The WriteMovies Horror Award 2019 was hotly contested, but one script shone and came through to take the prize: MONGER by David Axe!
MONGER got our attention straight away with a unique concept and setup. The plot and the monster that haunts the protagonists both feel fresh, and with well-rounded characters we quickly came to care about, the suspense was high throughout. Congratulations to the writer of MONGER and the first ever winner of the WriteMovies Horror Award, David Axe!
As the WriteMovies Horror Award 2019 winner, David has won guaranteed pitching to industry, two sets of Development Notes, and further advice on honing his script from our screenwriting experts. He’s also still in contention for our Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest; Quarter-Finalists will be announced on Friday November 15th!
Here’s a summary of MONGER:
Two ex-U.S. Army soldiers, both veterans of brutal combat in Afghanistan, hike into the American wilderness to take some drugs, drink some bourbon and get right with themselves and the universe. But something follows them… and it has other plans.
MONGER is an austere, character-driven horror movie about war, love, friendship, trauma, guilt and self-forgiveness. And monsters.
If you’re a producer interested in this project, email firstname.lastname@example.org today!
And here’s a quick bio of the writer of MONGER, David Axe:
MONGER writer David Axe is a filmmaker and journalist living in Columbia, South Carolina. The author of several graphic novels, he also wrote the 2017 indie thriller THE THETA GIRL and has written and directed several short and feature films including SHED (2019) and LECTION (2020).
Winning an Academy Award for Best Screenplay has been one of the highest honors for writers since 1940. For nearly 80 years, the best and brightest screenwriters have been recognized by the Academy for their craft. And with Oscar season coming up, it’s time to recognize the screenplays that have moved (and will move) audiences, critics, and film festival crowds so far.
Guest writer Sophie Evans takes a look at seven films that at this early stage look to be likely Best Screenplay nominees, either in the “Original” or “Adapted” category. Any aspiring writer, or anyone merely interested in the craft of screenwriting, should make it a priority to see these movies!
A movie about strippers, starring Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B, may not seem to be your typical Oscar bait. That being said, HUSTLERS, based on a real story, is actually riveting and immensely entertaining. And with regard to the Academy, it would actually make perfect sense in the ongoing era of the #MeToo movement to see a film about women’s empowerment being recognized. Lorene Scafaria’s script is whip sharp anyway, and could actually be a dark-horse contender in the Adapted category.
THE LIGHTHOUSE, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, is in short a gothic horror movie. The artistic black-and-white film, written by THE WITCH‘s Robert Eggers, is said to take audiences on an unsettling yet gripping journey. The writing is supposed to be somewhat breathtaking, and from the look of the film this could be a lesson in how to make a lot happen on screen with minimal characters or setting changes.
Shia LaBeouf’s semi-autobiographical film, HONEY BOY, comes out in November, but is already earning critical acclaim (as is LaBeouf’s other big 2019 project, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON). In the film, the former Disney Channel star details his rise to fame, his relationship with his father, and his legal troubles, all with what looks to be brutal honesty. It would be odd to see LaBeouf recognized at the Oscars for writing, but for all the odd twists and turns of his career, there’s always been evidence of brilliance.
Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY takes a painful but honest look at the end of a relationship. Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are said to do brilliant acting, but it’s the storytelling that’s becoming the story with this one as it speeds through the festival circuit. In fact, of all the films listed here, this may be the one to watch for various big awards. America’s online sportsbooks will soon drift away from their primary focus to start projecting the Oscar races, and we expect to see MARRIAGE STORY with some of the strongest betting odds in numerous categories – including Best Original Screenplay.
At the surface level, BOOKSMART seems to be a genderbent version of the legendary low-budget comedy SUPERBAD (right down to the fact that it stars Jonah Hill’s sister, Beanie Feldstein). However, it’s much more than a raunchy teen comedy. The film is already being considered as a coming-of-age classic. It gracefully mediates between outlandish humor and the poignancy of growing up. Not many films can say the same, at least to this degree.
JOJO RABBIT has a very good chance of taking home the Best Adapted Screenplay award, from what we’re hearing out of film festivals. Taika Waititi adapted the script from Christine Leunens’s novel CAGING SKIE. The movie, distributed by Disney, details the life of a child living in Nazi Germany with unexpected warmth and wit.
It actually looks somewhat unsettling, given that the still and trailers showcase people in Nazi attire smiling and having fun – but we’re keeping an open mind, and if anything the script could provide an example of how to make a delightful story out of unlikely subject matter.
While Jordan Peele’s US isn’t quite as popular as his Academy Award-winning film GET OUT was, it still has plenty of merit. The story is gripping, the turns of events are completely unexpected, and it’s both genuinely terrifying and, at times, uncomfortably funny. Peele has some clout following GET OUT, so a nomination here wouldn’t be too surprising, even if it might not have terrific odds.
There’s some fascinating news coming about the August 2019 script sales according to the latest report by Script Pipeline – not least the return to a very famous virtual world.
With films from Marvel, Star Wars, and other big franchises dominating the box office these days, a lot of screenwriters are left wanting to write big budget films. You have to spend money to make money, right?
Well actually, a lot of the time it’s the budget that will stop a script getting produced. Making a film is a risk that requires an investment; the smaller the risk, the more likely it is that your script will get made.
If you can get the budget down to $5 million or less, you’ll have a lot more success selling your work. But how do you get a budget that low? A lot of the time it comes from the inherent design of the story.
Here are our tips…
- Limit yourself to one location – preferably a simple, interior one. Transport costs between locations are no longer a factor, and filming should take less time without the need to repeatedly set up equipment. If it sounds like a challenge to write a single location movie, just remember that limiting yourself can really make you get creative. 12 ANGRY MEN, Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE, and LOCKE are just a few examples!
- Have a small cast. Fewer actors means fewer people to pay and cater for; you can still tell a great story with only two or three characters as long as you’ve got a clever enough concept driving the drama. Get clever enough and you can even go smaller! Locke features only one character on screen for the entire film as he deals with a number of difficult phone calls.
- Let dialogue drive the story. Action is an inherently expensive thing to shoot and there’s a lot of risk involved – but tension isn’t fuelled by things blowing up, a fact which is proved by all of the films mentioned above. Instead, it’s the conflict between the characters that provides the drama. Get that concept right and you can make a thriller without needing to shoot anyone!
- Don’t show everything. If action is important to your script and can’t be completely cut, think about whether the audience actually needs to see it to understand the story. A great example of this is RESERVOIR DOGS, a film about a diamond heist gone wrong where we never see the heist itself, just the buildup and the aftermath!
- Focus on the human drama. Big fans of science-fiction and fantasy may feel that the above suggestions leave them hamstrung, but by concentrating on the characters at the centre of the story, you can keep the scale small despite an intergalactic setting. MOON does this extremely effectively; it might be set on a lunar base, but it’s the main character’s personal crisis that matters most.
So if you’re looking for your big break in screenwriting, don’t forget to take all of these factors into consideration. Here at WriteMovies, we think about this kind of stuff when judging our screenwriting contests – and producers think about it a lot, too!
If you think you’ve got a good shot at winning one of our contests, the Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest is currently open – as is our inaugural Horror Award 2019, which gives you free entry to the Fall Contest when you submit. Don’t forget to submit before the closing dates of October 13th and September 29th respectively!
A terminally ill detective’s partner is brutally murdered and police brass rule against her working the case… With less than two months to live, there’s only LENA’S RULES.
Script Pipeline’s report of July 2019 script sales shows that horror and thriller films are proving popular at the moment, demonstrating a big interest in the genre from the industry right now! Here’s our pick of the report…
To say that book adaptations are popular would be an understatement. Stephen King received no fewer than four in 2017 alone, and has the same set for this year (although only PET SEMATARY has so far seen a release). But what’s the best way to write an adaptation?
There are a few key things if you want to write an adaptation. The first is the big difference in length between a book and a screenplay! The average novel is approximately 90,000 words (with something like WAR AND PEACE getting up over 580,000!), but the average screenplay is only about 15,000.
That means a lot of words need to get cut! A lot of things won’t make it from the book into your screenplay, so don’t try to include everything. But how do you know what to leave in and what to take out?
Here are our tips…
- Identify the central drama and themes, and use them as a signpost. If there’s a scene, subplot, or character that doesn’t add to the central drama, you don’t need it!
- Think about the roles that the different characters serve: what their purpose is in the story. Can any of those characters be combined into one? A screenplay can easily feel cluttered with characters who aren’t needed, so try rolling them into one.
- Look for the key points in the story, like the inciting incident and the turning points between the acts. These moments are absolutely vital; you should look to map them directly into your script and work from there.
- Don’t try to copy and paste the dialogue – it (probably) won’t work! The dialogue in a novel is meant to be read in our heads, but the dialogue in a screenplay is designed to be spoken out loud. That means it will usually need to be rewritten.
- Film is a visual medium – use that to your advantage! Where a novel may need many pages of description or inner monologues to convey a concept or thought, a script can do the same thing with a quick visual clue. Your audience should be able to see what is happening, so they don’t need it explained to them!
There are plenty of other things to think about if you want to write an adaptation, but we’d suggest this is where you start. Novels and screenplays are very different mediums – and that is a fact that shouldn’t be forgotten!
One other thing before you start writing: make sure you pick your project carefully. Some novels rely very heavily on interior thought and description to tell their stories, and won’t translate well to film which (as mentioned above!) is primarily visual.
And above all else, make sure you love the book you’re turning into a script! There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a project before starting to regret it.
Already finished your script, adaptation or otherwise? Think you’ve got what it takes to impress us? The WriteMovies Fall 2019 Screenwriting Competition is now open for submissions – click here to find out more and enter today!