The 2019 Award-winning Screenwriters


Grand Prize & 1st Place Feature

The Fall by Michael Lipoma & Tamra Teig

East Berlin 1989 - A single mother is forced to become a spy to save her son when he’s framed for murder, and her act of revenge, woven into historic events, leads to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"Our producing partner's uncle was accused of being a KGB agent, and died under suspicious circumstances when he tried to extricate himself to protect his family. We used that as the inspiration and chose another time in history that was filled with espionage--the Cold War world behind the Berlin Wall. As we researched the idea of a mother who's forced to become a spy to save her son, we discovered the real cause of the fall of the Berlin Wall--a communication error. We wove real stories of East Berliners' struggles to free themselves from their oppressive regime into historic events and imagined how these events could have unfolded, through the eyes of single mother trying to keep her children safe behind the Iron Curtain."

2nd Place Feature

Margo & Perry by Becca Roth

When an aimless twenty-something stumbles upon a young girl who she believes to be the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teen, she becomes the girl’s babysitter, gaining the adoptive mother’s trust and concealing her own identity.

"I started this script in my 20s, when I was grappling with questions of identity and self worth. I was working to grow out of a mindset that relied heavily on internalizing my interpretations of others’ impressions on me in order to inform my own identity and actions. The characters in this film are all working to grow out of some limiting sense of who they are and how others perceive them. And as I started writing this, I became very interested in the idea of choice and autonomy. Most of the characters in this film, Margo especially, have had their choice and sense of autonomy taken from them. And through the journey of this story, they work to reclaim that sense of agency. I also sort of naturally created a protagonist who happens to be queer, and nobody in the film makes a big deal of it, which I love."

3rd Place Feature

Cherries by Matthew Sadowski & Amelia Wasserman

When her rambunctious sister is kidnapped by a pair of dirty cops, a sheltered and cynical teenager gets caught up in a dangerous misadventure with a pretty boy delinquent who got them into this mess to begin with.

"I have two kids and I wanted to make the kind of film that I want my daughter to relate to when she becomes a teenager. And one for my son to watch and understand that men come in all shapes and sizes. We are trying to subvert the stereotypes of gender and genre. Then, my wife and I went through crisis, came out as addicts and through deep therapy realized how much of our adult selves is based on the trauma and experiences we had as teenagers. This is a love letter and warning shot to our teenage selves." —Matthew Sadowski


1st Place Horror/Thriller

Cherry by Jordan Prosser

On the night she attempts to lose her virginity, 17-year-old Ettie Apple is visited by seven teenage ghosts, begging her to find their killer and bring them to justice. Ettie abandons her plans for a normal life and begins investigating the string of murders and disappearances that have rocked her quiet country town, and drove her police sergeant father to a nervous breakdown.

"Cherry fits into the sub-genre of small-town, supernatural mysteries kickstarted in the Amblin era of the 80s, and is enjoying a resurgence today in shows like Stranger Things. In many ways, Cherry's a perfect pastiche of all my favourite entertainment and influences growing up – John Hughes films about teenage identity, adventure movies like E.T., plus the female-led adventures of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer – but all in the context of the modern world, where the "monsters" we seem to be most afraid of are the seemingly ordinary men living next door to us."

2nd Place Horror/Thriller

Into the Trees by Matt O'Connor

An ex-FBI agent, dealing with loss, is compelled to join the search for a missing young girl and discovers a dark, possibly supernatural conspiracy. 

"Into the Trees is rooted in the trauma my wife and I experienced during the late-term pregnancy loss of our son. After reading about real-life missing persons cases, it got me thinking that one of the difficulties with mourning is the sudden void where a person should have been; there is no closure. One of the things I wanted to show with this story, is that loss is not something you have to hide and let fester inside; this is me finally sharing mine, too. "

3rd Place Horror/Thriller

They Live on Skid Row by R. J. Daniel Hanna

As a zombie outbreak spreads unnoticed through L.A.'s homeless, teen runaway Jayni must band together with Skid Row's street-dwellers to rescue her young brother and somehow survive the night.

"In the past few years, we’ve seen the homeless population grow more and more in LA. Tents are lining streets that were previously empty. Highway on-ramps have been converted to impromptu residential streets. It is a problem spreading right under our nose, and yet it feels as if it is happening in a parallel world. How can we be so disconnected from these people in our own backyard?"

1st Place TV Pilot

Bitterroot by Kayne Gorney & Maria Hinterkoerner

A washed-up former private eye is hired to investigate the murder of a handsome park ranger in the eerie town of Bitterroot.

After a sci-fi and a road movie feature, we talked about a follow up TV project. When we brainstormed new genres to explore, we were drawn to the realm of the mysterious. We watched other shows and movies (Twin Peaks, Fargo, In the Heat of the Night, Wind River) and read up on mystery and crime and found ourselves really inspired by the genre’s richness in tone and setting. We then decided to frame our story against a historical backdrop and found that the late 70’s fit our theme with their sense of overall uncertainty and skepticism. We used the cultural heartbeat of the hour - the TV shows, the music, the pop style - and the landscape of rural Montana to create the storyworld of Bitterroot.

2nd Place TV Pilot

American Infamy by Evan Iwata

In 1940s Portland, a rebellious Japanese-American teenager must step up to help his family withstand the wave of persecution that arises after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

"American Infamy was inspired by my family’s experience with Japanese internment during World War II. Many elements of the script are based on true stories I learned by interviewing relatives who experienced these events firsthand. I wrote this script to celebrate their heroism and perseverance in the face of great adversity, and also to shine a light on this dark chapter in our country’s history. Now more than ever, it is vitally important for us to remember the mistakes of the past to ensure they are never repeated."

3rd Place TV Pilot

Devil's Garden by Steve Wang

An inmate firefighter battles wildfires across California, but his most dangerous enemy may be his own crew.

"I read an article about inmate firefighters and thought, 'How cool is that!'"

1st Place Short

Dig Deeper by Girault Seger

A life-long grave digger seeking greater validation from his work acquires an unexpected job.

"I began writing a story about a gravedigger (Gerry) struggling with self-worth, and over the course of a couple drafts I found characters I really loved. As I developed the character of Gerry I stumbled across a CBS Sunday Morning profile from a few years ago about a passionate gravedigger thats devoted his life to what he considers his god-given talent. I was honestly shocked to discover someone so similar to this character I'd had in my head. His pride in the craftsmanship of the job and the choice to dig graves by hand inspired the final form that this character took.

Self-worth and the work people choose to do to in this life are often wrapped up in each other. I was drawn to write about a gravedigger; blue collar work surrounded by deep, emotional situations. I wanted to dig into the emotional life of that person in the background or more often unseen. What work are they doing to feel pride in what they do? Through methods like meditation, notes-to-self, people put effort into maintaining their sense of vitality. That struggle is the universal theme that I followed from the beginning. And of course from there it twisted its way into the absurd dark comedy I am happy to present today."


2nd Place Short

Dunked by John Bickerstaff

A closeted teen preparing for his full-immersion baptism makes friends with a lifeguard, and realizes his resistance might be about more than his fear of water - and of his overbearing, religious mother.

"I like to say that Dunked isn’t a true story but that there’s a lot of truth in it. I’m gay, I was raised homeschooled and conservative, and I did get “dunked” (baptized by full immersion) when I was 16. I didn’t realize I was gay till several years later, but when I was writing about that time period I realized the two subjects went together quite well and made for a really good crisis for the character. As strange as it sounds, there is now such a thing as a "traditional" coming out. I didn’t have that, and it’s really important to me to portray similar diverse experiences of queer people in my work. The coming out experience represented in media is so homogenous, and I hope this will speak to people who feel like they haven’t seen themselves before."


3rd Place Short

Hawk Bells by Kristian Mercado Figueroa

A story told via the perspective of a Taino Indigenous mother and daughter during Puerto Rico's colonization. We experience their day to day lives and the violent shift as we explore the practice of slavery and usage of Hawk Bells during that time period.

"I wanted to define the Latinx narrative from a perspective of origin point. Puerto Ricans have a lot of lost history, which needs to be reclaimed and explored. I felt it was vital to tell the story of our very inception since it's rarely discussed or explored. The enslavement practices of the colonized using Hawk Bells was an obscure oddity that I felt could be explored."

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