ELVIS WILSON‘s dramedy script “Sink Swim” has advanced to the quarterfinals in the Atlanta Film Festival’s Screenplay Competition.
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Congratulations to the TSA’s IRISH JOHNSTON (writer/producer) and ELVIS WILSON (director/editor) whose short film “Mister Pickwick” won Best Horror Film at the Short and Sweet Film Festival in Price, Utah.
The seven-minute flick unravels when the uncle of a young niece resorts to telling her the ghost story of Mister Pickwick to scare her into going to bed. But strange sounds on deck lure the niece into the dark night where she mysteriously vanishes, perhaps lending some truth to the ghost story.
The film stars Andrew McGinnis and Hannah Ciubotaru.
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Congratulations to TSA President JEFFREY CHASE whose script, “The Penetration Expert”, has been named a quarterfinalist in the ISA Action/Adventure Genre Busting Screenplay Competition!
G. ROBERT FRAZIER‘s TV comedy pilot “Bill Fisher’s Trading Post” has advanced to the semifinals of the ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Competition. It is one of 33 scripts still in the hunt for the top prize. The same script also finished as a quarterfinalist in the Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards for its Fall 2021 contest. His short script “Skin” is a quarterfinalist in the Filmmatic Horror Screenplay Awards – Season Six.
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Don’t see your script on this list? Email us at email@example.com to list your 2022 screenwriting successes.
The Tennessee Screenwriting Association was honored to host Cat Stewart, Screenplay Awards Manager for the Nashville Film Festival, at its May 13 Zoom meeting. In her second year heading up the competition, Stewart offered a wide range of advice, do’s and don’ts about writing screenplays for the competition as well as for Hollywood.
Below are some of the highlights from her talk:
Reasons to Enter a Contest
Just to be read
Just for fun
To win prizes
To launch a career
Common Mistakes Writers Make
Majority of scripts fail on premise or don’t have a commercial concept
First act has nothing to do with the rest of the screenplay
Protagonist is unclear or there is no journey for the main character
Nothing significant happens at the midpoint to raise the stakes or provide a twist
Too many pilots fail to hook an audience in the first few pages
Premises that have no logic
First page keys
Make me want to keep reading
Genre needs to be clear
Don’t open with a flashback
Re: Flashbacks/voice overs – “If it works, it works. As long as it adds to the story, it’s OK.”
Keep in mind cost of the screenplay.
“Emotion is the most important thing on the page. Make me laugh, make me cry, scare the crap out of me. Emotion is the number one thing that sells a script.”
Re: Grammar/spelling – “If it’s a great script, I don’t freak out about it. We’ll get it fixed.”
“Don’t write in 47 genres. No one wants to rep someone who’s writing everything.”
Hour and half-hour pilots are where things are selling.
Don’t chase the market. “It’ll turn on a dime.”
“If you’ve not have a lot of luck or are kind of stagnant with your scripts, volunteer to be a reader. You’ll start finding something you do yourself. I highly recommend being a reader to anyone who wants to educate yourself.”
Read, study, break down films. Write! Write! Write!
“Last year we had an incredible number of diverse scripts.”
“Scripts that have diverse people that are written by diverse people are generally better than scripts written by non-diverse people. It’s not always the case, but if you’re writing about African-Americans and you’re a white man, it doesn’t come off the same way as it does if it’s an African-American writing about African-Americans.”
“I think it has to make a difference if the characters are diverse. There should be a reason for them to be in there or don’t write anything about what race they are and let the best actor get that role.”
On Covid-19’s impact
“Don’t write a coronavirus script. Hollywood doesn’t want them. If they do, an established writer is going to write it.”
Hollywood is looking for lighter stuff in the current climate.
Use fewer locations and background actors, but there’s opportunity for cgi
More Zoom writers rooms. “That might open up more opportunities for people who aren’t in LA.”
“Screenwriting is hard. Just be aware, it’s a long, long, long game. As long as you stay at it and you have a solid idea for a script, you might get there.”
“As far as a logline goes, what you really want to do is get a request to read your script.”
“A good film is a simple story well told. Complexity isn’t about the story, it’s about the character and how they deal with it.”
“If I’m absorbed in the story, I don’t care what genre I’m in.”
Past TSA President James Wilson Montgomery passed away Monday, March 9, after a year-long, brave fight with cancer.
Wilson began in entertainment as a standup comedian and actor. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with degree in Speech and Theater. He attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and was awarded the honor of being in the third year production ensemble. He has acted Off-Off Broadway in New York and done a number of commercials and a children’s TV series, including Mr. Henry’s Wild and Wacky World.
Parenthood (the lifestyle, not the movie or TV series) lead Wilson to Nashville, where he is survived by his daughters, Hope and Rachel, grandsons, Christian and Vinny, his mother June, father John (Gale), sister Jill Dempsey (Ed), and his brother, Lee, several aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
He grew up in Knoxville, graduated from Bearden High School in 1981, received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from University of Tennessee, and completed an acting program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles, in 1989. Wilson loved the theater, acting & writing. He performed in several local theater productions before moving to Nashville, where he had a successful construction business.
He served as president of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association for two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019.
Memorial contributions can be made to Alive Hospice, 1718 Patterson Street, Nashville TN 37203 or Middle TN Al-Anon, 176 Thompson Lane, Suite G-3, Nashville TN 37211.
Friends can leave memorial messages, send cards, or flowers via this link:
It’s time once again to let your best scares out. TSA members are invited to share their spookiest short scripts at our Oct. 30 Halloween meeting. Scripts can be up to five pages and must be a complete story. Bring them in and hear them read aloud before the group. We dare you to scare us!
Note:Anyone can attend our meetings, but you must be a TSA member in good standing to have your script read. Click here to join TSA.
The Hole Truth, a short film penned by Tennessee Screenwriting Association member Irish Johnston, will be shown at the 50th anniversary edition of the Nashville Film Festival during the first weekend in October. We asked Irish to share her story about herself, the script, and the process of seeing the film come together.
TSA:Tell us about yourself (where you are from, how you ended up in Nashville, etc.,) and how you became interested in writing, specifically writing for film.
IRISH: I was born in Nashville, but spent a significant part of my childhood in New York City. My father is a writer, so I grew up surrounded by creativity and odd working hours. I initially was introduced to the film industry through acting, which took me out to Los Angeles for a few years. I quickly realized that I had an appetite for all aspects of film making, in front of the camera, behind the camera, and eventually creating content. I think my acting background has influenced my writing style to pay attention to the characters. I have taken several classes on screenplay writing, including at Watkins and online, and attend the TSA meetings as often as I can.
TSA:What is The Hole Truth about?
IRISH: The Hole Truth is a dark comedic short film about a suicidal woman’s disappointment in the shallowness of human beings. In this exaggerated world, the main character, Suzanna (Sprague Grayden), finds herself in a new job where she gains access to hear strangers’ heartfelt confessions. Her initial excitement quickly fades into despair as the confessions border between shallow and absurd. As she plans her exit strategy, she discovers a magical hole that leads to an unexpected real connection.
TSA:What inspired you to write The Hole Truth?
IRISH: The initial idea came from an article about a terrific, and real, project called Story Corp. Which I am sure is not shallow at all. But I started thinking about what if the audio capsules left in the Story Corp files, for generations to listen to, were actually really disappointing to hear. Add that to what feels to me like a current social climate lacking in real human connection, and voila. Dark comedy.
TSA:Tell us about the writing process for The Hole Truth. How long did it take from idea to finished script? What were some of the lessons made, mistakes learned along the way?
IRISH: The actual writing of it took about a week. But the ideas were marinating for a while before that. The main character, Suzanna, has a very strong, sort of judgmental, perspective to me, and she was a lot of fun to write. I decided to have a Narrator (Katherine Morgan) help move the story along, which was a more playful voice to write. Getting to watch this screenplay go from the page to the screen, has been super informative. I hope the lessons learned will translate into my future projects.
TSA:Your script won Best Short Screenplay at the Sun Valley Film Festival in Ketchum, Idaho, which in turn led to initial funding for the film. Tell us about that experience.
IRISH: That whole experience was crazy fun. I absolutely adore the Sun Valley Film Festival and how much they appreciate and support writers. From beginning to end they made me feel very special, and that is so hard to come by in this industry. Winning felt a little surreal, and completely unexpected. And then, honestly, I had a feeling like I wasn’t winning necessarily, but rather being given this huge daunting task of producing and making a film, which I didn’t feel ready for. But the SVFF surrounded me with a lot of talented people to help navigate through that. And I made some terrific friends along the way.
TSA:The Hole Truth had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $30,000. How did the Kickstarter come about and what do you think made it so effective?
IRISH: My co-producer out of Boise, Karen Toronjo, suggested Kickstarter, so we just jumped in and figured out how to do it. We were lucky to have a lot of friends and family who were excited and wanted to support the project.
TSA:The film was ultimately shot in Boise, Idaho. Were you on set for the shoot? What was that like?
IRISH: Yes, I was on set for the shoot, no way I would miss that. I love watching films get made. There is something so special about seeing that process for me. But at that point I was more in the producer role not the writer role. I had handed over the story to the director, Russell Friedenberg, and felt very confident in the choices he would make. I am a collaborator at heart, and love to see what happens when several people’s creative visions merge together.
TSA:Tell us about the folks who partnered with you (director, producer, actors) who helped make the film a reality.
IRISH: It started with my co-producer Karen. Who introduced me to Russell, the director. He brought in the cinematographer, Gregory Bayne, a true talent. They all knew each other from other projects, so there was already some chemistry there. Russ and I cast it, finding Sprague, and Phil Burke (Russ had worked with him before). Then, I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to cast and use a cinematographer from Nashville, Mark Ramey, to do some cut away “confession” shots we weren’t able to get in Boise. We also recorded Katherine’s narration here in town.
TSA:The script was also one of three finalists in the 2018 Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. And now, the film itself is going to be show at NaFF 2019. How does that make you feel?
IRISH: Feels great. Nashville has a talented and supportive film community. We are lucky to be in a city that values writers and creativity. And now, to have The Hole Truth screening in the festival, makes me very proud.
TSA:How has the TSA helped you and your writing?
IRISH: I love the TSA meetings. I cannot get enough of the core structural questions, “What does your main character want?” “What obstacles does he or she have?” It is mystifying how I can never hear those questions enough, and how often I lose track of them while writing. Writing can feel very solitary, and TSA offers a supportive space where you don’t feel alone.
TSA:What’s next for you?
IRISH: I have several short screenplays submitted to festivals and competitions. One, which was workshopped in the TSA meetings, has won an award, and I am considering producing it. I am also working on a feature that I have brought pages into TSA for feedback.
For more information about The Hole Truth, visit their Facebook page.
The Hole Truth, a short film written by the TSA’s own Irish Johnston,screens at the Nashville Film Festival at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, in the Tennessee Shorts Block. A second screening is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10.
Irish began as an actress in Los Angeles and Nashville. She currently spends most of her time writing screenplays, three of which have been finalists or won awards: Redhanded, Scents, and The Hole Truth, in several film festival competitions.
Being a native Nashvillian, with a piano, she has finally surrendered to the siren call of songwriting as well. She loves every aspect of the film industry, from writing and composing, to acting; to her latest challenge, producing.
Screenings will be shown at Regal Hollywood Theaters, 719 Thompson Lane, Nashville, near 100 Oaks Mall. For tickets or more information about the film festival, visit https://nashvillefilmfestival.org