Winning TV PILOT Reading of MINNIE NOIR, by Katie Grotzinger

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR: Becky Shrimpton
Minnie: Kate Varadi
Nick: Scott Beaudin
Dash: Merlin Simard
Ms. Kirkpatrick: Mahtab Sabet
Connor: Allan Brunet
Lincoln: Anthony Tran

Get to know the writer: 

What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?

Minnie Hughes is a hardboiled noir detective that also just so happens to also be the shortest girl in the fourth grade. When a candidate for class president’s show and tell South African ostrich egg goes missing, Minnie jumps on the case. Meanwhile, she also deals with her best friend Lincoln Park feeling under appreciated after she calls him her secretary and struggles with asking her crush, Vijay Sampat, a kind of male femme fatale, to be her dance partner for gym class.

Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

There are so many wonderful cartoons right now inspired by Japanese anime. They take joy in taking the viewer to strange lands and entertaining them with awesome action sequences. I think that’s great, but I also think there’s much to be mined from American genres like noir. Additionally, I think there’s room for quieter shows that embrace more what it’s like to be a kid. I think Hey Arnold and Recess both did that beautifully and I’d like to write something like that for kids growing up.

Most of all, Minnie is for every weirdo kid that finds solace into escaping into another world for one reason or another. For Minnie, it’s noir and her love of mystery comes from the fact that she never got to know her parents, so they’re the biggest mystery of all. If this show could make some kid feel less alone, that would the greatest honor.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Kid Noir

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

South Park!

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Good question! This was actually my thesis project for my Screenwriting MFA at DePaul University in Chicago. I worked on this for a few semesters and now continue to tinker with it off and on.

How many stories have you written?

Quite a few! I try to write every day and have accumulated hundreds of false starts over the years. I have a handful of scripts I’m truly proud of.

What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

I’d say right now it’s “Something Beautiful” by Pansy Division.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I had a clear idea of the A story in mind from the get go, but my MFA thesis professor and classmates really challenged me to flesh out the B and C stories and I think the pilot is much stronger for it.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’m a total true crime geek. I regularly follow two true crime podcasts – The Last Podcast on the Left and My Favorite Murder. Both are absolutely fantastic. If I can’t think of anything to watch, I’ll turn on a cheesy serial killer documentary. Also, my favorite true crime book right now is The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletica Killing by Dan Morse.

Believe or not, my fascination with The Zodiac Killer actually made its way into an episode of Minnie Noir I’ve been writing – the Christmas special to boot! Nothing violent though, of course. Minnie just struggles to crack a mysterious, intensely complicated code from letters she’s received. (The code, naturally, is composed from stickers.)

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

Despite working and reworking on this pilot as much as I have, I still recognize that it could always be better. I have a big place in my heart for this story and I want to do anything I can to make it the best it can be, so feedback is a must.

And it’s funny! See, originally, I had two characters named Connor. This was for a couple of reasons. For one, when I was growing up, there was a year where we had three Connors to one class, all spelled the same way, only to be identified by the first initial of their last name. I also have a common name and there’s usually another Katie, so I empathized. It seems like such a staple of childhood. It was also a shoutout to shows I loved growing up like Ed, Edd n’ Eddy and the Ashleys from Recess where the same names are part of the camaraderie and comedy.

But I had gotten the note before that having two Connors was confusing. I finally made the change when I got the note from you guys! Thank you for finally getting me to change it.

You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

It’s been stellar! I’ve submitted a bunch of stuff through FilmFreeway and appreciate how easy it is to find specific contests for certain projects.

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

I have difficulty finishing scripts unless I have someone to bounce ideas off of. Having a community of writers, or even just one friend, to get feedback from makes scripts come together so much easier and better than they would be in just the isolated writer bubble we all sometimes fall into. Also, watch episodes or read scripts similar to what you’re going for. It’s not only fun, but it’ll give you some inspiration.

****

Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Director: Kierston Drier
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Camera Operator: Mary Cox

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Winning TV PILOT Reading of DOWN WITH THE BUREAUCRACY by Dimitry Pompée

Watch the January 2017 Winning TV PILOT Screenplay.

Best Scene from the screenplay DOWN WITH THE BUREAUCRACY Screenplay
Written by Dimitry Pompee

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
NATHAN – Gabriel Darku
KAREN/PAULA – Val Cole
LUKE – Nick Wicht
MYLES – Charles Gordon
ALLIE/NORA – Shannon McNally
QUINN – Catherine D’Angelo
BARLOWE – David Straus

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Comedy, Political

After being framed for treason and losing his job at a prestigious DC lobbying firm, an arrogant grad student finds himself forced to take an entry-level position at the second-worst federal agency in America.

 Get to know the writer:

What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?

My pilot, Down With The Bureaucracy, is about an arrogant graduate student named Nathan who is forced to take an entry-level position at the second-worst federal agency in America in order to keep his academic scholarship. While Nathan is hostile to all of his coworkers at first, he finds he must convince them to help him save his job when his spiteful manager tries to fire him on the first day.

Why should this screenplay be made into a TV show?

Aside from the fact that I think it would be a pretty funny show, I think there’s a huge audience for a sitcom about how ridiculous it can be working at the lower rungs of the federal government. We certainly have some amazing shows like Veep that mock the people in the corridors of power, but there are plenty of people in the lesser-known agencies who could use the same treatment.

At the same time, I also want to create a show that demonstrates the good that the federal workforce can do. Not only could this show derive material from the incompetence of the federal bureaucracy, it can show that there are plenty of talented and dedicated federal employees who are keeping this country afloat. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to endear people to their government than through a show about a group of bumbling coworkers who occasionally manage to do a decent job. Well, aside from a civics class.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Utterly rewarding.

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

It’s only rounding out its second season, but I think I’ve watched every episode of NBC’s Superstore about seventeen times each. It’s an excellent example of how to use an ensemble cast full of absurd characters to create a compelling and hilarious sitcom. The same can be said of The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Community, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, and all the other shows I find myself watching again and again.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve been working on this one for about two years and a half now. I recently compared the first draft from May 2014 with this current draft, and while many of the core pieces remain intact, it is radically different than it used to be. Hopefully, it’s better too!

How many stories have you written?

This is a difficult question to answer, because I have several scripts in various stages of “completion.” I would say that I have four scripts in what you might call late-stage drafts, and many others that are in earlier stages of editing, drafting, outlining, or nascent, amorphous chaos.

What motivated you to write this screenplay?

When I was in grad school, I was also working full-time and I was very unhappy with my employment situation. I was bored and frustrated, and all of my job applications were met with silence, so I felt like I was stuck. I can’t even remember what the situation was, but one day, some nonsense happened at work and I said something to the effect of, “That is so stupid, it could be in a sitcom.” I started writing that very night. And I did end up leaving that job for something much better soon after, but not before taking extensive notes about working there that I’ve used in my pilot.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I don’t believe it’s done yet, but there have been some obstacles in getting it to this point. The most vexing obstacle for me was and remains developing a consistent writing habit, then sticking to it. I try do some writing during lunch at work, and then after coming home and foraging through the fridge for a somewhat healthy dinner, I write some more. Some days are better than others, but I figure as long as I can get SOMETHING down every day, I can count it as a success.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Video games, a free and open internet, and naps. Pretty much anything I can do on my couch.

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

I entered the festival precisely because of the reputation of the feedback. It can be challenging to find sources for insightful feedback when you’re outside of an academic or professional setting, especially if you’re just starting out and you have no connections. Several friends of mine who had previously entered the festival told me that the feedback they received was incredibly helpful, and I absolutely agree. After digesting and utilizing the notes I received, I can say with utmost certainty that my script is leagues ahead of where it was before the festival.

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

Many people have said this in much more insightful ways, but I’d advise other writers to always be open to receiving constructive feedback, and to seek it out specifically. It’s not easy hearing something you’ve been working on for a long time isn’t as good as you think it is, but receiving that type of criticism is essential to developing your skills as a writer. Don’t take it personally, don’t ignore it, and use it to improve your work.

****
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson


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August 2016 TV Pilot/Spec Screenplay Winners

Deadline for Television Pilot/Spec Screenplay Festival: https://tvfestival.org/

Watch the 3 TV Screenplay Winners for August 2016:

RICK & MORTY “The Cokeroach” TV SPEC
Written by David Cryan
Read 10 Questions with the writer

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
RICK – Stephen Flett
MORTY – Adam McNamara
BETH – Laura Darby
JERRY – David Straus
BLECKAR – Lorne Hiro
GARY – Rais Muoi
SUMMER – Victoria Urquhart

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Comedy, Animation

When Morty accidentally gets his family kidnapped while trying to stop an alien war, he and Rick must execute an elaborate plan to rescue their family and trick the aliens into calling a truce.

*****

DIGITAL NATIVES TV Pilot
Written by Adam Preston
Read 10 Questions with the writer

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
PHIL – Lorne Hiro
ALICE – Susan Wilson
SAM – Rais Muoi
QUILLON – David Straus
GEORGE – Stephen Flett
JOHN – Adam McNamara
VERA – Laura Darby

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Comedy, Sitcom

When it all goes wrong for Phil Burrows he moves to London’s trendy Shoreditch district to reinvent himself as an on-the-pulse hipster in the place where it’s all happening. Not so hip or on-the-pulse is the fact that this involves moving in with his gran, Alice, who has lived there since year dot. To his horror Phil finds that a strange, vain, deluded twentysomething vlogger has wormed his way into her affections and now occupies the spare room. But horror turns to hope – could the technologically savvy Sam Fazackalee hold the secrets to his success?

*****

SURVEILLANCE TV Pilot
Written by Chris Gebhardt & Jenn Russi
Read 10 Questions with the writer

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Julian Ford
SARAH – Kayla Lakhani
JEFF – Jonathan Shaboo
ALEX – Alicia Payne
MITCHELL – Mark Sparks
DEV – Sean Kauffman
DREW – Shelly Antony

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller

When a young woman uncovers an illegal government surveillance program that uses ordinary citizens private lives against them, she finds herself caught between her patriotic roots and the grim reality of government service. Living with Bipolar I disorder, she must find a way to protect her own secrets and determine where she stands in the coming War on Truth.

***

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Editor: John Johnson

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

TV SPEC Reading – BROOKLYN NINE NINE by Linsen Oyosa

I was searching for festivals to which I could present my work. I had no idea that my script would even be good enough. I just wanted to hear some feedback. When I got the feedback, I was extremely happy because it was very detailed and helped me improve my work and of course, I was accepted into the festival.

Watch the June 2016 Winning TV Spec Screenplay. 

BROOKLYN NINE NINE  by Linsen Oyosa

Genre: Sitcom, Comedy, Crime

Synopsis: Jake and Charles try to take down a drug dealer. Meanwhile, Terry deals with inter-precinct theft and Holt helps Rosa deal with her recent politeness.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Val Cole
JAKE – Christopher Huron
ROSA – Tracey Beltrano
CHARLES – Jeff Sinasic
TERRY – Deney Forrest
HOLT – John Lester Phillips
GINA – Laura Darby
AMY – Hannah Brenen

Get to know the winning writer: 

1. What is your screenplay based on the TV show “Brooklyn 99” about?

Jake and Charles try to take down a drug dealer. Meanwhile, in the precinct, Terry must find out who stole his yogurt and Holt helps Rosa deal with her recent politeness.

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

This episode fits into the context of the show because it stays true to the tone and nature of the show. It also shows these characters dealing with situations that would make the most of their personalities.

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

Funny, witty

4. What TV show do you watch over and over again?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Friends, Parks and Recreation and Family Guy.

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

I worked on this screenplay for about two months, taking minor breaks during that period.

6. How many stories have you written?

I have written two stories including this one. The other is a feature screenplay. I am currently working on a second feature screenplay.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I love comedy as a genre for TV more than any other and I love this show in particular. I had been studying screenwriting for awhile and wanted to test my skills. Since this was a show I loved and watched religiously, I decided to start by writing a spec for it. I also felt that I understood the characters more than I did for any other show. This helped a lot.

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

Coming up with the different storylines was a bit of an obstacle at first. Making sure the character voices were accurate was another obstacle.

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

Apart from writing, I am passionate about Mathematics. Maybe one day I’ll create a show about Maths.

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

I was searching for festivals to which I could present my work. I had no idea that my script would even be good enough. I just wanted to hear some feedback. When I got the feedback, I was extremely happy because it was very detailed and helped me improve my work and of course, I was accepted into the festival.

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

If you are just beginning to write, I would suggest you find a genre you are truly passionate about. Study the shows or movies that you love in that genre. Focus on the types of characters within that universe and how you can use them to help create your own. Don’t give up. It’s a long journey but it’s certainly one worth taking.

****

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

 

TV PILOT Reading – CIVILIAN by Gina Scanlon

Watch the June 2016 Winning TV PILOT.

CIVILIAN by Gina Scanlon

Watch the June 2016 Winning TV PILOT.

CIVILIAN  by Gina Scanlon

Genre: Drama, Crime

Synopsis: A young marine returns to her small Texas town after a recent tour in the South Sudan to complete police academy.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Val Cole
BRANDI – Laura Darby
AMOS/STOKER – Christopher Huron
DR. BURNS – Tracey Beltrano
SHANE – Deney Forrest
MARCUS – Jeff Sinasic
MARCEL – John Lester Phillips

Get to know the winning writer:

1. What is your TV PILOT about?

A young marine returns home to Texas after a traumatizing tour to reclaim her life as a rookie cop. Unfortunately more than a few unwelcome complications await her.

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

Female assault in the military, the challenges of combating PTSD, and the way these two issues trickle down and weave into American society I feel warrants more attention, and are topics I believe people are interested in. Plus, TV could use a few more badass, imperfect female protagonists!

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

questionable redemption

4. What TV show do you watch over and over again?

I can’t get enough of The Twilight Zone! I’ve also re-watched the first season of Jessica Jones a couple times.

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

For a couple of years now. I went through a near Page 1 rewrite about a year ago. I knew I loved the main character and topic, but needed to tackle it from a different angle and make it more exciting.

6. How many stories have you written?

Tons! I started writing fiction when I was in middle school, and plays towards the end of high school and never stopped. But as all writers know, most of them don’t stand out as very good.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

A documentary called “The Invisible War,” which is about how so many people (women in particular) have suffered sexual assault and find no justice in the US military made me so angry, I started writing this script. Though the pilot of “Civilian” doesn’t tackle that specific issue, its main character goes through similar turmoils and challenges, and that theme would continue to resonate throughout the series, should it ever get to that point!

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

I originally saw it as a feature, so I had to restructure it. I added characters and storylines in order to give it more of a setup for a potential series, and to give it more longevity in general. I definitely had people I trust read drafts along the way, which helped in turning it into a believable pilot format.

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

Kurt Vonnegut and his weird ideas. I’m obsessed with history, particularly the War of the Roses and both American and French Revolutions. International, and national women’s rights are up there, and so is supporting the preservation of journalism. I find it scary that the majority of people get their news from Twitter, celebrities, or websites like Buzzzfeed these days, and meanwhile reputable news sources are going bankrupt. On a lighter note, I’m also really into stand-up comedy and air hockey. haha

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

I wanted to start receiving professional feedback on the script, and heard positive things about the festival. The initial feedback was extremely helpful in improving my next draft, and brought to light certain things I hadn’t even thought could effect the salability of the script.

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

Trust your instincts, and never write something for superficial reasons (the current market trends, etc.). Do it because you really care about what you’re writing about, and I believe people will gravitate towards that authenticity.

****

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Editor: John Johnson

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Best Scene TV Screenplay: THE MESSIAH PROJECT, by David E. Baugnon

I was very curious to see how far it might advance and if there was anything in particular that’s been keeping this from actually getting made. The feedback was great and encouraging.

Watch the June 2016 Best Scene TV Screenplay Winner.

THE MESSIAH PROJECT, by David E. Baugnon

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: TV Pilot, Drama, War

Hour long TV Pilot transcript reading. Scene begins as Bruce wakes up in the hospital not to happy about what has just transpired.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Marsha Mason
KELLY – Roselie Williamson
JAMES – David Strauss
BRUCE/GRADY – Allan Michael Brunet
NURSE – Alan Shonfield

Get to know the writer:

1. What is your TV Pilot screenplay about?

The Messiah Project is about an Army scientist who’s working on a rapid healing serum, but doesn’t create it in time to save her own husband. The serum works so well in the field, the Army’s not even sure these guys can be killed, and of course, chaos ensues.

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

This is character-driven story about the cost of war, as well as an exploration of what would you do if you couldn’t be killed: Work for the center of disease control? Rob a bank? Topple a government? Become a Messianic figure? Some great terrain to explore a multitude of possibilities.

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

I think the title does a good job but “unchained ego” works.

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

Fargo. (1st season of True Detective close second)

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

Originally, it was a feature length script completed about 12 years ago. In 2007, i adapted it to TV and continued rewriting it until i felt it was ready to submit. The Messiah Project, was one of two winners of the International Screenwriters Association Fast Track Fellowship program in 2015 and won the 2013 Showtime’s Tony Cox Television Pilot (Hour ­Long) Competition at the Nantucket Film Festival, the Silver Medal in the Television Drama category for the 2013 Page International Screenwriting Awards.

6. How many stories have you written?

I have 3 completed TV pilots and 7 features with numerous ideas in development.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of healing (I was pre-med for a year) and technological advances made in that pursuit. I was also drawn to explore this idea in the military arena where so much is lost and sacrificed. Seemed like a perfect fit and many new technologies are discovered in war time.

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

The biggest obstacle is knowing when the script is good enough. William Goldman once wrote that screenplays are never finished, but abandoned, meaning a writer is never completely satisfied and can overwork a script. I’ve been guilty of that.

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

I consider myself a writer/filmmaker but I also love photography, art, hiking and a damn good meal.

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

I was very curious to see how far it might advance and if there was anything in particular that’s been keeping this from actually getting made. The feedback was great and encouraging.

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

I believe writing should be enjoyable. You know you’re hitting your stride when you love what you’re working on, even at the first draft stages. It’s very easy to let your inner critic ruin the process, so I do whatever i can to remember that.

****

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

May 2016 TV Pilot/Spec Screenplay Winners

Deadline for Television Pilot/Spec Screenplay Festival: https://tvfestival.org/

Watch the 4 TV Screenplay Winners for May 2016:

Deadline for Television Pilot/Spec Screenplay Festival: https://tvfestival.org/

Watch the 4 TV Screenplay Winners for May 2016:

THE REAPER: REBELLION “AFTERLIFE” TV Pilot
Written by Mark S. MacDonald and Darsey Meredith
Read 10 Questions with the writer

SYNOPSIS:

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.
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

**
THE MINDY PROJECT “Culture Club” TV SPEC
Written by Katie Bero
Read 10 Questions with the writer

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Comedy, Sitcom

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

CAST LIST:

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

**

SMITHEREENS TV Pilot
Written by Hershel D. Rephun
Read 10 Questions with the writer

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Comedy, Drama

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.

CAST LIST:

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

**

POWER TV Pilot
Written by Hisonni Johnson
Read 10 Questions with the writer

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Comic book, Drama, Sci Fi, Action, Superhero

Synopsis: A tragic turns of events leaves one of the world’s greatest heroes injured, without his powers and public enemy number one.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
JOHN – Mark Sparks
SANDRA – Lavinia Latham
SHIERA – Isabella Bontorin
DENNIS – Neil Kulin
LAWTON – Dan Cristofori

**

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: John Johnson