TV PILOT Winning Reading – The Spectral City by Arthur Vincie

Deadline for Television Pilot/Spec Screenplay Festival:

Watch the TV Pilot Screenplay Winner for July 2016:

The Spectral City by Arthur Vincie


Genre: Sci-Fi, War, Supernatural

Three refugees, thrown together by chance, flee a modern-day civil war set in an unspecified country. Evading the army, rebels, bandits, gods, and demons, they head to the one place no one dares go to the Haunted City at the heart of the country. There they seek out the White Witch, who rules the City and who’s either their ticket out or their worst nightmare.


NARRATOR – Susan Wilson
JULIET – Courtney Keir
ISHMAEL – Brandon Knox
THEO/MATTHEW – Julian Ford
STEVEN/ADJAI – Sean Ballantyne
JIM – David Guthrie
NURIYAH – Meghan Allen

Get to know the winning writer:

1. What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?

“The Spectral City” is a war/supernatural story, about six refugees trying to flee a modern-day civil war. Thrown together by chance, and pursued by the army, rebels, bandits, monsters, and gods, they head for the one place no one dares go – the Haunted City in the heart of the country. Will it be the key to their salvation, or the beginning of an even worse fate?

2. Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

“The Spectral City” is about the people who are usually left out of war stories – the civilians. By focusing on their struggles for survival, redemption, and healing, we can avoid the usual war story cliches. It’s about ordinary people finding extraordinary grit in the face of adversity. By combining the war and supernatural/horror genres, the story brings out the inner as well as outer conflicts of the characters. This keeps the scale human-sized while also delivering an epic tale. The story aims to humanize refugees and those who are caught in the gears of war.

3. How would you describe this script in two words?

Surviving warfare

4. What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?

“Firefly” for its imaginative use of dialog, its balance of humor, and its blending of genres.

5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Two years.

6. How many stories have you written?

In addition to “Spectral City,” I’ve written several spec scripts, and wrote and directed two features, “Caleb’s Door” and “Found In Time.” I’m currently writing and directing a webseries, “Three Trembling Cities.”

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I was interested in exploring the stories of people who’ve been caught up in civil wars. I was “inspired” by the stories of the child soldiers who were conscripted into both sides of the Sierra Leone civil war. Later I read up on the civilians who fled or who are currently fleeing the wars in Mali, Sudan, Libya, Georgia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Syria, the border wars in Assam (India), and other recent (and in some cases ongoing) conflicts.

I also wanted to write something a little more grounded in “reality” (my last project was a sci-fi film, “Found In Time.”)

8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Finding the right balance between natural and supernatural elements. The supernatural part of the story reflects how people fall back into superstition when confronted with extreme chaos (soldiers are extremely superstitious). I also wanted the country depicted in the story to be a “blend” of real-world places and cultures, so that it felt alive and complex; but I didn’t want the reader to pin the country to a specific location.

9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Directing, still photography, reading. I’m a science and history nerd. I’m a closet drummer.

10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I thought the festival was a good fit for the material, and I was excited at the prospect of having the project read aloud. I thought the initial feedback was terrific and it helped me quite a bit.

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Your first script (and maybe the one after that) is probably going to suck, but that’s okay – you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. It’s all about practice, and developing a discipline of some kind, so that you’re always writing, rewriting, researching, or recharging (so you can write again).

Don’t get too bogged down in details that you can work out later. Don’t get obsessed with perfection. Those are great ways to keep from ever finishing a draft.

It’s good to get a basic grasp of screenplay formatting and structure, and outlining is helpful, but memorable characters make or break the script. Don’t be afraid of not knowing where a scene is going – sometimes the best stuff comes up when you’re in a corner and you don’t know what you’re supposed to write next.

Jealousy, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and outrage can be your best friends as long as they don’t cripple you. Those “negative” emotions can keep you at the keyboard typing away or rewriting.

Find creative partnerships (with actors, producers, directors, other writers) – it’s too hard to go it alone in this field. These folks can give you honest feedback, help you get things off the ground, support you when you’re down. And you’ll do the same for them.


Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

By tvfestival

Monthly Festival showcasing new TV Pilots and TV Spec Screenplays. All submissions receive full feedback. Winners get their script performed by professional actors and shown online.


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