2008 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Heather Ferrell


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FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards

Heather Ferrell
Grand Prize Winner
Heather Ferrell
of Philadelphia, PA

Originally from Rochester, NY and currently based out of Philadelphia, she peddles surgical devices to pay her bills and subsidize an exotic travel habit. On weekends she conjures the caffeine muse to write screenplays. She has completed two scripts. A DIFFERENT KIND OF RAIN is a feature that placed as a Finalist in the 2007 Page International Screenplay Competition and a second round contender in the 2008 Slam Dance Competition.

Her second script is a short screenplay, LAST DRAG, that placed as a Finalist in the 2007 BlueCat Short Screenplay Competition, a Quarter Finalist in the American Gem Screenplay Competition and second place at the 2008 DC Short Film Festival Live Reading Screenplay Competition. She is currently writing two feature length comedies entitled THE MARCIA BRADY APPROACH TO MAKING FRIENDS and SPERM DONOR 2822, a short comedy entitled SQUIRT CLUB and A DIFFERENT KIND OF RAIN, the novel.


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

I always liked reading and envisioned myself writing a novel but when I sat down to write, I noticed I was watching the story play out as a movie in my head. I figured it might make more sense to try writing a script. So I did.

I know I've succeeded........ 

Since Iíve yet to make a film Iím not sure I have! I do feel incremental flashes of success whenever one of my scripts receives positive feedback from an industry expert or places in the quarter, semi or finals of a screenwriting contest. I remember when A Different Kind of Rain kept inching up the ranks in the Page International Screenplay competition and finally landed in the finals out of 3400 scripts. I figured I must have some inherent, raw talent or it would never have made it that far.


My inspiration to write A DIFFERENT KIND OF RAIN.......

Initially it was an ex-boyfriend that did me wrong. I started writing the story of a bitter, angry woman but the ex was hardly worth the energy and my venom faded after a couple of pages. I mellowed the angry woman and started playing with the idea of a character whoís wedged herself in a bad place. That character became Tess. Once I had a main character, A Different Kind of Rain became an exploration of how people do or donít get themselves out of bad places in their lives and what it takes to get on a better track. Once I had Tessís character locked and loaded, the true inspiration of the script became my mother. She died several years ago at the too young age of 69. I wrote ADKR as a tribute to her. My mom had a fun-loving spirit, nurturing warmth and a belief that everything works out. She became Molly. I wanted to honor the youth that percolates in older people and show the positive power a person can have in a fellow human beingís life.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Heather Ferrell: I have all these characters and stories swirling in my head. I have to write.

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

Heather Ferrell:
What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script? I read a book on screenwriting and took an online class with Gotham Writerís Workshop. After I had a basic understanding of the screenwriting format I just started writing.

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

Heather Ferrell:
 Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete? This is my first script. Iíve been working on ADKR on and off for about five years. To be honest, Iím not sure it is completed- it still feels like a work in progress.

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

Heather Ferrell:
A few years ago I quit my job to travel the world, volunteer and write. For over a year I had a fairly set routine where Iíd get up, exercise, drink coffee then write uninterrupted for several hours. I wrote everyday and it was fantastic. Iím no longer gainfully self-unemployed and consequently, have to wedge writing in around my day job, social life, and errands.

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

Heather Ferrell:
I do. I think contests help a writer work toward a deadline. In addition, the contests that provide industry coverage give invaluable feedback that can be used during the next rewrite. It is also affirming when your script gets a quarter, semi or finalist nod.

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

Heather Ferrell:
Most screenwriting competitions give writers a chance to win prizes and money. Thatís cool but what writerís REALLY want is for someone to make their script into a film. Filmmakers awards prizes and money but more importantly, it gives writers exposure to industry personnel who can actually take the script from the page to the screen. That exposure sets Filmmakers apart.

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

Heather Ferrell:
I just finished the Coen brothers ďBurn After ReadingĒ and I was impressed. I havenít seen the movie but I LOVED the script. It was lean, ripe with zippy characters, witty, and I couldnít put it down. I read the script in one setting and thought ďTHIS is how Iím supposed to do itĒ.

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

Heather Ferrell:
I wish I could list a bunch of causes and present myself in a more socially conscious way but alas, aside from a few Third World volunteer trips, my passions are self-indulgent. I travel, ride my horse, do the occasional triathlon, spend time with friends and family, and of course, read, write and watch movies. I do my best to live a remarkable ordinary life.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Heather Ferrell:
Iím going to have to toss Joel and Ethan Coen out again. I just find their style to be so concise, witty and twisted. Iíve read Fargo and Burn After Reading and find their scripts as pleasurable to read as they are to watch. And thatís coming from someone who generally does not enjoy movies with raw violence where lots of people die. They are brilliant writers.

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

Heather Ferrell:
Christine Jeffs. She took a quirky premise, in Sunshine Cleaning and brought the story and characters to life in a very believable way. Impressive.

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

Heather Ferrell:
I saw Kelly MacDonald in The Merry Gentleman (Michael Keatonís directorial debut) and was blown away by the strength and beauty of her achingly quiet performance. I think Kelly would be fantastic as Tess in A Different Kind of Rain!

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

Heather Ferrell:
Iím still learning myself! What is clear to me- writing is a skill. It can be learned. All writers need to continue to exercise the writing muscles by writing. Entering contests, reading scripts, and watching movies also help develop the skills.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Heather Ferrell:
Iím currently working on two comedy features, a short and the Novel for A Different Kind of Rain.

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

Heather Ferrell:
Writing full time I hope.

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