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Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Thing That Wasn’t filmed as Darkness (Mrak) - post author Don

The Thing That Wasn’t (12 pages in pdf format) by Chris Shamburger (sham) has been filmed as Darkness (Mrak)

A babysitter discovers the real reason children should be scared of their bedroom closets.

Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Face in the Crowd – Short Script Review (Optioned!) - post author The Merrows


A Face in the Crowd — Review

An analyst at an intelligence agency is horrified when his subject starts to follow him…

Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep.” – Stephen Stills, For What It’s Worth

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22.

There’s plenty to be paranoid about these days, isn’t there? Drones watching us from above, the IRS targeting us, NSA listening to us. But what if you are the NSA? Nothing for you to worry about, right?

Or is there?

In the eerie psycho-sci-fi screenplay A Face in the Crowd, writer Anthony Cawood tells the tale of Derin, a 26-year-old analyst for the NSA who abruptly finds the paranoia tables turned.

As Derin runs a face-recognition program on his PC to analyze photographs of a riot, a man in one of the shots turns and looks out through the computer screen into Derin’s office. A short time later, Derin discovers the man has disappeared from the photo completely.

Time to be paranoid? (Did I mention it’s a still photograph?)

From that moment on, Derin has a series of real-world encounters with the mysterious man. Or at least it seems. A reflection here, a shadowy glimpse there… but are they real? Or just a figment of Derin’s panicked imagination? Or – perhaps – some strange blend of the two? Because, as Aldous Huxley once said, “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.

Derin is stuck in between… but not for long.

A Face in the Crowd is an enjoyable, chilling read. And – given privacy concerns of the day – quite timely as well.

About the writer: Anthony Cawood is an aspiring screenwriter from the UK with a number of scripts in various stages of production, two of which have just wrapped shooting. His script, A Certain Romance, recently won in the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (short script category). You can find out more at

Pages: 7

Budget: Moderate. A handful of locations, including a high-tech office, a CCTV monitoring room, a car park, a supermarket, a cafe, and Derin’s home. Five actors with speaking parts, plus lots of extras. Some FX, but nothing unreasonable.

About the reviewer: Scott Merrow co-writes screenplays with his wife Paula. Since 2006, they’ve written over 50 short screenplays, several of which have been produced. They tend toward family-friendly scripts, but they’ve written a little bit of everything: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy… the whole nine yards.





All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

And THIS is what happens to Veteran Writers… (PJ McNeill in the Trenches) - post author P. J. McNeill

…they end up working on scripts – not to mention juggling a complicated home move.

Due to a looming deadline, P.J. regrets to inform STS’s faithful that he’ll be on vacation for a month – coming up for air on August 15th.  Until then, we promise to keep you fed with a bonus script review on Fridays  So make sure to tune in, anyway!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Give Me Shelter – Short Script Review (Optioned and in Production!) - post author KP Mackie


Give Me Shelter

“Divorcees Moira and James attempt survival in the wake of an apocalyptic event. From a bomb shelter deep beneath the Earth, they must find peace between themselves before facing the new, chaotic world above.”

 The daily grind. Navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic, finding a seat on the subway, racing to class, transporting kids to school. There are appointments to keep, errands to run, never-ending housework, and a flow of constant bills to pay. Ah yes; the Responsibilities of Life. Your list may vary; but it stares you in the face everyday. Insurmountable… at least without that morning Starbucks.

For a few moments, though, imagine that everything you do — that routine you rely on so intimately — is gone. In a puff of smoke. The blink of an eye. Your daily life; obliterated. All that planning and plodding, blown clear out the window. And worst of all – no Starbucks!

As Douglas Adams was fond of saying, Try Not to Panic…

Even though your life has been shattered to bits.

In Rod Thompson’s drama, Give Me Shelter, 30 something Moira and James hole up in a small bomb shelter, having barely escaped the total destruction of their house, their neighborhood, and all their friends.

The bunker contains two small cots. A single light bulb dangles overhead. Some couples might find it romantic. But Moira and James are recently divorced. Not that divorce is the end of the world. Although, perhaps, in this case it is…

Because something HUGE is wreaking havoc above ground.

The couple huddle in darkness, hoping to escape attention. James attempts to calm a hysterical Moira – and promises her they’ll be safe. Though he can’t quite convince himself.

Apocalyptic events in a contained location; that alone is enough to sell a script. Yet, Moira and James’ relationship is what truly makes GMS shine – featuring terrific lines such as these:

James (singing to distract Moira from her fears): Sorry. Old habits.

Moira: No. Keep going. You may have been a shitty husband, but you were always a good singer.

James: By the sound of things up there, I may be the last singer before this day is over…

Confronting annihilation is no vacation from the daily grind. But it can really put things in perspective. Past the panic and the urgency – the dialogue in this script rings true, depicting the familiarity of two people that have been together for a long time. Fought – but loved each other, too. And in some small way… still do.

So if you’re a director drawn to well developed characters – and catastrophe – then grab your spot on the cot. ‘Cause there’s only one slot available!

About the writer, Rod Thompson:I have been writing creatively since I learned how to write. There is just something about telling a story that I can never get over. Storytelling in itself is like an old flame that occassional comes to me and just says, “Use me.” The ability to watch a movie through words, or to craft a world in such a manner is the closest to Godliness that man will ever come. True story. Contact Rod at RodThompson1980 “AT”

Pages: 5 pages

Budget: Low. A sparse interior for the bomb shelter. Equip with cots, a bare bulb, and two talented actors. Imagine the fun you’ll have creating sound effects for the end of the world!

About the reviewer for Give Me Shelter:California uber reader/reviewer KP Mackie is working hard on her animated feature. KP’s work is available at!





All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – The Reclusive Writer (P.J. McNeill) - post author P. J. McNeill

The Reclusive Writer

I’ve always romanticized the idea of the reclusive writer.

One of my idols, John Swartzwelder, is a recluse to the extreme. He’s credited with writing 59 episodes of The Simpsons; the bulk of those being works of sheer brilliance: Homer at the Bat, Krusty Gets Kancelled, Rosebud, Homer the Vigilante…the list goes on. Not only do hardly any pictures exist of the man, but I’ll be damned if I can find an interview. In fact, when the writers call up John Swartzwelder during The Simpsons commentary track, the man on the phone does about 4 minutes of commentary before stating “It’s too bad this isn’t really John Swartzwelder”, before hanging up.

Some people have speculated that he doesn’t actually exist. How cool is that? To be shrouded in such mystery that people question your very existence, and stories begin to be passed around, as if reciting tales of ancient lore. Pretty soon it becomes almost as much fun to talk about the writer as it does to read or view his work. For example, did you know that John Swartzwelder is the only writer on The Simpsons who didn’t have to show up to the writer’s room? He would send his scripts in, after writing them from the comfort of his own home, sitting in a booth he bought from a diner he used to frequent, before the diner instituted a “NO SMOKING” policy. Classic Swartzwelder…or so I’m told.

The thing is, John Swartzwelder is the exception, not the rule. I’m not going to be John Swartzwelder, and odds are, you won’t either. (Note: It’s really hard to write the name Swartzwelder over and over again. Microsoft Word doesn’t seem to like it either.)

Before I moved to LA, I read The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly. It’s a semi-autobiographical tale that chronicles when Peter moved to LA to make it as a writer. There’s a part of the book where Peter goes to a party, and he’s really nervous about people expecting him to be charming and funny because he’s a comedy writer. (A common fear of mine.) In the book, his agent instructs him that he’s a writer, and nobody really expects a comedy writer to be funny or talk much. I remember breathing a sigh of relief. “Thank God. I don’t need to be funny…or talk to people.” I’d be re-assured whenever I’d see the stereotype of the reclusive writer show up in movies and TV. You know the stereotype: socially awkward, hunched over, and most likely wearing grubby clothes. I took solace in the fact that I had chosen a career that rewarded merit, not how I acted or what I looked like. I could be John Swartzwelder.

Flash forward to an interview at Nickelodeon Studios for the position of writer. I had wowed them with my sample pieces, but now it was time to seal the deal with my personality. The interviewer stopped me 5 minutes into the interview and basically told me I needed to lighten up. I wasn’t “on” enough for her. I thought I had been doing a good job, but I wasn’t playing the part of the fun-loving writer that she wanted. “Tell me a joke”, she said. “Uhhh…”, I stammered back. I hadn’t ever been asked that in an interview. “Tell me a funny story”, she said after I stuttered my way through a joke. A funny story? My mind went blank. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I went in expecting one thing and it was something totally different. My boss at the time told me my mistake was thinking that there was ever a time I should be “off”. As a writer, people want a show. They want you to be as entertaining as your stories. If you’ve ever pitched your idea to a friend or family member, you know the difference between enthusiastically telling your idea and muttering out a few plot points. Obviously the former will pique people’s interest more.

So, practice your conversational skills. Take an improv class (it’ll help you turn off “the filter”). Think of a few amusing anecdotes. And most importantly, if you’re a comedy writer: learn a joke. Here’s the one I used:

Why did the cow go to the moon? Because it was one small step for man, but one giant leap for bovine.

…yeah, I wouldn’t have hired me either.

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Making of The Ephesian – An Interview with Mark Lyons and Koran Dunbar - post author Anthony Cawood

Written by Simplyscripts’ very own Mark Lyons, the short film The Ephesian recently made its theatrical debut at the Maryland International Film Festival.  Greeted to an enthusiastic reception by the audience, the film nonetheless deals with a rather serious topic: the death penalty: When a long-grieving father lobbies to visit a killer on death row, he walks into the chance of a lifetime to come face-to-face with the man who murdered his infant son. (Script available to read here.)

In this interview, STS’s Sean Chipman sat down with Mark Lyons and Producer Koran Dunbar to discuss the making and distribution of the film…


Sean Chipman: Well, thank you both for joining me this morning.

Koran Dunbar: Thank you.

Mark Lyons: Thanks for thinking of us.

SC: Let’s talk about the big story of the day: “The Ephesian”. Were you guys surprised by how well the film was received?

KD: The film was received very well. We were up against VERY talented filmmakers.

ML: I knew the talent behind [production company] Rags to Riches, so I knew it was going to be a very high quality film off the bat. But there was nothing like walking out of the theater and everybody saying how well they liked the film and how much it made them think.

KD: That was the key… Made them think… These days too many filmmakers are trying to change the world. That’s next to impossible. You need to allow your audience [to] think… And it was a very thought-provoking screenplay.

SC: What was it, Mark, that compelled you to write that script?

ML: Two different situations that happened to me in real life. One was a couple years ago, when my son was one, and I took him for a walk to get a gallon of milk. On the way back, we got to the corner of our street and there were gunshots a couple blocks down. They didn’t stop and were heading our way. I shoved him behind a bush and stood in the way and hoped for the best. Luckily, they had turned up the street before ours and it stopped a little after that. Then, not too long after that, I was held up, this time way down at the other side of the street. He was arrested and I had to go to his trial months and months later. At the trial, I could truly tell that he was sorry for what he had done and after thinking about it, I really had forgiven him. I truly think he’s going to be a good guy. That got me kind of putting the two scenarios together and if a terrible thing had happened to my son, would I be able to forgive the person if they were truly sorry.

SC: Which begs the question, “Would you?”

ML: That’s so hard to answer. I’d probably say no. It’d be too hard. But, of course, our system takes years and years to put people to death, and I don’t know if I could hold that much hate in me for that long of a time. I’d have to let it go at some point to move on.

SC: Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Koran, why “The Ephesian”? What was it about this script that you knew you had to make it and did you know from the moment you opened the script?

KD: I really like scripts about humanity… Since Greencastle, I get “Freshman Scripts”. Scripts that are so contrived and dark just for the sake of being dark. This was different. I have to like the actors… They need to be believable. In this case all of them were. Michael’s character grabbed me so much I wanted to portray [him]. However, there was a better person for that role… Then, I saw another actor that blew us all away… I’m about a good project not putting myself where I WANT to be… I sat back and wore the producer’s hat…

ML: That’s what really made me stand back and go, “Wow. Koran was definitely the right person for this film”. It’s not too often you’ll see somebody step back out of a role and do what’s good for the story. It really showed Koran’s passion for the vision he saw in his mind.

SC: And it seems like it was the right decision as well.

ML: Lol. Of course, we’ll never see Koran in the role. I heard he has some chops.

KD: [Laughs]

SC: Well, I’ve seen him in action, so I can definitely vouch for that.

KD: I am all about working with people that are NOT divas… And, honestly, 50% of things don’t get created due to ego… When I talked to Mark, I felt he was sincere and wanted things to happen…

SC: That’s the first step in getting a film to screen. So, what were your favorite and least favorite parts of filming?

KD: My favorite parts of filming is the cast and crew. They become family for life regardless if you fight or not. The worst part is the sacrifice and time from family and friends. And, of course, budget and red tape from locations… There is so much I would like to do if it wasn’t for budget…

SC: Did you have any specific negative and positive experiences with this shoot?

KD: Honestly, no. Wait, there was a drunk extra that came to the set. Other than that, nothing.

SC: Ah, those random drunk extras. Seems like there’s one in every shoot.

ML: [Laughs] Dave [Vanderveer] was telling me about that! I heard she ended up getting a copy of Greencastle [A 2012 film written, directed by and starring Koran Dunbar], though!

KD: Yes. [Laughs] How do you know?

ML: Dave was telling me and Tanya Chattman about it at dinner at the after party. I wanted to be there so bad for the filming. I tried like crazy to get there. Which is another rarity to see from a production company. Unless it’s filmed local, I doubt any independent film company invites and offers to pay the writer to come to the filming. It’s just a testament that Koran likes to build close-knit families with the people he works with.

SC: That does make me curious, Mark, about the level of involvement you had with the production.

ML: As most writers know, it usually goes that you get an E-mail asking for permission to film your script, then you don’t hear from them again. If you’re lucky, you might get an E-mail in a couple of months saying it’s filmed and to check it out on YouTube. Or, if you’re really lucky, an E-mail that it’s been filmed and won an award at [a] festival. But Koran and David kept me up to date and talked to me and asked my opinions about things throughout the whole process. Early on, they even asked me to do a read-through with the director. That’s another rarity that I think writers don’t get the privilege of. At least not that I’ve seen or heard of. The best part is, all the changes and directions they wanted to go, like adding more lines for Michael’s wife, played by Tanya Chattman, those were things I had already thought of when I wanted to turn “The Ephesian” into a feature. It’s rare to be on that same thought-level as someone.

SC: When everyone’s on the same wave length, good things are going to happen.

ML: Absolutely.

SC: Now, Mark, we spoke briefly about how Koran had initially been interested in the part of Michael. I’m curious how the look of the actors compared to how you visualized them when you were writing the script.

ML: That’s one thing I try not to do while I’m writing a character, is pigeon-hole them. It seems natural I know for a lot of writers, especially new writers to read their character’s dialogue in Kevin Spacey’s voice. (I still do it, though only under certain circumstances.) With “The Ephesian”, and you can probably see from his description in the screenplay, I left a very open interpretation to the casting. I’m a very firm believer in let the actors do their magic and let the dialogue only serve as a blueprint. That being said, I can’t see anybody but Joseph Mills III in that role, now.

SC: It’s amazing the effect it has when you see someone perform a role really well. The actor becomes that role.

ML: That, and he’s got a tremendously strong voice, which is what I’m sure Koran saw in him.

SC: Are there any more scripts in your immediate future, feature or otherwise?

ML: Oh, yeah. Right now there’s not a lot of time to write them between working two jobs and spending as much time with my kids as I can, but I’m constantly thinking about new stories, or how to make old ones better. Thanks to the two jobs, I have a little more money I can sink into the script contests and film festival contests this year. I have one I’m working on now I’m really excited about entering into Shriekfest this year, and I’m getting a feature together for Bluecat in the fall.

SC: What about the big job? Can we expect you to hop in the director’s chair at some point or are you content to stay behind the scenes?

ML: I’d of course need a lot more experience on set before I’d even consider hopping into the big chair! But, ultimately, it is a goal of mine, because a lot of stories that I have, I’m pretty sure I’ll be the only one who’ll make them without any fear. Unfortunately, Youngstown doesn’t have much going on for it, so it may be a while and I’ll probably have to do a lot of traveling to get the experience I need to make the kind of film I want to make with the quality that I want. I’d feel comfortable with gearing the story and the actors, I believe, but I’d need one hell of a cinematographer to make me look good.
I think we’ll chalk that up to a “Yes, if…”.

SC: A big congratulations to you both on getting “The Ephesian” filmed. Thank you for your time and the best of luck in the future.

ML: Thank you very much. I appreciate it!

KD: Thanks, a lot.


Mark Lyons is a screenwriter from Youngstown, Ohio. He’s written several scripts, most notably ‘Best Film’ award winner “God’s Empty Acre”, which was filmed as ‘Girl(s)’, at the 2013 Winter Shorts Film Festival and Best Drama at the 2013 World Independent Film Expo. He has also written the feature “Thistles” which was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2013 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition and the short “Ginger” which was a Finalist at the 2013 Shriekfest Film Festival. He can be reached at markielyons “AT” yahoo

Koran Dunbar is a Jack-of-all-trades, working as a director, producer, screenwriter and actor from Greencastle, Pennsylvania. His directorial feature film debut, “Greencastle” won ‘Best Feature Film’ at the 2012 Indie Gathering Film Festival as well as nabbing him a ‘Best Actor’ award at the World Music and Independent Film Festival.





Sunday, July 6, 2014

Original script Sunday and the beginning of a 7 week challenge - post author Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are nineteen original scripts.

And we are one week and ten pages into a seven week challenge wherein our writers are working on a race against the clock thriller with a male protagonist in his fifties. You can check them out here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Movie Poet contest winners - post author Don is proud to announce the winners of their May 2014 short script competition. The theme was “War is Hell” – Tell us a story of war.

“The Wilderness” by William Boehmer ~ First Place
Two enemy soldiers meet in a forest and have to come to terms with their situation.

“Bitte” by John P. Dowgin ~ Second Place
On D-Day, an American private storms the beaches of Normandy bearing a premonition of death.

“Home Field” by Rod Thompson ~ Third Place
Two soldiers, from their hiding place in a Little League dugout, discuss the meaning of war, and the continuity of their way of life.

Each month, Movie Poet runs a free short screenwriting contest. The July contest has just been announced – The theme: “Dinner Time” – Your entire story must take place around a dining room table. Head on over to Movie Poet and give it a go. – Don

PJ McNeill’s busy with family and fireworks (but he still wants to hear from you!) - post author P. J. McNeill

Due to the 4th of July celebrations, P.J. McNeill will be taking a break from his regularly scheduled column.  But worry not; he’ll be back with fresh material next week.

In the meantime, he’s asked STS to encourage readers to email him with questions, comments and observations at  Who knows?  The insights that you bring up just might inspire the next article (or series of articles) he writes!!

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