TV PILOT Reading: SMITHEREENS by Hershel D. Rephun

1. What is your TV screenplay about?

SMITHEREENS is about freedom of choice and the fact that sometimes we have to reboot and consider another path. In the case of Harry Doe, the reboot comes in the form of amnesia. Faced with pieces of a troubling past, and an uncertain future, he gets to choose the kind of man he wants to be.

2. How should this Pilot be made into a TV show?

With so much content out there, even greater respect must be paid to the viewer in order to win their time and attention. SMITHEREENS is fresh, thoughtful, funny and poignant. It challenges the creators, performers and the viewers, which is the best way to start that relationship.

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

Distinctive and entertaining.

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

Mad Men. I’m on my third viewing of the complete series now. Even with so much stuff to watch, I always come back to quality and depth.

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

In one form or another, I’ve been working on SMITHEREENS for three years at least. And the influences that have brought me to the project have been working on me since birth.

6. How many stories have you written?

I really don’t know. At least twenty screenplays, three of which have been produced as features. And I write stories every day in one form or another.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I was moved to explore my own personality, and my ability to convincingly mimic virtually any person or dialect. I don’t just do impressions or voices, I create and inhabit characters. I wanted to figure out why I use that in real life and not just onstage. Is it an escape mechanism? Do I not like who I am? What’s the line between talent and self-deception and fantasy?

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

The challenge was to set up the story so that it could play out over several seasons. With a feature, you need three solid acts. A TV series needs much more.

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

My children and fighting climate change, which are related issues.

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

I loved the idea of the story being brought to life. I thought the feedback was wonderful. Very insightful and constructive!

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

Finish what you start, even if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Writing fiction is not about setting and meeting goals, other than to start and finish a story. The story comes from your muse…and if you don’t respect it and follow through, the muse will move on to someone else.

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May 2016 Winning TV Pilot

SMITHEREENS by Hershel D. Rephun

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
HARRY – Abraham Asto
NAN – Aisha Evelyna
REG – Benjamin Harris
REB JOEY – Paul Falkowski
CARMEN/SARAH – Meggie McKinnon

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Synopsis: 

The story of a man, in pieces: This one-hour episodic dramedy series chronicles the journey of a man fished out of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. He remembers only his first name (Harry) and his mother tongue (Cockney). Flashbacks paint a complicated picture of a man battling alcoholism and engaged in some dark pursuits.

Get to know writer Hershel D. Rephun:

1. What is your TV screenplay about?

SMITHEREENS is about freedom of choice and the fact that sometimes we have to reboot and consider another path. In the case of Harry Doe, the reboot comes in the form of amnesia. Faced with pieces of a troubling past, and an uncertain future, he gets to choose the kind of man he wants to be.

2. How should this Pilot be made into a TV show?

With so much content out there, even greater respect must be paid to the viewer in order to win their time and attention. SMITHEREENS is fresh, thoughtful, funny and poignant. It challenges the creators, performers and the viewers, which is the best way to start that relationship.

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

Distinctive and entertaining.

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

Mad Men. I’m on my third viewing of the complete series now. Even with so much stuff to watch, I always come back to quality and depth.

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

In one form or another, I’ve been working on SMITHEREENS for three years at least. And the influences that have brought me to the project have been working on me since birth.

6. How many stories have you written?

I really don’t know. At least twenty screenplays, three of which have been produced as features. And I write stories every day in one form or another.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I was moved to explore my own personality, and my ability to convincingly mimic virtually any person or dialect. I don’t just do impressions or voices, I create and inhabit characters. I wanted to figure out why I use that in real life and not just onstage. Is it an escape mechanism? Do I not like who I am? What’s the line between talent and self-deception and fantasy?

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

The challenge was to set up the story so that it could play out over several seasons. With a feature, you need three solid acts. A TV series needs much more.

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

My children and fighting climate change, which are related issues.

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

I loved the idea of the story being brought to life. I thought the feedback was wonderful. Very insightful and constructive!

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

Finish what you start, even if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Writing fiction is not about setting and meeting goals, other than to start and finish a story. The story comes from your muse…and if you don’t respect it and follow through, the muse will move on to someone else.

****
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: John Johnson

TV PILOT Reading: THE REAPER REBELLION “AFTERLIFE” by Mark S MacDonald and Darsey Meredith

Eva, who may or may not be Eve from the Book of Genesis, inadvertently creates Death in the world by inciting her siblings and lover to eat the Divine Apple from the Tree of Life. It’s an interesting spin on the immortal story about how the humans lost paradise and incurred the wrath of God.

May 2016 Winning TV Pilot

THE REAPER REBELLION “AFTERLIFE” by Mark S MacDonald and Darsey Meredith

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
RHODA/DEATH – Meggie McKinnon
LAILAH – Aisha Evelyna
MAALIK – Sean Ballantyne
AZRAEL – Benjamin Harris
GOD/DRAVEN – Paul Falkowski
HANNAH – Kayla Lakhani

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Eva, who may or may not be Eve from the Book of Genesis, inadvertently creates Death in the world by inciting her siblings and lover to eat the Divine Apple from the Tree of Life. It’s an interesting spin on the immortal story about how the humans lost paradise and incurred the wrath of God.


Get to know writers Mark S MacDonald:

1. What is your TV screenplay about?

My TV pilot is a fantasy/adventure series loosely based off Christian mythology about The Grim Reaper, or Death, invading the afterlife in order to confront God and his tyrannical legions, and ultimately find a way to die.

2. How should this Pilot be made into a TV show?

I feel that The Reaper should be made into a TV show because it has a strong female lead that gradually learns to trust and love others again throughout the series, as well as come to terms with thoughts and feelings she’s had to bury deep down just to keep herself together. It also has action, a world full to bursting with history and lore, a story and a diverse cast of characters that would appeal to variety of viewers from teenagers to adults. Not to mention numerous thought provoking themes like the concept of free will and whether or not there ought to be boundaries to it.

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

Epic and intense.

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

The Legend of Korra. While it may not be as violent and gritty as the other shows I watch (Game Of Thrones chief among them), it has great animation, it’s well written, it’s full of well developed characters, and it handles mature themes and subject matter like regicide, betrayal, and totalitarianism in a way that younger audiences can handle, yet respects the intelligence of older viewers.

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

Nearly three years.

6. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written numerous short scripts and a feature during my time at Vancouver Film School, plus several other short scripts prior, an animated pilot, part of the script of an independent video game, and I’ve worked as an ADR Writer for Ocean Productions in Vancouver, BC.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I’ve always wondered where the being Death came from, what if anything would such an entity want, and what kind of story could I make based off that. One day when I was having coffee with my friend/co-writer Darsey, we were talking about story ideas we had, I told her about my take on such a story, she was immediately hooked, and we spent the rest of our get together just talking about the possibilities of where the story could go. In the years since, I’ve spent countless hours of my downtime working on it, meeting with her periodically to discuss and enrich what I had. Before long, the pilot was done alongside a hundred some odd page document describing the world and the characters in it.

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

Finding a balance between the action scenes and the story was tricky, but my biggest challenges were the characters Death and Maalik. Death was hard because I wanted to make a character that stood out from the other interpretations of The Grim Reaper. I didn’t want her to be just another ominously enigmatic entity or a literally unstoppable badass (at least not entirely). I wanted her to be a character that people can connect to and sympathize, even if only in a metaphorical sense. Maalik’s challenge was more to do with how to establish the sub-plot that he’s persecuted at the hands of his subordinates due to his ethnicity, yet not be obnoxious about it and have dialogue that’s straight up xenophobic. Thankfully, Darsey was there to help.

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

I’ve been acting for about 16 years, and part of my journey into acting on film led to me discovering my love of writing as well. Aside from that, I love collaborating on projects with people I’ve met on set and off, and I rediscovered my love of theatre through a play I was recently a part of: Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourn.

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

When I initially submitted, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when I got the email saying that I had it was selected along with my feedback, I was ecstatic! The feedback was very helpful and I couldn’t be happier. It was constructive and pointed out the importance of simmering down the profanity I originally used so that it’s not immediately written off as too vulgar for TV, as well as pointing out little things I didn’t notice or consider the first time around.

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

My advice to other writers is to have an open mind, never take feedback personally, never stop writing, never, EVER spend your days wondering what might have been, be nice to your body, get plenty of sleep, take a breather if you’re stuck, and if you have an idea that excites you, WRITE IT DOWN!!!.

****
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: John Johnson

TV SPEC Reading: THE MINDY PROJECT “Culture Club” by Katie Bero

Public displays of praise and adulation. But mostly because I’m a big fan of feedback. It’s tough to look at something you’ve spent hours and hours writing and re-writing with a fresh eye. It’s so helpful to get an outside perspective and I got a great one from Wildsound.

May 2016 TV Spec Screenplay Winner. 

THE MINDY PROJECT “Culture Club” by Katie Bero

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
MINDY – Kayla Lakhani
DANNY – Paul Falkowski
MORGAN – Abraham Asto
TAMRA – Aisha Evelyna
JEREMY/RISHI – Benjamin Harris
BEVERLY – Meggie McKinnon

Genre: Comedy/Sitcom

Synopsis:

Mindy and Danny clash over how culturally aware to raise their child. Meanwhile Morgan tries to help Jeremy avoid deportation.

Get to know writer Katie Bero: 

1. What is your TV screenplay on the show “The Mindy Project” about?

Mindy and Danny clash when Mindy refuses to indulge in his new obsession with Indian culture. Meanwhile, Jeremy’s visa expires and Morgan is on a mission to help him avoid deportation. As you can see from this explanation, it’s a real barrel of laughs.

2. How does this episode script fit into the context of the show?

It takes place at the very beginning of Season 4. It starts to introduce Danny and Mindy to both the logical and illogical insecurities that await them as new parents.

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

Baby Bjork.

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

Broad City. There are so many visual jokes you pick up the second time around. Also I’m convinced if I watch it enough Abbi and Ilana will crawl out of the TV and eat Tostitos and cheese dip with me. I said that like we’re on a first name basis, but just to be clear, we are not.

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

It took me about a month to write from outline to billionth draft.

6. How many stories have you written?

Does my diary count? I’ve also written two original pilots. One on my own and one with a writing partner. Hi, Charlotte! Ok

that’s enough about her, this is about me.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I’ve always loved how strong, but distinct the character voices are on The Mindy Project. As a writer it gives you an arsenal of things to play with beyond just the main characters. Beverly’s one-liners. Tamra’s oddly insightful commentary. Also, Morgan is my spirit animal. I can really relate to wanting to live in an apartment with 40 dogs, but we’ll get into that later.

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

None. Just kidding. Honestly the toughest obstacle is everyday life. I have a really demanding job as a writer in advertising so I had to force myself not to make excuses and make time instead. Like, by not doing aforementioned real job. I’m kidding, it was mostly a lot of late nights and early mornings. That also happens to be when I do my best writing. If my boss is reading this, please know I’m always fully engaged and dedicated to my job. If a showrunner is reading this, please hire me. Mostly because I probably just got fired.

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

Production. I love being on set and watching the words you put on paper come to life. I’m also very passionate about golden retrievers. I wish this were a joke, but those who know me know that this is a very serious obsession.

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

Public displays of praise and adulation. But mostly because I’m a big fan of feedback. It’s tough to look at something you’ve spent hours and hours writing and re-writing with a fresh eye. It’s so helpful to get an outside perspective and I got a great one from Wildsound.

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

Stay true to your voice. Or stay true to the hit show The Voice and only rely on the feedback of Adam, Blake and Gwen / Christina. Whatever works for you. It’s all subjective, but at the end of the day if you don’t love your script then what’s the point? Write what you love and love what you write. How many of you want to punch me for saying that? Great, me too.

Also, please adopt a golden retriever and send me photos. That’s not really advice so much as a desperate plea.

****
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: John Johnson