing money on the lottery. A big win changes lives. But sometimes not for the best.

bw1707@yahoo.com

MAN OF COLOUR

Martin Keady

Historical Drama

MAN OF COLOUR is a biopic of Walter Tull, one of Britain’s first black professional footballers, who was driven out of the game by racism (even from within his own club) but rallied to become one of Britain’s greatest heroes of World War One. 

Best Screenplay (Feature) – 2021 Page Turner Awards

keadym1616@gmail.com

MAX & LUPE: TREASURE HUNTERS!

Jane May

Adventure Comedy

MAX AND LUPE: TREASURE HUNTERS! is a movie about a heartbroken and hapless American dude who just wants to enjoy his all inclusive Mexican vacation but gets tangled up with a couple of slick international treasure hunters who are racing against a seriously bad hombre in order to score their biggest prize yet!

janemay11@gmail.com

MIDNIGHT

Alvina Charles

Action/Drama

A teenage boy is involved in an underground case to take down his father’s enemy but switches sides when secrets unfold.

riaria200113@gmail.com

MISS ME?

G. Leo Maselli

Dark Comedy

After six long years in a French convent, a teenage girl, with a pathological narcissist disorder in full bloom, returns home in California determined on having sex with her hero who just so happens to be her father’s best friend.

donleonado@gmail.com

MO’ALLEM

Nerris Nevarez-Nassiri

Coming of Age

When a brilliant Iranian teenager finds out she must give up her dream of going to college for an arranged marriage, she secretly fabricates an identity as a school teacher to obtain an American visa and escape the morning of her wedding.

Finalist – Austin Film Festival

Semifinalist – Vail Film Festival

nerrisnassiri@gmail.com

OUT BACK OF BEYOND

Dave Goossen

Comedy

After bungling a multi-million dollar deal, the two women responsible are sent to the Australian outback to save the project but end up battling their ruthless boss to save a quirky town instead.

davegoossen@gmail.com

PRELUDE TO A DREAM

David Dinning McDermott

Fantasy, Romance

A story that integrates magic and mythology into the fabric of the modern world, as we follow two lovers across the boundaries of death and time.

Finalist – Bright International Film Festival

Finalist – Beyond The Curve International

Finalist – Hollywood Screenplay Festival

Finalist – European Cinematography Awards

dinningproduction@gmail.com

ROMANTIC DOG

Das Bleu

Drama

A struggling musician is at a crossroads with life until he meets an alluring ballroom dancer while staying at the Chateau Marmont.

Semifinalist – Big Apple Agents and Managers Networking Lab

Semifinalist – Big Apple Film Festival and Screenplay Competition

dasxbleu@gmail.com

SCARLET SEAS

J.C. Young

Father and daughter hunters pursue a fugitive vampire to the New World; whose blood-thirst unleashed when pirates plunder the ship ferrying her coffin.

Red List selection – Coverfly, Feb 2021, July 2021

Top 20% – Coverfly – Top 20 Action-Adventure Feature Screenplays

Semifinalist – 2020 Filmmatic Screenpay Pitch Competition

Semifinalist – Creative Screenwriting Unique Voices Competition

Quarterfinalist – 2021 Screencraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy

writer.JCYoung@yahoo.com

SEX WITH MY EX

Lucy Linger

Romantic Dramedy

An interior designer relives her teenage years, and puts her marriage at risk, when she lands a job working with her first love.

lucy@lucylinger.com

STAND TALL!

Vincent Paterno

Romantic Comedy

A Vegas waitress tripled in size becomes a beloved showroom headliner, falls in love with the scientist who accidentally enlarged her, and vows to rescue him when he’s kidnapped by three mutual rivals.

Most Original Concept – Feature Screenplay – LA Under The Stars Film Festival

Best Character – Colleen Cossitt – Die Laughing Film Festival

Finalist – Los Angeles Cinefest

Finalist – Beyond The Curve International Film Festival

Semifinalist – Stage 32 New Voices in Animation Screenwriting Contest

vpaterno0819@gmail.com

TALONS

Brent Rouleau

Crime/Mystery/Thriller

While investigating a series of bizarre deaths, a veteran detective who quit big-city crime for small-town policing finds his life in danger when he uncovers a long-hidden black-ops program with ties to the highest level of the American government.

Semifinalist – Screencraft Drama

2nd Round – Austin Film Festival

2nd Round – Launch Pad Feature Competition

leafswinin05@yahoo.ca

THE BRIDGE

Persephone Vandegrift

Supernatural Horror

After agreeing to take part in a dangerous séance, a grief-stricken young woman discovers the truth behind an entity’s vengeance against the town and must stop it before it kills again.

sephvee7@gmail.com

THE FIRST GENTLEMAN

Mark Gunnion

Action/Romance

When President Rosa Cortez’s secret Camp David peace summit is taken hostage by brutal commandos, her scandalous ex-jock husband Will slips through the cracks. As war hero Rosa fights back from within, they must find a way to save each other – and the Chinese President.

Grand Prize – 23rd Annual Fade-In Screenplay Awards

3rd Place – Action-Adventure – Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition

Semifinalist – StoryPros Screenwriting Competition

Official Selection – 15th Annual “Action On Film” MegaFest in Las Vegas

Official Selection – Vancouver Badass Film Festival

markgunnion@gmail.com

THE FUNNY FARM

Robert Ward

Horror

A wisecracking demon slaughters the parents of a farm girl hiding in a cellar… but when the demon extricates her, they battle to a ghastly ending.

Award Winner – 2019 Filmmatic Horror Screenplay

2nd Place – 2019 Best Feature Script – Hollywood Horrorfest

Finalist – 2017 Shriekfest

Nominee – Best Horror Screenplay – iHorror Awards

Grand Prize – Horror – 2016 Hollywood Screenplay Contest

rward@got.net

THE MAN OF LA CANADA

Sara Carpenter & Josh Greiveldinger

Comedy

Loosely based on Don Quixote, Alonso, becomes convinced he is a comic book superhero and, with the help of his reluctant best friend, attempts to take down a small town biker gang.

whitebeltfilms@gmail.com

TYPHOON BABY

Tad Israel

RomCom

As a typhoon turns his relationship upside down, the man turns from hater to lover.

tadisrael@gmail.com

UNDER THE BED

Ethan Chen

Horror/Supernatural Thriller

A young tormented girl Lily befriends a monster that is willing to kill those who wronged her. With each kill the monster changes with Lily changing as well.

Best Unproduced Script – Niagara Falls International Short Festival

Best Unproduced Script – Hong Kong Indie Film Festival

ethan_chen8282@aol.com

UNTIE ME

Carol Frome

Thriller

When Sophie and her girlfriend Isabella uncover murder evidence, they don’t know that it will lead Sophie to an unthinkable choice: kill her all-powerful father or be killed.

carolfrome@msn.com

WE ARE ROUGH MEN

J.R. Blomberg

Neo-Western Crime Drama

In 1972, a sheriff being investigated for murder must confront his rodeo past when he suspects bull riders in a slew of bank robberies.

jrblomberg75@gmail.com

WELCOME TO GARYTOWN

Seth Nelson

Comedy

When a popular podcaster moves back to his rural hometown and discovers his job-hopping childhood friend is living a double life, he must decide whether to go along with the prank, or expose the truth in an effort to boost his career.

Semifinalist – Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay Awards (Season 6)

snelson1076@me.com

WORLD WAR 3.0

Glenn Toussaint

Science Fiction

In 2065, a hacker and a group of telepaths lead three rogue nations in a desperate last stand, against the plutocratic world government’s drone forces. 

glen@sandyhornerealestate.com

TELEVISION

ANCHOR RIDGE

Christopher O’Bryant

A lawyer is sent to a small southern town to handle a troubled estate, but upon arrival something feeds off the fear and guilt from his past.

If TRUE DETECTIVE investigated THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE in the TWILIGHT ZONE.

obryantcj@gmail.com

BINGOMAN

Shauney Taylor

Thriller/Drama

A small town has had two young girls go missing in one month. Can this eight year old girl’s imaginary friend protect her from being the next one caught?

2nd Place – Open Topic Short Film Contest

2nd Place – Raindance Film Festival

taylorsue42@yahoo.com

BROKEDOWN

Richard Leone

Crime Drama

Set in Portland, Maine, Detective Sarah Leighton, a Combat Veteran and recovering opioid addict, investigates a drudge related homicide and must choose her career or her family when she finds herself crossing the line between cop and criminal in order to bring down a local drug ring.

richard.leone@gmail.com

CHANNEL SURFING

Peter J. Herron

Black Comedy Sketch Show

A half hour black comedy sketch show exploring the world of broadcast television by joining a viewer each week as they jump from channel to channel, catching dark/absurd/social commentary comedic vignettes of the news, TV shows, sports, movies, documentaries, adverts and everything else vomited out the media we consume today. 

peterjherroncartoons@gmail.com

FANGIRLS

Gary Barnard

Dramedy

When two best friends learn of a real life crime that mimics one of their favorite comic books, they do everything they can to solve it.

garybarnard25@yahoo.com

FATHER BROWN – THE BELLE OF THE BONFIRE (spec)

Karen E. Simmons

Light-comedy murder-mystery BBC series

Two of Father Brown’s friends go undercover at a high-class hotel to find the culprit behind a series of grisly murders, using themselves as bait to draw the killer out of the shadows.

Another of my Father Brown specs – THE WRONG SCONE – won 2nd Place for One-Hour Dramas in the 2021 Scriptapalooza competition

ksimmons511@yahoo.com

HER MAJESTY’S MUSKETEERS: LITTLE GIRLS SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH SWORDS

Phillip E. Hardy

Action-Adventure

Beset by enemies conspiring against King Louis XIV, a collection of courageous fighting women come together to train and fight for the greatest swordsman in France, the uncrowned queen.

Winner – Best Action Television Script – Mount Fuji International Film Festival

Official Selection – Las Vegas International Film and Screenwriting Festival

Official Selection – Best Script Award – London

phillip_hrdy@yahoo.com

HUMAN GAME 3: THE REVELATION

Nathan Waire aka Nathan Zen-Sapien

Suspense/Thriller

When a psychic begins to have visions of grizzly murders she enlists the help of one serial killing team to hunt down an even bigger threat!

Outstanding Achievement – Madras International Film Festival

Finalist – Toronto CIFT

Official Selection – Medusa Film Festival

Finalist – Best Script – ViZ Awards

nathanwaire@gmail.com

INTER-DIMENSIONAL RUNNERS

Alex Rodriguez

Animated Comedy

Prince, a half-demon slacker, falls into another dimension and looks for a way back home in time for ramen night, but is chased by inter-dimensional guards who want to kill her for disrupting the balance.

alejandra.rs92@gmail.com

KITT

Maura Campbell

Comedy/Drama

Lonely neuroscientist Susan transfers her cat’s consciousness into a homeless coma patient. But when the cat gets his tongue it sends everyone into a flap, not least the Ethics Committee overseeing her experimental project.

maura.campbell@btinternet.com

MALACCA

Benjamin Jimenez

Thriller/Suspense

After the mysterious disappearance of flight MH777 in the Gulf of Malacca, and the reappearance of Dr. Milton James and his six fellow passengers three months later, Dr. James is confronted with a mysterious, life-threatening conspiracy that he and his companions must uncover before it kills them and, what could be worse, these secrets serve to destroy the world as we know it.

bjimenezt@gmail.com

MASKED INTENTIONS

Rachel Amy Ritchie & Kate Burcham

Murder-Mystery/Dramedy

When a vindictive murderer rudely interrupts their graduation gala, the university’s supposedly brightest must bare their secrets to unmask the killer and make it to graduation.

raritchie13@yahoo.com

OCCUPIED INTELLIGENCE

Collin Lieberg

Historical Drama

Based on a true story. Two newly recruited female Resistance members risk their lives to rescue downed soldiers and translate Nazi secrets as part of a civilian spy ring, only to face betrayal and capture.

2nd Rounder – Austin Film Festival

Top 50 – ISA Fast Track Fellowship

Quarterfinalist – Page Turner Genre Screenplay Competition

Quarterfinalist – Screencraft TV Pilot Competition

collin.lieberg@gmail.com

RIVERMEADE

S. E. McKendrick

Fantasy

6 impossible things before breakfast?

  1. travel to a small English village on a whim
  2. find out that fairy tales are the historical documents of a parallel reality
  3. find out you’re cursed
  4. meet a mermaid
  5. meet a troll (who lives under a bridge)
  6. pet a dragon

Okay, that took until lunchtime, but wait ’til you see tomorrow’s schedule!

scripts2020@mail.com

SEX PASTA

Pilot – “Tiro”

Rowan Wood

Sitcom

A group of college friends return from winter break to find that things are changing more rapidly than they expected.

marphclon@gmail.com

TERRA NOVA

Pilot episode – “Scott”

Jonathan Tedman

Historical/Adventure

Robert Scott leads the Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica in his attempt to become the first human to reach the South Pole.

jonathan.tedman@ntlworld.com

THUNDERBOLT

Zachary Thomas Starnes

Crime Drama/True Story

In the late 1970’s, a father and son set to build a legacy by taking a hidden bar in their small town, from a stash house for the mob, to the regions most popular joint and the centerpiece for the true stories of wildly good times and various crimes that circulate it… Everyone has a Thunderbolt story.

zacharytstarnes@gmail.com

ZCBD

R.S.J.

Horror

A local street pharmacist is forcefully recruited by a secret  government agency that wants him to distribute a new strain of narcotic to his customers but unbeknownst to him the new drug does more than gets you high but also makes you crave human flesh.

reddyself@gmail.com

Just a few days left!

Hey, you amazing writer of screen or television, you.

Got a spec script you want to put in the spotlight?

Well, your chance to do exactly that is RIGHT NOW.

Friday, 29 October will see the posting of the Maximum Z Autumn ’21 Script Showcase, and it’ll feature a wide variety of screenplays and TV scripts, complete with the vital details for each, along with the contact info in case something strikes your fancy and you want to contact the writer about reading it.

And your script could be one of them.

Here’s how it works.

Using the subject line “Maximum Z Autumn ’21 Script Showcase’, email the following info about your script here.

Film or TV

Title

Author

Genre

Logline

Awards (if applicable, and limit it to 5)

Your email

And that’s it.

DO NOT SEND THE SCRIPT!

and

ONLY ONE SCRIPT PER WRITER.

The deadline for sending is Thursday 28 October, so the clock is a-tickin’.

Send it along post haste so you don’t regret missing out on this amazing opportunity!

On the lookout for: Your Script!

Greetings! Just a friendly reminder that on 29 October – just a mere 3 weeks from now – the Maximum Z Autumn ’21 Script Showcase will go up, featuring an abundance of spec scripts for film and television…

And yours could be one of them!

Here’s how it works:

Email the following info here using the subject ‘Maximum Z Autumn Script Showcase’:

Film or TV

Title

Author

Genre

Logline

Awards (if applicable, and no more than 5)

Your email

And that’s it.

DO NOT SEND THE SCRIPT

and

ONLY 1 SCRIPT PER PERSON

Cutoff date for submissions is 28 Oct, so send it soon! Don’t wallow in self-loathing and regret from missing out.

Here’s to an opportunity (for TV & film writers!)

I’m a big believer in supporting the writing community, and helping writers promote themselves and their work whenever I can.

Thus: The Maximum Z Script Showcase.

A catalog of sorts, chock-full of listings for film and TV spec scripts, all available to read by any and all interested parties.

Previous efforts have proven to be positive and productive experiences, so the time seemed right to do it again.

The Autumn ’21 Showcase will post on 29 Oct. The perfect treat heading into Halloween weekend, no?

It’s a very simple process.

You email the following info about your script under the subject “Maximum Z Autumn ’21 Script Showcase” here:

Film or TV

Title

Author(s)

Genre(s)

Logline

Awards (if applicable) – for those with numerous awards, please limit it to 5

Your email – in case someone wants to contact you about reading your script

That’s it. Nothing else.

Two very important details to keep in mind:

DO NOT SEND THE SCRIPT!

Just the info listed above.

-and-

ONE SCRIPT PER PERSON. Sorry. No exceptions.

If you’ve submitted to the Showcase before, you’re more than welcome to send the same script, but we do encourage giving your new stuff a chance to shine.

Submissions will be accepted until Thursday 28 Oct, so don’t delay and send it today!

Q & A with Hudson Phillips of ScriptBlast

Hudson Phillips is a writer and producer from Atlanta, GA. He’s also the founder of ScriptBlast, an online community to help screenwriters navigate the emotional ups and downs of the writing journey, and host of the ScriptBlast Screenwriting Podcast.

What was the last thing you read or watched you considered exceptionally well-written?

The short story collection STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS by Ted Chiang is jaw-droppingly good. I don’t think I’ve ever read a short story collection where every single story is perfect. Each one is weird and memorable and moving and smart and tackles some big gigantic idea. I’ve also really enjoyed the Zoey Ashe series (FUTURISTIC VIOLENCE AND FANCY SUITS and ZOEY PUNCHES THE FUTURE IN THE DICK) by David Wong. Both are laugh-out loud funny with incredibly memorable characters in one of my favorite grounded science fiction worlds. 

Movie-wise, NOBODY was a surprisingly fresh take on the action hero. I could use the same line to describe SHADOW IN THE CLOUD, another film that shook up traditional action films. 

TV-wise, the first season of KILLING EVE really blew me away. I can’t think of a TV show that surprised me as much as that. 

How’d you get your start in the industry?

It is a very long, very winding road that has taken me here, where I still feel like I’m just getting started! I’d always been writing, but in my mid-20s I started taking it more seriously after a music career fizzled out. I ended up writing comedy scripts with two buddies of mine and the second script we wrote together (a sports comedy about church league softball) ended up getting optioned by Lionsgate films (thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend).

For a split-second we were “local celebrities” on radio and in the newspaper and then everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The writers strike happened, pushing it back a few years. Lionsgate changed out leadership and dropped the film. A local production company picked it up and made it, but completely threw our script out. I don’t think a single word of ours ended up on screen (I still haven’t seen it). So a quick high and low right out the gate. My two writing partners both gave up after a couple new scripts went nowhere, so I broke out on my own.

The problem with having writing partners is when you start writing on your own it’s like starting fresh all over again. So I leaned into the movies I loved the most – crazy sci-fi fantasy action adventure stuff – and started to write that. I’d write a script, send it out to connections in Hollywood, no one would be interested, and I’d write another one. I’d get occasional bites from a contest or the Black List, but nothing ever gained traction. I think in large part because I was a single dad to a young kid, so I couldn’t move out to L.A.

Pro tip: it’s SO much harder to make it in this industry if you’re not in the city where it all goes down. It was during this time of rejection after rejection that I started ScriptBlast as an online haven for writers to connect, talk about their struggles in a safe space, and find encouragement and inspiration. 

Being stuck in Atlanta, I leaned into what the city had to offer, which was great filmmaking talent and started making short films. This was a great way to get to know local actors and crew, and we started pulling together our little “collective” of talent until eventually, in 2017, we shot our first feature film, THIS WORLD ALONE. It’s a post-apocalyptic drama / thriller about three women attempting to survive in a world without technology or power. And after a very long 4-year journey (with a year-long pause for COVID), the film was finally released in May and is now available wherever you rent or buy movies online. 

THIS WORLD ALONE helped get my name out there enough and allowed me to make enough connections that I’ve since been hired to write a few other indie features. So while I’m not yet making a living at it, writing is bringing in a good second income right now. And I believe all these little seeds will eventually build momentum and add up to a career. Fingers crossed that 2021 is the year that it happens! 

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

It’s interesting that you say “recognizing good writing” and not “becoming a good writer.” I don’t think recognizing good writing is something that can be taught or learned. But I don’t look at good writing that way. Good writing is a feeling. Good writing is being whisked away to another world and laughing and crying and cheering and getting done and immediately wanting to go back. A technically excellent screenplay that checks all the screenwriting boxes is not necessarily “good writing.” 

But I also think most people can be taught to become good writers (some just might take more time than others). I’d put writers into three categories:

Writers who can recognize good writing and turn around and immediately write an excellent story. 

Writers who can recognize good writing but struggle to write an excellent story.

Writers who can’t recognize good writing and will therefore never write an excellent story.

The ones who can be taught are in that middle level but I think 90% of us are in that middle level. We know what a great story looks like but it takes a lot of time and work and practice and patience to create one ourselves. 

What do you consider the components of a good script?

Such a great question. there’ s probably an infinite list, but here’s the first three that popped in my head:

Set-up and payoff. This is the easiest way to make your script look smart. Just set up everything you payoff and payoff everything you set up. Need a great line for your finale? Go back to your first act and find one that’s applicable. Have an item that represents something in the beginning? Make sure you bring it back in the end. My first rewrite is always looking for these things. 

Emotional honesty. We’ve all seen the movies (usually starring Adam Sandler) where you get this pat life lesson at the end like “spend more time with family.” These kinds of lessons are ultimately forgettable because they aren’t honest. They are themes we’ve seen a million times before. The real honest emotions aren’t pat answers, they are deep questions. Mark Duplass decries this as “you know when you’re up at 2am with your best friend and you’ve had too much to drink and you talk about your biggest fears? That’s what you should write your movie about.” Give the audience an answer, and they’ll forget it right after they leave the theater. Present the audience with an honest and brave question, and they’ll keep thinking about it long after they’re done. 

Tension & release. If a screenplay is a wavelength, it should go up and down. It’s all about pacing. A script should rise and fall and feel natural. I think this is one of the toughest things to teach because it’s a “feeling”. Lean into whatever genre you have, if it’s a horror movie it should be a little scary, medium scary, really scary, and then give us a break. If it’s a comedy, it should be a little funny, medium funny, really funny, and then give us a break. 

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

Telling someone else’s story and not telling your own. So many writers just regurgitate their favorite movies and don’t have anything unique to say about the world. Audience members don’t care about the “what” of your story, they care about the “why.” If you’re just writing something because “it’s cool” or “it’ll sell”, the audience can see right through that. It goes back to the “emotional honesty’ thing above. It’s the old saying “write what you know” but that doesn’t mean write about your day job or your current boyfriend, it really means “write what you feel.” If you’re emotionally connected to your story, your audience will be too. 

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

Usually the things that make me roll my eyes have to do with masculinity on film. I get so bored with cold, stoic, masculine action heroes. I’m equally tired of female action heroes who feel like someone went into the script and just did a search to change “him” to “her.” And don’t get me started on shallow descriptions of women in scripts “nerdy but beautiful” or whatever. Like the two films I mentioned earlier – NOBODY and SHADOW IN THE CLOUD, these are films with warm, broken, interesting, action heroes who lean into their vulnerabilities as much as their strengths. 

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

Here’s kind of a checklist I try to run through for every scene I write:

GOAL: What does your protagonist want in this scene and how are they going to get it?

CONFLICT: What obstacles make it difficult for your protagonist to reach that goal?

CHOICE: What difficult choice will the character have to make as a result of the conflict? 

STAKES: What is hanging in the balance with each choice?

TWIST: What does this choice tell us about the character that we didn’t already know?

THEME: How does this choice push the character’s emotional journey forward?

CONNECTIVITY: Can the elements of this scene be set-up in a previous scene or lay the ground-work for future scenes? 

VISUALIZE: Is there a visual or item that can replace obvious dialogue or action? 

LESS: Is there a “perfect line” or action that could say it better than a long drawn-out scene?

VOICE: How can you rewrite it to be more “you”?

Have you ever read a script where you thought “This writer really gets it”? If so, what were the reasons why?

The screenplays that I love all make me feel something. They get an emotional response out of me, whether that be fear or laughing or crying or warm-heartedness. They are masters of set-up and payoff. They surprise me at every turn and never make the obvious choice, I can’t predict where the story will go. They ask big questions about the world. 

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

On their own, I think they’re worthless. I don’t know if I’d go as far as calling them scams. I think a lot of contests are well-intentioned, but it’s a model built on 99% of writers who enter paying money and getting nothing in return. That industry has created a lie that writers can write one screenplay, enter a contest, win, get an agent, and go write Hollywood films. This lie is why so many writers give up after their first script. It’s heart-breaking to me. 

Having said all that, I still enter them. Why? Because I think they do have merit when combined with other things. It’s all about stacking the deck. If you google the winners of these contests, you’ll usually find that they’ve written multiple screenplays, have already made some indie films or short films, maybe published in a different medium, might even already have representation. A contest on its own means nothing, but when you put a win on your writing resume alongside a dozen other things, it helps stack the deck. 

If you’re going to enter a contest, pick and choose carefully. First, only enter contests that actually give you something of value, whether that be notes or industry access. Secondly, don’t enter the big, giant contests where you’re competing against 10,000 other writers. Instead, find all the local film festivals that have screenwriting competitions, enter those and then attend those festivals! A strong connection with another filmmaker at a festival is worth a million times more than a laurel on your website. 

I always tell writers “don’t put your career in the hands of someone else.” Contests are relying on someone else’s validation of your work. That’s a very unhealthy way to live. Go make a short film. Go make your own $1000 feature. Attend festivals and meet people. Seek out local producers and directors and pitch them ideas until you connect on something and go make it. Make a narrative podcast or YouTube series. There are a million options to advance your career and I suggest you do all of them. 

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide? 

I’ve been doing ScriptBlast as a free service for about 5 years cause I always struggled with charging for anything that wasn’t actually helpful for writers. So I just launched a new online community in 2020 where we have weekly Zoom calls, tons of free resources and courses, accountability worksheets, share notes on each other’s scripts, etc. It’s blown my own productivity through the roof just being a part of it, and multiple writers have finished their screenplays as a result of being in the group. And it’s only $10/month. You can try it free for a week at Members.ScriptBlast.com.

I also do a podcast and provide other free resources (like online courses or one-on-one consultations) you can find at ScriptBlast.com. And if you’re interested in checking out THIS WORLD ALONE, it’s available on all digital platforms. You can learn more at ThisWorldAlone.com

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

It’s hard to beat a slice of hot apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But, if there is no heat source or ice cream, I might go with peanut butter pie.