I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
when I finished reading Baroness Orczy's novel,
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, and wanted to see how it would look on film. Every
story I read, every song I hear, I envision in terms of a film.
I know I've succeeded........
in learning the proper format of screenwriting
and the importance of remembering that this is, above all, a visual medium. In
NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T, I think I have succeeded in creating a
memorable love story that would appeal to people of all ages.
My inspiration to write NOW YOU
SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T.......
was my love of Jane Austen's novel and the
feeling that many people are daunted by the title, "Pride and Prejudice." It
might as well be called "War and Peace." Few people outside of an English
class realize how beautiful and classic a love story it really is. I wanted to
show people how timeless.
What inspired you to write?
Jill Stevens: was watching movies. Watching JAWS and OLD YELLER
and A MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, I knew that I wanted to be part of the
people feel anything so strongly after leaving a movie theatre,
whether it be happiness or horror.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Jill Stevens: I watched and read a lot of movies. I took a film
class at a local community college and studied the films of Hitchcock,
Spielberg, and Capra. I bought books on proper format and learned how
to write scenes and dialog.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Jill Stevens: This is not my first script. It took me about
five months to write it.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
I write every day, but the location and times vary. I have two active
children and so am often called upon to play chauffer. I used to take
a spiral notebook with me wherever I went so while waiting for my
children, I could write. I wrote in grocery store lines, at fast food
restaurants, in my car, and in coffee shops. Now I have a laptop and
Final Draft and they have revolutionized my life.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Jill Stevens: I believe screenplay competitions are an
invaluable resource for writers who can't get past the virtual
blockade that surrounds Hollywood. Producers won't even read queries
unless submitted by an agent and so few agents are willing to take on
new clients that contests are a way of getting your work seen and
possibly noticed by "the powers that be."
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Jill Stevens: The best script any aspiring writer should read
would have to be Ted Tally's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. It is an
excellent example of how to use subtext in dialog to convey meaning.
The characters are rich with personality and the potential for drama.
From the opening sequence of Clarice Starling running in
the woods to our last sight of Hannibal Lecter getting ready "to have
an old friend for lunch," the visuals are astounding.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Jill Stevens: Besides screenwriting, I am passionate about
reading. I love good books, especially the classics. I also have a
rather morbid interest in natural
disasters--volcano eruptions, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. Obviously
this is from the perspective of someone who has never experienced any
of these things.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
Jill Stevens: My favorite screenwriter would have to be Nora
Ephron. Her movies do what movies should do; that is make you feel
good. They are funny and smart and not patronizing. They are just
great to watch on a cold and rainy winter day. She is a screenwriter
whose films never disappoint.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Jill Stevens: A director I would love to work with would have
to be Steven Spielberg. It would be like working with a magician and
getting to see all of his tricks. Ever since seeing JAWS nearly
traumatized me as a pre-teen, I have been in love with his films. He
is someone who can make you laugh and cry and scream, all in one
movie. For a writer, it would be like a kid in a candy shop in that
you could do whatever you want to in your script and with him
directing, you'd never have to wonder, "oh, but can they DO that?"
Spielberg? Of course.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Jill Stevens: Actors, actors. This is the hardest question
you've asked. There are so many icons--Pacino, Hopkins, Hackman--and
the current A-listers, like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, who would
be a joy to work with. Joaquin Phoenix comes to mind as someone with
enormous range. He was the perfect villain in GLADIATOR yet so
intensely sweet and vulnerable and strong in THE VILLAGE. It would be
fascinating to create roles for him.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Jill Stevens: I've learned to keep trying. That great idea may
come to you at the most unusual moments. I believe most of my best
lines and scenes for NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T, came to me while
walking my dog. Always carry something with you to write down great
lines and ideas. Try and keep abreast of what is happening in the film
world. More than once I've finished a script only to realize that
another film is already in post-production on the same idea.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Jill Stevens: Next I am working on adapting my own novel called
CLEANING HOUSE, the story of a bulimic chef who returns to the family
estate after the death of her parents and decides to renovate the
house into a bed-and-breakfast. I also have a few other ideas in the
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Jill Stevens: In five years I will hopefully be accepting the
Academy Award for Best Screenplay. (I'm sure you've never heard that
before.) Or I could be working on a script for Quentin Tarantino. Or I
might be doing laundry...I'm always doing laundry.