Our Ian Kennedy was lucky enough to share a table for an evening with Steven Knight, the writer of SERENITY, PEAKY BLINDERS, TABOO, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, LOCKE, and much more…
Steven Knight says that we’re entering a golden age of TV and film. He explained that the US system is great for writers – it’s unionized and you can make a proper living just from writing. He actually felt that there seems to be a good mystery to you if you DON’T live in LA, as long as you’re prepared to fly out every 6 weeks and do late-night conference calls.
But he explained that the Hollywood system is slow! It takes many years of gestation most of the time. If you persuade a star to be in your project, the studios know they’ll make back a certain many million dollars from it – his film HUMMINGBIRD (with Jason Statham) was in profit before it even got to the cinema. He felt that distributors often underestimate their audience and focus on young males.
Screens are better nowadays so TV drama has risen a lot. Actors like TV and it’s a writer’s medium – writers have control there, unlike other formats. Too many people are involved in making films, telling you something’s not good enough in order to justify their presence and pay. But getting actors to commit beyond series 1 of your TV series is hard because they may get film offers.
Show runners write episode 1 in the US and their team of writers – who’ve developed it with them – do other episodes. Writers rise up through the ranks in the US. British TV writing is more eccentric and individualistic – the US system is more corporate. Theatre writers are good for TV due to their ability with dialogue and are often overlooked.
Steven Knight explained that he had begun his career in the UK by writing plenty for radio, and for comedians including particularly Jasper Carrott, and writing 31 episodes of Carrott’s sitcom with Robert Powell, THE DETECTIVES. Steven was one of the 3 founders of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE. He also wrote novels for Penguin, and presented DIRTY PRETTY THINGS to the BBC which led to that commission.
Then came AMAZING GRACE, for the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade, and EASTERN PROMISES which led from DIRTY PRETTY THINGS. The award nominations that came as a result of these put him into the US system, which he found to be great for writers. He got to direct HUMMINGBIRD which he had also written, and after that wanted to get total control of a project – and he feels that LOCKE vindicated him becoming a director.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our conversation with Steven Knight, in which he discusses the influences behind PEAKY BLINDERS, his writing process, and his plans for the future…
It’s time to introduce the cream of the crop from our Spring 2018 Contest! Landing in third place is an exceptional screenplay, a topical mystery-thriller set in Greece: FIRE ON THE ISLAND by Timothy Jay Smith!
Congratulations to Timothy, who also won our award for Best Indie Script and is a former Grand Prize Winner from 2010! His prizes include a year of script and pitching development worth $3200, previews of our Virtual Film School, exclusive prizes from InkTip, and more!
Here’s the logline for FIRE ON THE ISLAND:
When an arsonist threatens an important Coast Guard station on a Greek island, the FBI agent stationed in Athens arrives to investigate, finds himself immersed in a community rife with conflict, and falls in love with his chief suspect.
And Timothy’s summary of his script:
An arsonist threatens to burn down a Greek island village by blowing up a fuel tank in its harbor. Alarmed by the possible disruption of the local Coast Guard’s vital operations in rescuing refugees, Nick Damigos, the FBI Agent posted to Athens, arrives to investigate.
The arsonist has struck eleven times in as many months, each fire coming closer to tiny Vourvoulos, and each followed by a mysterious poison pen letter. The last one makes it clear: the arsonist plans to strike within days. With no clues, Nick searches for a motive that would drive someone to such a destructive act. He discovers a village embroiled in conflicts, some dating back generations, and uncovers earlier crimes—all casting a wide net of suspicion.
Gradually the mystery is revealed through the interwoven stories of a struggling restaurant owner and her feminist teenage daughter, a seductive widow and lovelorn waiter, a scurrilous priest and patrician mayor, and a host of colorful characters who paint a portrait—both humorous and soulful—of Greece where the past mingles with the present. While sorting it out, Nick’s life is threatened, and he falls in love with a young waiter who becomes his chief suspect.
Plus a biography of Timothy himself:
Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that’s seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.
Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel, and his screenplay adaptation of it was named Best Indie Script by WriteMovies. Another novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, will be published in spring 2019 by Skyhorse Publishing. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012.
Tim was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.
Timothy’s latest book, The Fourth Courier is now available for pre-order on Amazon – click here!
Our International Screenwriting Contest isn’t just for full length screenplays – we accept short scripts as well! In our Spring 2018 Contest, the winner of Best Short Script also made it all the way to the semi-finals: ROLL WITH IT by Rosie Byrnes!
As most of our readers know, writing a screenplay is tough work that takes diligence, planning, and a whole lot of hours spent typing. It might seem like writing a short script is easier, but it brings with it an entire set of challenges you won’t find elsewhere. Imagine trying to cram a 120 page story into 10 pages and you’ll see how difficult it is!
Congratulations to Rosie for winning in this category; her script charmed us with its rich story, likeable characters, and colorful concepts. She now receives a copy of our Confidential Studio Manual and exclusive previews of our Virtual Film School as her prizes, plus a set of Development Notes to give her professional feedback on her work.
Read on to find out more about this short script which captured our hearts: ROLL WITH IT!
Here’s Rosie’s summary of her script…
“Max is the king of the roller disco, and he knows it—that is, until the spunky (and far more admirable) Lucy arrives at the rink. His crown threatened, Max challenges her to the ultimate dance-off. But he’s in over his head, and finds that he’s head over heels for the gal who knows what it means to be groovy.”
And a short biography of Rosie, too…
“Rosie Byrnes is a writer, a second grade teacher, and a notorious ice cream lover. Originally from Colorado but currently residing in Tainan City, Taiwan, Rosie has spent most of her life writing outlandish stories. Only after following her crush into a college screenwriting class did she realize that, hey, it’s actually pretty neat. Her most recent passion project is a feature-length screenplay about Bigfoot (who’s a big softie, deep down), and she currently holds the “Worst Female Bowler” title in her hometown’s championship.
Rosie can be found on Twitter via the username @rosiebwrites.”
Rosie has won previews of the WriteMovies Academy, and Phase 1 opens on September 15th – join now to take your work to take your screenwriting and production skills to the next level!
We are delighted to announce the winners of our Spring 2018 Screenwriting Contest!
We’ve read many fantastic scripts over the last few months, but at long last, our Spring 2018 Contest comes to a close. In every genre and in every format, there have been many scripts that shone – but we’ve finally managed to decide on our winners!
A massive thanks to everyone who entered, and who gave us so much great material to read! If you want to find out why your script placed where it did in our competition, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of our Script Report services – which are currently on special offer until 31st August 2018!
Our Grand Prize Winner walks away with:
- $2000 cash prize
- A year of script and pitching development worth $3200
- Exclusive previews of our Virtual Film School and a copy of our Confidential Studio Manual
And the top three submissions all receive:
- Guaranteed pitching and promotion to the top of the film industry
- Exclusive prizes from InkTip – an InkTip Script Listing and the winning scripts’ loglines will be featured in InkTip’s Magazine, read by thousands of writers and producers.
So, a huge congratulations to our GRAND PRIZE WINNER:
A great win for Christopher, and a thrilling script with strongly voiced characters. Christopher now takes home those wonderful prizes listed above.
But we must also congratulate our SECOND PLACED WINNER:
And our THIRD PLACED WINNER:
FIRE ON THE ISLAND
Timothy Jay Smith
A round of applause also for our Honorable Mentions: BLUT WIRD FLIEßEN by Urs Aebersold, LOVERS IN PARIS by Andy Conway, THE CRACK IN PEGGY SUE’S FLOOR by John Woodard, THE UNDERTAKER’S CHILDREN by Natasha Le Petit, THE ELECTRIC WAR by Arthur Tiersky, and HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED: I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, ESE by Manny Jimenez Sr.
A very well done to everyone named here and the many other impressive scripts we read this time around. It’s been a tough field to choose from! See the results in full below.
We’ll be telling you all about our winners in the coming weeks, and getting their script development phase underway.
Head to our Facebook page and our Twitter feed to congratulate our top three winners and Honorable Mentions yourself!
Here are the Spring 2018 Screenwriting Contest Winners and Honorable Mentions…
||GRAND PRIZE WINNER
by Christopher Thomas
by Thomas Zmiarovich
||FIRE ON THE ISLAND
by Timothy Jay Smith
|BLUT WIRD FLIEßEN
by Urs Aebersold
|LOVERS IN PARIS
by Andy Conway
|THE ELECTRIC WAR
by Arthur Tiersky
|THE UNDERTAKER’S CHILDREN
by Natasha Le Petit
|HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED:
I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, ESE
by Manny Jimenez Sr
|THE CRACK IN PEGGY SUE’S FLOOR
by John Woodard
We’re delighted to be announcing the winners of two more awards from our Spring 2018 Contest: Best Long and Short Form Pilots! These are both demanding categories, requiring a writer to tell a condense their story down to a small number of pages. In addition, any pilot episode needs to both tell a complete story and be the first instalment of a larger, overarching plot – meaning that these scripts have to pull double duty to achieve their goals!