I have screenplays that range from a family cat cartoon Western to a hard R comedy-slash-horror Werewolf to a historical drama about coming of age in 1920's racially charged East Texas. All these have placed highly in festivals and contests. The MacKenzie Breakout awarded me a Fellowship as the first screenwriter to ever participate in the Arctic Circle Program, where I spent three weeks this last October sailing around and exploring the various islands and fjords of Svalbard (Spitsbergen) at 80 degrees North.
“The MacKenzie Breakout carves its own legend in ice within the Post-Apocalyptic Genre”
The MacKenzie Breakout
Post Apocalypse Western. Road Warrior on ice. After an asteroid impact destroys the atmosphere and global warming tips the balance beyond the point of no return, hope for the future lies at the melting polar ice cap and the rising Arctic Ocean. But first, survivors must make it through a nuclear winter. Follow Chance Wilson, as he leads a caravan of pilgrims down the frozen MacKenzie River and into a future on the top of the world. Extensive involvement with Inuit cultures from the MacKenzie to Victoria Island. Minimal dialogue, all action. 116 ppg.
The second act entails taking a boat ride across the Arctic Ocean at the dawn of a collapsing global ecosystem. Now that I've just taken said boat ride across the Arctic Ocean, this act has a fresh re-write incorporating what I learned about taking a sailing vessel across the ice cap. Hint: it's about the last place you want to turn into a very bad room.
Empire Award Winner 2018 New York Screenplay Contest
Official Selection Global Script Challenge of the 2016 Oaxaca Film Festival
Fellowship in the Arctic Circle Program Fall 2015 (first screenplay ever accepted)
Official Selection Evolution! Mallorca International Film Festival 2015
Best Action Screenplay Finow International Film & Script Festival 2016
Official Selection Finalist 2016 Beverly Hills International Film Festival
Winner Fourth Place Barcelona International Film Festival 2016
Official Selection Finalist 2016 Catalina Film Festival
Winner Best Action Adventure Screenplay Chandler International Film Festival
Winner Action / Adventure Script 2017 Cannes Screenplay Contest
Finalist 2017 Mediterranean Film Festival
Finalist 2017 Austin Revolution Film Festival
Best Screenplay 2017 Portugal International Film Festival
Kodiak Award 2017 Alaska International Film Awards
Semi-Finalist 2017 Red Corner Film Festival
Best Screenplay 2017 Switzerland International Film Festival
Best Unproduced Script 2017 Milan International Film Festival
Finalist 2017 Filmmatic Screenplay Awards
Official Selection 2017 London Indie Fest
Official Selection 2018 Sacramento International Film Festival
Finalist 2018 South Carolina Underground Film Festival
Finalist 2019 Pitch Now Screenplay Competition
Official Selection 2019 Austria International Film Festival (decision in November)
Finalist 2019 Las Vegas International Film & Screenwriting Competition
Official Selection 2019 Action On Film 15th Annual International Film Festival
and Writers' Competition
The Cat That Clawed Tyrannosaurus Felis
This is the very first screenplay I wrote while in my first year of film school and was inspired by a feral cat colony that lived in a bricked up brownstone in an entire block of bricked up brownstones on West 95th Street when I moved to New York. Though my writing at the time was awful (it's gotten much better) a hand-written note from Greg Beal of the Nicholl Fellowship told me I just missed the first cut. "in the next 100". Not too bad for a first effort.
A de-clawed dandy of a cat from the Upper East Side (circa 1978) finds himself on the rough and tumble pre-gentrified Upper West Side at a time when “a cat was a cat.” Nothing else to do but take up claws and do what “a cat’s gotta do.”
It has recently had a thorough re-write with lyrics to songs added to flesh out the pacing of the script as an animated musical. Where else would you see cat caricatures of Ronald Reagan and Quentin Crisp sing a duet?
This all-cat Western can feature the music of Wilco (along with alternate rock music of the period). Does anybody know Jeff Tweedy?
Official Selection of the 2014 Oaxaca Film Festival
Best Animated Screenplay 2019 Las Vegas International Film
& Screenwriting Competition
The Curious Case of the Devil Dogs
After the Time Thieves ditch a dinosaur egg, the boy who finds it soon realizes that he can’t keep a growing dinosaur a secret forever. Meanwhile, the Time Police keep scouring the historical records for a missing dinosaur. Why hasn’t a dinosaur living in 21st Century Texas made the news?
It takes place in Glen Rose, Texas. Remember those famous dinosaur tracks at the American Museum of Natural History? Those tracks - this dinosaur.
Best Screenplay 2019 Santorini Film Festival
Special Commendation 2018 Scottish Independent Film Festival
Winner Best Feature Screenplay 2018 Germany International Film Festival
Winner Family Film Script 2019 Cannes Screenplay Contest
Quarter-finalist in Writer’s Network Screenplay and Fiction Competition
Official Selection 2013 Oaxaca Film Festival
Official Selection 2018 Hollywood Hills Awards
Semi-Finalist 2018 Sicily International Film Festival
Finalist Best Family Feature 2018 Las Vegas International
Finalist Best Family 2018 Filmmatic Screenplay Awards
Semi-Finalist Best Screenplay 2018 Evolution! Mallorca Film Festival
Official Selection 2019 Cinema Grand Prix
Official Selection 2019 Mediterranean Film Festival
When the daughter of Czech immigrants leaves her all-white county in East Texas, circa 1920's, to take a job a school teacher in a black township, she is completely ignorant of segregation and Jim Crow. Gradually, she must learn to play both sides of the race equation to get what she wants -- the best possible outcome for her students.
This is a favorite for many people and generally considered my best effort. It's certainly won the most acclaim.
Winner Best Drama Screenplay 2020 Cordillera International Film Festival
Winner International Award of Merit - Screenwriting: 2018 Jogja
International Film Festival
Winner Best Feature Screenplay 2018 Portugal International Film Festival
Best Screenplay 2018 Annual Copenhagen Film Festival
Best Screenplay 2017 Aukland International Film Festival
Best Story in Script RedCorner Film Festival 2017
Best Historical Drama 2017 Filmmatic Screenplay Awards
Best Screenplay 2017 Evolution! Mallorca Film Festival
Finalist 2017 Bucharest Film Festival
Finalist 2017 West Texas Film Festival
Finalist 2018 New York Screenplay Contest
Official Selection 2017 Rome International Cinefest
Silver Prize Winner Historical/Biographical Screenplay
2017 World Series of Screenwriting
Semi-finalist in the Austin Film Festival
Quarter-finalist in the Nicholl’s fellowship
Quarter-finalist in the Fade In Awards
Quarter-finalist in The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.
Female Quarter-finalist in the Cynosure Screenwriting Awards.
Semi-Finalist 2017-2018 Mediterranean Film Festival
Finalist 2018 Austin Revolution Film Festival
The sequel to Callie Earlene picks up a year later as East Texas is in the grips of a drought and at the dawn of the East Texas Oil Boom.
Characters from Callie Earlene are thrown into the maelstrom as desperate boomers converge from all across the country, and actual historical figures like H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison choose sides, as Big Oil battles the small independent wildcatters over what would become the largest oil field ever discovered in the Continental United States.
It would take the Texas Rangers and the National Guard to restore order. All in the first year.
I like what this Blue Cat reader had to say:
"The writer has a wealth of knowledge about the time period and milieu. The writer creates a truly livid-in world. To read the script is to be transported to the past, or to attend a very interesting history lecture. Some of the colloquialisms really add to this effect, by being both intelligent and witty. Jonas’s line on page 16: “if you’re selling nothing, you can sell it till the cows come home,” is an excellent example.
The writer has a natural instinct for raising stakes at the end of scenes, like at the end of a scene on page 23 when Otis says: “By then we will have already eaten the children.” The reader knows he’s not being serious, but it’s a great character beat that shows how dire the situation is.
The sparse, direct writing style makes the script easy to read, providing just enough description. There are so many colorful characters and situations in this script, it’s almost like an entire television season in a movie.
...The story in the script is fascinating, and it’s a look at a really interesting part of American history that hasn’t been told before. With a more concise focus, the writer could really have something here."
Peter and the Wolfman
Described by the Dean of USC film school, Frank Daniel, as ‘perfect.’ My Master’s thesis would have been bought on sight by DiLaurentiis Entertainment Group had they not already then been producing the dreadful Silver Bullet (with Stephen King attached). Not too bad for someone still in film school.
This comedy-slash-horror werewolf movie is chock full of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and gore. The Eighties almost killed me. Let's not recall them all that fondly.
Semi-finalist in the WGAe Foundation Dramatic Fellowship
And the Ring of Brogar
I'm a huge fan of this show and had been thinking about doing a spec script for tv for some time.
I made it an exercise. I had the topic picked at random, say as the showrunner might assign a topic and say "we want a script about such and such."
Not my first choice -- Dwarves. But an assignment is an assignment and so in this episode, the Librarians are flummoxed by a spate of obscure museum break-ins and mysterious tire tracks across northern England. Their investigation takes them from The British Museum to Skara Brae to Edinburgh Dungeon where Middle Earth dwarves have been forced into servitude to create magical weapons for a crime syndicate. ’15 51ppg.
Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival, out of over 8,600 entries this year. Not too shabby for my first ever effort at writing for television. And it came with a nice note from Matt Dy.
And those magic carved stone balls from Skara Brae? I actually flew to London to see them at the British Museum. That is dedication to research.
Reader #1 (initial reader)
"Concept: The story is well thought-out and educational, drawing on Irish, Scottish and Swedish history and folklore.
Plot: The plot moves along quickly and keeps the reader/viewer interested. It is inventive – having the underworld groups bid for the “underworld”-produced sword.
Structure: The characters discover something unusual, investigate, follow the clues, save the dwarves, then facilitate their return home. It moves along quickly.
Characters: The characters are consistent with their already-established personalities. Baird is uptight but game. Ezekiel is cool and rebellious. Stone is smart. Cassandra is…ditzy but intelligent. And these characteristics are played upon well in both the story and the dialogue.
Dialogue: Funny and consistent with the established characters. This is a spec for a comedy, and it does a good job with the jokes. It has its fair share of both jokes based on character and jokes based on the situation. Quite funny.
Overall: This script is well-researched, interesting, consistent with the series, and tells a good story. It has some interesting statements to make about humanity and does so within the context of the pre-established show. Plus, it's clever and funny."
"Dialogue: The dialogue fits the characters. Very funny; I laughed out loud a couple of times, picturing the cast saying the lines.
Overall: Clever, entertaining story consistent with the themes and mood of the show. Well-written and funny. Nice job on the mythology."
This true story of Deadwood Meets Dallas is the tale of America’s last great oil boom and boom town, before the Texas Rangers, the Texas National Guard and finally the Supreme Court restored order and saved the country’s national oil industry from complete collapse.
Actual historical figures become legendary Texas Oilmen in this telling of the first year of the East Texas Oil Boom (1930) during the first year of the Depression. The field was so large (bigger than the next ten largest American oil fields combined) that no single entity could contain it or control the dropping price of oil that such a surplus caused.
Pilot, Pt. 1: "Big Mom"
Okay, so you remember that Blue Cat reader who wrote "There are so many colorful characters and situations in this script, it’s almost like an entire television season in a movie."
Turns out he/she is probably right. I turned Callie Earlene and No Bill into a nine episode limited series for television. It will have to be on premium cable like Deadwood, with lots of whores, grifters and boobies.
No Bill was built as 8 separate segments; and Callie Earlene can serve as a two-part back door pilot, though for me it is still best served as a stand alone feature.
The first half of Callie Earlene is Pt. 1 of the Pilot for Kilgore Crude. Last Spring, when I taught screenwriting at the University of Texas at Tyler, I had ample time to do further research and interview descendants of families who were active in the field. Tyler Today ran an article about me in the December 2015 issue.
Oh, and the pilot. It was awarded BEST SCREENPLAY at the 2017 Aukland International Film Festival. Part 3, "Gert" - the beginning the No Bill saga just took third place at the 2017 Barcelona International Film Festival. So I have now written two things for television, a spec and a pilot, and they both advanced. And the first three episodes of Kilgore Crude have all won prizes.
Reader #1 (initial reader)
"Concept: The subject matter is definitely original for a TV drama, and is very rich, nuanced, and compelling. Historical drama that feels authentic and reflective of the era, in part because it focuses squarely on the humanity of its characters.
Plot: The world is incredible. Such detail and specificity without calling too much attention to anything. The story doesn't drive quickly, but the slow unfolding works for the piece.
Structure: The story unfolds slowly yet deliberately, without drawing specific attention to any one event in a way that feels representative of genuine experience. There is a clear beginning, middle, and ending, centered around Callie's brief encounters with Big Mom, but not a real arc or journey for her character -- again, though, in a way that feels authentic to reality. Curious what future episodes would look like structurally compared to this Pilot.
Characters: The characters are so fully realized they feel pulled from documentary rather than fiction. Really well done.
Dialogue: The dialogue perfectly captures the spirit of each character. Almost completely immersive, and especially enjoy the modern lingo that sporadically popped up in the action. It was used very efficiently to translate a character's reaction in essence and was never obtrusive to the material.
Overall: Amazing, realistic world, deep characters, original voice that really gets the material without being precious or delicate with its complexities. Not sure if this is series material or would be better served as a miniseries, but either way it's excellent."
"The writer tells a good story here, and it seems like they are going for something epic. This may work better as a feature or mini-series...
Clearly the writer has the skills to write in the genre, and it is certain they can continue to develop the story in an original way."
And the Prize of Paris
After spending 2016 expanding Kilgore Crude into a 9 hour limited series with the first draft of 540 pages, I decided to take off the month of December to cleanse my palate with another spec script for The Librarians.
Same premise applied, this time the show runner chose the theme "Gods and Goddesses." Again, not my first pick.
This episode reflects story developments now in Season Three with DOSA (Department of Statistical Anomalies) now the recurring villain. I also chose not to include the character of Flynn Carson since God only knows where he's off to these days.
I threw in the added wrench of trying to make it a "submarine" episode being contained mostly in existing sets. (there is only one exterior) and the majority of the episode take place in either the card catalog room or the reliquary.
Grand Prize Winner 2018 New York Screenplay Contest
Special Jury Prize at the 2017 Barcelona International Film Festival.
Bronze Prize Winner TV Spec Script 2017 World Series of Screenwriting
Winner Television Spec Script 2017 Cannes Screenplay Contest
Finalist 2018 Las Vegas International Screenwriting Competition
Former college classmates recruit a UT ethnomusicologist to the provide the backstory for the greatest musical discovery of the last sixty years, Hank Williams’ final concert at the Skyline Club in Austin.
Paris, Texas 1930
Short story from the C story of Kilgore Crude. A young mother wakes up to discover she and her son have been abandoned on their foreclosed family farm in the middle of the Dust Bowl.
Silent Cal and the Swain
Short story from Kilgore Crude that continues the story of Gert, the young mother from Paris, Texas.
Gert has made her way into the chaos of the East Texas oil field and now finds herself a taxi dancer, sold to the highest bidder by the Gladewater Chief of Police.
The House of Mercy
At the turn of the last Century, the United States had a "Girl Problem." Thousands upon thousands of girls entered the workforce, working at factories and shops out of home and unsupervised by their family.
And they were bringing home paychecks. This led to the rise of nickelodeons, dance halls, ice cream parlors and amusement parks -- places where unchaperoned young ladies had their own discretionary income and could vie for the attentions of young men.
And the country lost its mind. Tens of thousands of girls and young women found to be either feeble-minded or of moral turpitude and were remanded by the courts to institutions call Houses of Mercy located across the industrial belt.
In this two-part pilot, the year is 1916 and girls across three strata of society learn what happens when they buck the system. They are sent to the House of Mercy located at the very northern tip of Manhattan in what is now present-day Inwood Park.
Work continues on the remaining episodes of what will probably be a ten-hour limited series.