2007 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth

Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards

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Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth
CATEGORY 2 - (Drama)
Platinum Prize Winner
Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth
Penngrove, CA
Biography: Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth is a passionate life long learner. After she earned a Master's and taught English for a couple of years, she went to law school. Her passion to learning is married to her passion about the environment and social justice issues.

Elizabeth's screenplays are explorations of human beings caught in situations of injustice, political fights, cultures that devalue certain segments of society. She tries to write compelling, entertaining stories that put human face on a headline or a policy that forgets the human lives affected. Luckily these themes serve many genres, including thrillers. She wrote one that brings to light the practice of FGM in America. These passions were molded by her family who shared a love of education, books, film, art, and politics.

In junior high school a teacher believed he saw the makings of a writer in Elizabeth, put her in a journalism class where she wrote a serialized short story. It was published in the local magazine. Secretly she wrote all of the time, this public moment stymied her writing for years.

Her love of film took her to the Sundance Film Festival where she met aspiring writers. She recognized herself in them and began to write a novel. Then a story showed itself to her cinematically. Having never taken a writing class, let alone screenwriting, she bought software, a book and began her journey. She has done well with a couple of scripts in contests and festivals like Austin and Slamdance.

Her children are her greatest passion and she looks to them for inspiration.


I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........

when a story began to construct itself visually for me. Up until that time I had been writing a novel. The story of an adolescent girl thrown out of her tenement and having to catch on fast moving freights to find an aunt she never met during the Depression was cinematic. I saw pictures in my mind, then the words to describe. I heard the conversations, then I could write them.

I know I've succeeded........ 

I don't know when I will feel as if I have succeeded because the definition of success continues to change as I change. When I feel at peace with my goals is the closest I can come up with.

My inspiration to write NO RUNNING.......

was the continual playing out of the polarizing debate on immigration in the media with little recognition that the theories and laws people were discussing would affect many peoples' lives. The humanity of it was, and is missing. I wanted to show the humanness of the people on both sides of the issues. I tried to portray both sides equally without a verdict, that left to the audience.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: Great books have inspired me to think, feel, and write. Books for me were a contradiction. In one way they gave me a way to hide, escape into another time or place, and at the same time the ideas I gleaned helped me gain a public point of view and voice.

FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth:
I think the preparation that laid the foundation for writing my first script is my passion for movies. My whole family shared that passion. My father would take us to theatres in LA that would run silent films. I watched Chaplin on the big screen when I was 8 years old. We read about films. After each movie we would get ice cream and have a huge discussion. Children were equal participants. I wrote stories, poems, did very well in English. Taught English. Finally got the nerve, bought the software and a book.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: This is my fourth completed script. From the first glimmer of the idea, the people living in my head, NO RUNNING took 8 months.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth:
The only routine I have is to write in longhand on legal pads, and talk the ideas out loud to myself or others.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: I believe screenwriting contests are very important to get crucial feedback and exposure.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: Filmmakers International strong commitment to help writers get their work out and into the hands of people who have the ability to make things go from script to screen is what influenced me to submit.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: I had never read a script before I wrote one. If I could do it all over again. I would make sure I read a script..

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: I am passionate about the environment, social justice, family, reading, movies.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: Too hard favorite screenwriter, one of my favorites is Billy Wilder.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth:
Sean Penn. THE PLEDGE, INDIAN RUNNER, THE CROSSING GUARD, are amazing character studies.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth: Robin Wright Penn is a fine actor. Her performances are layered, nuanced, empathetic. Benicio Del Toro is amazing, unpredictable, powerful, and empathetic.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth:
My tip is to keep trying when you are done with trying. Sometimes it is difficult to continue with all the competition, the odds of getting your work noticed.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth:
What's next is for me to keep trying and to believe in the kind of stories I write.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Sullivan Savage-Elizabeth:
In five years I will be writing, on a new computer, I hope.

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