words worth a thousand pictures

introducing the ivy film festival’s screenplay selections

The Ivy Film Festival’s Screenplay committee, led by Daniel Wayland ’18 and Dominique Pariso ’18, has been working hard for the past year. While the Screenplay department perhaps lacks the glamour of Programming or Industry, which schedules celebrity guests, Screenplay champions the most underrated creators of film: student writers. Submissions come from across the country and vary widely in terms of content—from stories of Jewish mafias to time-traveling bargoers. From the 88 submissions the Screenplay committee received, the team has curated a group of 15 finalists spread over five categories. This diverse body of work will be showcased at a table reading in the Granoff Auditorium (11 a.m. on Saturday).

This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Could you tell us about the submission process and where these scripts come from?

DW: [The 88 we received] was a record for us. I think our goal is trying to get as close to 100 as possible. There was definitely a wide range of graduate and undergraduate submissions; there was definitely a lot of Brown participation, but it really spreads out throughout the country. A lot of places like Emerson, USC, and NYU send us a lot of scripts.

Q: Could you explain the different categories for submissions?

DP: We have our pilot category, which is undergraduates and graduates lumped together. We have our short category…[and] our feature category, which [are both] split into undergraduate and graduate. So there are five categories overall.

Q: So what are the screenplays like in the pilot category?

DP: We have three. The first one is Murder INC., which is a historical, hour-long drama that follows a group of Jewish men getting involved in the mafia. And we have one called The Reboot, which is a cute, animated, half-hour comedy that’s more of a script for teenagers. And we have The Pezzullos, a 30-minute comedy satirizing the Italian-American mafia.

DW: [The Pezzullos is] about a guy trying to leave a crime family who gets promoted, becoming the sort of reluctant Don of the family.

Q: Are writers submitting pilots just turning in a single episode, or is there a larger outline?

DW: We don’t get future plan sheets or things like that. I’d say pilots are the category we treat most differently [from] others because we’re thinking about how these narrative trajectories might play out over a season. If it feels like it’s too contained of a script, that works against a pilot. It helps to have a kind of road map to the season within the first episode.

Q: Could you talk a little about the graduate feature category?

DP: Yeah, we have three finalists. The first is called Élan, which is based on a true story about the Elan school, which was a private institution where “problem” kids were sent and often abused.

DW: We also have Bin, which charts the relationship between a young Muslim boy and an Iman,

and it kind of has a Good Will Hunting feel. And then the last one is Zenith, which is a self-discovery story.

DP: [Zenith is] about a black woman who is adopted into an all-white Mennonite community who then goes into the city to find her biological family and discovers her identity in some ways. Those are all very serious dramas.

Q: And you mentioned Emerson, USC, and NYU. Are you reaching out to these organizations, or are they finding you?

DP: They usually find us, for the most part…Our marketing department does a really great job getting the word out.

DW: And then we have an outreach department that works with satellite film festivals and reaches out to other schools. We have a solid reach now—I think we’ve sort of built up a base. When Shia LaBeouf came on Monday, he mentioned that he submitted his screenplay to us because we’re listed on one of the top 50 film festivals to submit screenplays to.

Q: But Shia LaBeouf’s screenplay was not chosen?

DP: Unfortunately, Shia LaBeouf’s not a student. But we did have fun reading that one. We read it anyway just for kicks. It’s being produced now. It’s called Honeyboy, and it’s based on his childhood growing up in Hollywood. Lucas Hedges, I think, was just cast to play young Shia, and Shia’s playing his father.

DW: Through Film Freeway, [the website he submitted his screenplay to], the Industry people were able to reach out and [get him to come to campus].

Q: Is there anything else Brown should know about IFF Screenplay?

DP: A lot of our screenwriters are coming. They’re visiting campus for the weekend. So for the screenwriting community here at Brown, it’s a really great opportunity to come and network and chat and talk about the craft, and this is the one event where screenwriting like this is really showcased on campus, and there’s a huge community of writers out there on campus who sometimes don’t feel really connected to each other, so if you come and meet people, it’s a really good way to get everyone in a room.

DQ: Last thing, just kind of a shameless plug about [Screenplay], the reason we have such a strong body of work this year in terms of our finalists and nominees is because of the work that our team [of 16 people] did. I think we had an exceptional [group]…that was really committed to doing heavy lifting. Our team was awesome this year.