Watch the May 2016 Winning Short Screenplay.
SCENARIO 957, by Amy E Jones
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Synopsis: Fighting against time and terrorists on an earth struggling to survive after a devastating energy crisis, young scientific genius James Kale must figure out how to launch the rocket destined to save mankind before it’s too late.
Get to know writer Amy E Jones:
1. What is your screenplay about?
It’s a post apocalyptic story about a future earth on the verge of environmental annihilation. A new technology makes faster-than-light travel possible, but uses the same element that caused the environmental crisis. This new engine will save the human race, but the human race doesn’t trust the scientists who invented it. Dr. Kale and his son, James, race against time and terrorists to launch the rocket that will make the colonization of other planets possible.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
Because it’s awesome sci-fi action! It has good dialogue, a cool ending, force fields, holograms, and a gunfight in the desert. And besides the action, it’s a nicely structured plot with smooth, seamless pacing that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
Hm, not sure about movies, but the television episode I have most definitely seen the most times is season 1, episode 9 of the Young Justice series, called ‘Bereft.’ It’s the most brilliant amnesia story I have ever seen and some of the best characterization work I have ever witnessed. And it’s a cartoon. The writer, Nicole Dubuc, is my hero. I highly recommend watching Young Justice on Netflix so that they can start producing season 3!
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
I first started writing it the fall of 2012, completely revamped the story structure and submitted it to a contest in 2013, and since then have continued to refine and polish the script for other contests, hoping to win enough money to produce it.
6. How many stories have you written?
Uh…let’s see…started two novels in college, wrote my first successful short story my junior year, wrote seven screenplays for film school, then I did 26 episodes for an animated web series, three feature films, an animated television spec and an original half hour pilot.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
I went through torture trying to write a short script for my Production 3 class at film school. Ultimately, I had to give up on the project after writing twenty drafts that didn’t work. I learned a lot from the experience, but it was very depressing. I confessed to a friend that I just wasn’t very good at writing short stories. He sent me a letter saying that if you can’t write a short story, then you will never be a professional writer. I completely disagree and I was so mad at him that I decided that I would write a deep, moving, tragic short story that would totally win all the awards because it was terribly depressing and edgy, like all the emotionally disturbing short films that win contests. I basically wrote this story to spite my friend, but I’m very happy with how it turned out. So HA! I can write short stories, too.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
In my first draft, the opening scene was completely different and I wrote James’s character voice didn’t work. I delved deeper into his character, writing him with several different personalities and it was like a miracle when I figured out his key point—his father was on that rocket. James would be determined to do everything in his power to make sure that the rocket launched successfully so that his father would make it back home. That was the first time I really felt like a character spoke to me, and that’s when James became the determined overachiever. My second challenge was figuring out how to reveal all the background information about this post-apocalyptic world without having a television reporter use an entire page of dialogue to explain it all. How do you reveal all of that information while making it exciting? The story finally hit its stride when I landed on the idea of using holographic simulations to frame the story. This would show that James was a total genius, introduce the main conflict, and also gave James really fun dialogue when he would refer to different scenarios as he struggled to take down the terrorist on the base. When you figure out the voices of the characters and then find the right framing device, that’s when your story starts to sing. I’m still convinced that the reason everyone loves Guardians of the Galaxy is because the whole story is framed around the songs on Starlord’s cassette tape. A brilliant move by director James Gunn that held the story together and really made it shine.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Books. Definitely books. I’ve been a bookworm my whole life and I’m such a sucker for eloquent, poetic writing. I highly recommend the Scorpio Races, Lament, and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater. Her writing is so rich, so beautiful, and so full of brilliant characterization that I want to cry. I hope I can write like her someday.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
Well, I’d entered a couple other contests and didn’t even make it past the first round, so when I saw that your contest automatically came with feedback, I was really excited. Most contests charge a high fee for commentary, so I was really happy to find this contest. The feedback was detailed and useful. I’m glad I discovered this contest.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Don’t be afraid to rip your old drafts apart and start over again. Novelist Orson Scott Card doesn’t revise his drafts, he scraps them completely and starts writing again from page one. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings, because most of the time, something better rises from the ashes. But also make sure you get a writing group so that they can tell you if you’re getting trigger happy and killing your darlings too often. Also, I highly recommend listening to writing podcasts like Writing Excuses and the Q&A by Jeff Goldsmith. It’s very heartening to listen to other writers explain how they struggled to write their stories and to hear how they solved their problems. (Here’s a link to one of my favorites, a full breakdown of the film The Dark Knight)
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson