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Recent Success Stories

Runner-up in the Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition, Laura Bensick sold the series Everyday Insanity to Fox. Ken Olin (This is Us) and Sterling K. Brown producing. The drama series addresses mental illness within three different families who come together to form one supportive group.

Laura placed with the hourlong drama The Mother in the 2016 Script Pipeline season, besting over 2,500 other pilots. In 2019, Bensick’s autobiographical play Life in Paradox, premiered in Los Angeles.

Everyday Insanity is Laura’s first TV series deal.

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First Look Project - Late Deadline: October 1st 

Submit a Screenplay or Pilot

The 8th Annual First Look Project fulfills the requests of studios, production companies, agencies, and top managers by finding fresh, high-concept material across two main categories:

Screenplay – divisions for Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Horror/Thriller, and Sci-fi/Fantasy

TV Pilot – divisions for Hour and Half-hour original pilots, any genre

Supported by QC Entertainment (Get Out, Us), Good Fear Film + Management (Rings), Panay Films (Masterminds), Lakeshore Entertainment (Age of Adaline), Zero Gravity Management (Ozark), Silent R Management (reps Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins), Lit Entertainment Group (Prisoners), and other Script Pipeline partners, the competition introduces the best scripts to major companies.

One winner in each category receives a share of $17,500, industry circulation, and long-term personalized development assistance from Script Pipeline’s executive team. We also select up one runner-up in each division.

Unlike Script Pipeline’s main Screenwriting and TV writing competitions, entries for First Look are judged equally on writing ability and commercial potential. The originality of the concept and a strong understanding of genre and marketplace trends will take precedence, as well as overall writing ability.

Submit a Screenplay or Pilot

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Interview: Helen Gaughran

The winner of the 2019 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition with Visitation, Helen Gaughran expertly crafted a tonally perfect genre mix of character-driven drama and grounded horror. Though still relatively new to screenwriting, she’s made a bold leap into establishing herself amongst the next wave of film industry talent.

You’re heard this plenty of times by now from us, but let’s say it once more for the road: Visitation is perhaps one of the best feature screenplays we’ve reviewed in over a decade. For too many reasons to list here. You pulled some pieces from history to construct the script, right? What was your original intent with the idea, and how did it change, if at all, from initial concept to final draft? Given your connection to Ireland, was the story itself, or its themes, personal?

First, Matt, I want to thank for relentlessly puffing up my self-regard. It’s taken a beating over the years, and now it’s back to previously insufferable levels. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT!

Yes, there’s a ton in Visitation based on my own memories of being a schoolgirl at a castle-convent in Ireland. Little flashes like the girls arguing with the nuns about no-sex-before-marriage; the gothic atmospheric setting on the cliff-edge of the world; black, belligerent skies, the sound of crashing waves and screaming seagulls; trees twisted by the wind into strange, monstrous shapes. It’s a very specific, ritual-soaked world: the lives of the nuns, the girls’ blasphemous banter, and their quick intense friendships, the casual confidence of wealth and everyone’s curious ability to simultaneously believe and disbelieve. All of it taking place at a moment in time when Ireland was beginning to reject the notion of sexual shame.

I’d always been intrigued by Ireland’s particular obsession with the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying to her far more than they pray to actual God. When I was growing up, everyone’s Mum or Granny had a framed poster of “The Memorare” prayer, which to me always had the power and hook of a pop song. It stuck in my head, and it sort of fed into this swirling confluence of thoughts that ended up being Visitation.

I mean, I remember, I can trace how the Visitation story came together. Weirdly, I thought of a movie name first, “Sister Silence," which led to a serial killer nun, and on the heels of that came another thought: don’t be ridiculous, why would a nun kill? Then I had a flashback of my smart-and-science-y older sister explaining parthenogenesis to me and I thought, well obviously the nun kills because she’s obsessed with virgin birth. And why would she be obsessed with virgin birth? Because she desperately wants the Virgin Mother to appear to her! Therefore: a remote castle-convent for pregnant girls.

(For anyone who’s mystified: Visitation is set at a remote castle convent in Ireland in 1981. It’s about a murderously obsessed nun--desperate for the Blessed Virgin Mother to appear to her--who becomes convinced that an innocent, young newcomer has conceived without sin.)

Ironically, after the name being the initial springboard, I ended up changing it. “Sister Silence” was tonally way off, much too slasher B-horror for this, which is very grounded and real. Process-wise, I dictated the outline on my phone while walking my very slow-moving dog and at stoplights (sorry. . . and also, Siri, get your act together, my accent is not that strong). The outline ended up being 11 pages long. The beginning was there, the ending was there, and the second act was a bit of a jumble, but I knew in general where it was going. Then I wrote the screenplay on a legal pad in my back garden because I’d had foot surgery and I had to keep it elevated. 90 pages later, I gave it to a Berkeley student to type, and when she handed it back to me, it was only 60 pages long! What the--? But it was serendipity because it allowed me to explore/expand/deepen the relationships with new scenes; make sure everyone’s character developed at an even, natural pace; add more scary/disturbing stuff; dramatize the emotional sickness of the nun so she was complex and disturbing, even heartbreaking, rather than a scenery-chewing provocation; and make sure each scene was from a specific character’s point of view. Happy upshot, henceforth I’ll be writing all screenplays this way.

Thematically, it’s extremely personal. Quick recap: The innocent, young girl runs from her beloved mother’s sickbed, too terrified to accept that she is days from death. The next morning, she’s spirited away by her grandfather to Visitation, a castle-convent for pregnant girls, but she has no idea that she’s pregnant. This piques the interest of the dangerous BVM-obsessed nun--and the terrified, guilt-ridden young girl has to find a way back to see her Mum before she dies.

Given the following, you’ll see the parallels: my own Mum died in late 2017 in Ireland when I was 5000 miles away in California. It was very hard being so far away when she wasn’t well. I loved her beyond belief, and I was in deep denial that she’d die. I’d have these bargaining sessions with my doctor sister: she’s got 10 years, right? No. Five then? Helen, she has chronic heart failure. . . . I just really couldn’t picture a world without her in it, her presence was that huge. So, I didn’t necessarily plan it this way, but thematically it’s really about the doubt and panic and denial of a parent dying, and that a mother’s love is strong enough to survive even death. So you can and will survive her loss. Without doubt, this screenplay is 100% dedicated to her. She was a remarkable woman.

Visitation blends genres so seamlessly, did you feel at some point you had to pick one or the other? Make it a full-blown thriller, or a straight drama, or a down-the-middle horror? Were you consciously trying to “be different” when it came to this genre?

Oh God, not at all. And I’ll thank you to not make me think this way! For the sake of my sanity and productivity. This isn’t a cop-out, I swear, but I didn’t necessarily choose this genre or genres, the story idea did. Given what it was, it had to be horror; and my personal belief is, all films are dramas, or at least should be because they have to be character-driven. I mean, look at really great murder-mystery writers like Tana French or Minette Walters, their character subtlety and impact and originality and, I don’t know, excitement and charisma, is what makes them so addictively readable. It is the center and the driving engine of what’s happening, so my mind doesn’t even compute a genre film without a tremendously character-driven approach, I’m bored already just thinking about it. I think it would be inevitable that it’d be repetitive and derivative, like all those throwaway airport books that feel like fast food you can’t bring yourself to finish.

Read the Full Interview

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August 2019 Script Sales 

Legendary Pictures and Jon Shestack Productions picked up The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, a spec written by John Raffo and based on the novel by A. Lee Martinez. The story follows Constance Verity, the chosen one who has battled supernatural forces her entire life and now just wants to settle down with a boyfriend, a normal job, and best friends. Awkwafina will star. Chester Tam’s untitled romantic comedy spec found a home with Screen Gems and Underground Films. The story follows a Black woman and an Asian-American man who start a relationship, surprising family and friends since neither is typically the other’s type. Gabrielle Union is attached to produce and star. Tango Entertainment and Eat the Cat scooped up Joshua Giuliano’s horror/thriller script River about three siblings stalked by a masked killer after being stranded in a boat on a country river. Giuliano will also direct. Leon Chills’ action-drama Shadow Force is a go with Simpson Street, Indian Meadows Productions, and Made with Love. Finally, Kerry Washington and Sterling K. Brown are set to star in the film, described as a fresh take on Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Other script sales:

– Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty will script the sequel to their 2018 hit Searching. Chaganty will return to direct, and Ohanian to produce.

– Lana Wachowski, Aleksandar Hemon, and David Mitchell will write the fourth Matrix movie for Warner Bros. Wachowski will direct, and Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss will star.

– Katie Silberman has been tapped to rewrite Shane and Carey Van Dyke’s spec Don’t Worry Darling for New Line Cinema and Vertigo Entertainment. The psychological thriller follows a 1950s housewife who comes to believe that she’s living in a simulation. Olivia Wilde is set to direct and star.

– Paul Schrader’s drama script Life from the Other Side found a home with Blazing Elm. Bradley Bredeweg will direct.

– Blumhouse picked up a body-swap thriller script from Christopher Landon and Michael Kennedy. Set to star Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, the film follows a young girl in high school, who after swapping bodies with a deranged serial killer, discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent.

– Paramount Players and ACE Entertainment are moving forward with White Smoke from writer-director Nicholas McCarthy. The story follows a case of possession inside the Vatican.

– Jill Soloway is set to write and direct an adaptation of Amy Butcher’s memoir Mothertrucker.

– Ehren Kruger’s action script Black 5 has been set up with Sony, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Bay Entertainment. Based on an idea from Michael Bay. Bay will also direct.

– Eddie Huang to write/direct Boogie for Focus Features, Immersive Pictures, and Wink Productions. The coming-of-age drama follows a young Chinese-American basketball prodigy as he tries to balance the expectations of his immigrant family and his dream to play for the NBA.

Read More Script Sales

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On Becoming a God in Central Florida - Pilot

To be completely reductive, every story is about desire. A character wants something so much that they will do whatever it takes to achieve it, and the alternative is inconceivable to them. When writing dark comedy, things become more difficult: The main character’s goals tend to be less than noble, but the audience still needs to care about their journey. If the audience doesn’t empathize or sympathize with the characters, then what’s the point of watching?

Set in the early 1990s, On Becoming a God in Central Florida, created by Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky, walks that fine line. Krystal Stubbs wants stability. She grew up poor, and now that she and her husband have infant daughter, she wants to make sure there’s food on the table and a roof over their heads. As she tells her husband, “I won’t be poor again.”

About her husband: Travis wants more. He wants the American dream he was promised—cars, boats, helicopters. He is a “millionaire-in-waiting” and his way forward is through FAM, short for Founders American Merchandise. FAM is a multilevel marketing company (or, you know, a pyramid scheme) that sells inferior products in bulk, expecting the buyers to sell to other people (their “downlines”) who sell to their downlines who… you get the point. But FAM’s bigger draw is Obie Garbeau II. Obie is a millionaire who makes his living not only heading FAM but also selling inspirational self-help tapes for his devoted followers. Yup, he’s basically a cult leader though, instead of selling immortality or spirituality, his promise is the American dream. And Travis has bought into his message completely—he’s so enamored with that hope of something more that he’s willing to quit his J-O-B (Garbeau and his devotees will only spell that word out) to achieve it. Krystal sees the company for what it is—false hope—but she’s willing to support her man as long as he keeps his J-O-B.

So what does Travis do? Huge spoilers ahead: He quits his J-O-B anyway, and on his way home, he drives into the swamp and gets eaten by an alligator. Now dubbed the “Alligator widow,” Krystal is left with an unpaid second mortgage, creditors looking to repossess everything she owns, and dozens of boxes of FAM merchandise. Faced with eviction and poverty, Krystal decides to fully embrace the FAM lifestyle. She will recruit anyone she can to join the pyramid scheme and do whatever it takes to have her sense of normalcy and stability back. She knows it’s wrong and she knows that the company is built on false promises, but it’s her only option. Her goal isn’t morality; it’s survival.

Despite all that, the show is wickedly funny. The pilot script balances Krystal’s emotional journey with spot-on satire about capitalism, the American dream, and the cult of personality. The script itself is longer than the actual pilot episode, with many of its scenes showing up in later episodes. Krystal’s defining decision to embrace the FAM lifestyle doesn’t actually happen in the filmed pilot, but it makes sense for the screenplay. Good pilot scripts should specify what the main character’s journey will be and how they will go about achieving it, but that doesn’t always work for the finished product. Sometimes you just need more time with the characters to get there, and the extra time Funke and Lutsky spend with Krystal is time well spent.

Needless to say, you should check out this show. Kirsten Dunst flawlessly leads as Krystal (a future Emmy contender for sure), and the supporting cast of Théodore Pellerin, Mel Rodriguez, and Ted Levine also give amazing performances. (A mulletted Alexander Skarsgård shows up as Travis in the pilot with a performance that’s equal parts humor and pathos.) Overall, few shows today are this incisive and funny.

Read the On Becoming a God in Central Florida Pilot

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Late Deadline: Short Scripts and Short Films

Winners Receive:
$10,000 | long-term industry circulation | additional project development

The 2nd Annual Film Pipeline Competitions seek remarkable writers and directors with diverse, engaging work--the type defined by forward-thinking perspectives and unconventional yet universally appealing stories.

For produced shorts, Film Pipeline's platform is significantly different from the typical festival: selected entrants are given introductions to managers and agents for potential representation and extended promotion of their short or series pilot.

For unproduced scripts, Film Pipeline creates an opportunity to get your material made and collaborates with selected entrants from development to production.

 

Submit a Short Film | Submit a Short Script

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Notes on Screenplays and Pilots - Reduced Rate 


$100 off
Development Notes - promo code: 100Workshop
$50 off General Review - promo code: 50Workshop

Established in 2000, the Script Pipeline Workshop is one of the longest-running notes services in the industry, offering feedback on screenplays, pilots, and pitches for film and television. Hundreds of writers each year, from beginners to professionals, benefit from the expertise of a small, seasoned group of development execs, many of whom are active writers and producers themselves.

Any genre or format accepted. We review everything from partially completed scripts to production-ready final drafts. Writers may also request a critique on supplemental materials (such as a TV show bible, synopsis, or logline), as well as follow up with their reader with additional questions on the feedback.

Together with the suite of Script Pipeline competitions, the Workshop is another outlet to funnel upper-echelon projects to an array of industry contacts and shepherd scripts into production.

Development Notes | General Review

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Upcoming Competition Deadlines & Dates

2019 First Look Project (screenplays and pilots) - Late Deadline: October 1st

2019 Great Movie Idea Contest - Early Deadline: October 15th

2019 Great TV Show Idea Contest Early Deadline: October 15th

2019 Screenwriting Competition - Pre-register Deadline: December 31st

2019 TV Writing Competition - Pre-register Deadline: December 31st


Other Competitions:

Book Pipeline - Fiction (November 15th)

Film Pipeline - Short Films and Scripts (October 15th)

Script Pipeline is a division of Pipeline Media Group, LLC