American Gem 2004 Short Screenplay Competition - DOPPELGANGER: KAYL'S DESIRE
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Theonnye Shelto

Sixth Place Winner

Theonnye Shelto
of Brooklyn, NY

Theonnye Trance Shelto is a high school senior currently attending Brooklyn Technical High School in New York. It was in elementary school, after winning several creative writing contests for various short stories, that she knew she had a gift for writing. She's been writing ever since. While many may see her as strange and bizarre and find her silence unsettling for a teenage girl, the glass being half full, she sees herself as eccentric and unconventional. As for her silence, she's just always been a quiet person.


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

I knew I had a talent for writing, I mean a real gift that would take me places, and found out that there was more to it than just short stories and poems. And with screenplays there’s always that chance that someone might pick it up and your vision and creativity (more or less) would be out there for the world to glimpse and possibly enjoy.  

I know I've succeeded.......  

when I don’t have to tell people how to pronounce my first name.

My inspiration to write DOPPELGANGER: KAYL'S DESIRE.......

came from a relationship I had with this guy I knew, who I thought would feel better about himself if he looked better: total makeover. But towards the end–after weeks of him refusing–I learned a valuable lesson. People are the way they are, the way they’re supposed to be. Anything else is just a façade, which only makes it harder to truly see the person underneath. 




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Theonnye Shelto: Writing was the only thing I was ever really good at, since elementary school. It was the only thing that brought me comfort after getting my ass handed to me by the “in-crowd” (third graders can be BRUTAL). When you pick up a pen (or the keyboard) you’re in total control. You’re in the driver’s seat and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

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

Theonnye Shelto: I can’t even remember the first script that I wrote, but I’m pretty sure there was minimal preparation involved. But it probably went like this Step 1) Took out my handy dandy notebook! Step 2) Kept writing until I couldn’t see the words on the page anymore as much as the story happening in my head. Step 3) Put into screenplay format (researched and looked at samples of my favorite movie and television scripts).

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write DOPPELGANGER: KAYL'S DESIRE?

Theonnye Shelto: This is not my first script, but it is the first that I’ve ever entered into a contest. And it took about a month to write. I tend to work faster with deadlines.  

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

Theonnye Shelto: When I write it usually comes from a personal experience that I wished happened differently and I just “rewrite my life”. But generally if I have an idea in my head I’ll write it down, it’ll sit there for about a week then, eventually, it’ll be transformed into coherent sentences and phrases that ultimately make a plausible storyline for whatever it is that I’m writing about. And the rest just flows together. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but deadlines intensify the high of putting words on paper. 

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

Theonnye Shelto: I think screenplay contests are very important for aspiring screenwriters because it gives them a chance to kind of get critiqued by people that are actually reading there work because they have to, and not because they’re your so-called friends that you have to beg for months to at least act interested in what you do or your mother. You win some, you lose some, and you press on. Hopefully you get better and better with the experience. 

FilmMakers Magazine:
What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Theonnye Shelto: Honestly, it was the cheapest contest next to free. I am a student and very much flat broke. That and I had never entered a screenplay contest before. I thought it was about time these things stopped sitting on the shelf collecting dust. They weren’t really helping anybody sitting up there. 

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

Theonnye Shelto: That all depends on what your thing is, what you like to watch. If it’s thrillers, read a thriller. But I would steer clear of “millennium” (today’s) remakes. For some reason most of them tend to be not so great and chock-full of cheesy dialogue. 

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

Theonnye Shelto: I love to draw. It kind of gives me an idea of what I want my characters to look like. It’s also a stress reliever and another way I get to tell a story. And it’s fun when people stop what they’re doing and ask me “did you do that?”

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Theonnye Shelto: Joss Whedon and his team, I would have to say are my favourite. The channels of communication between his characters are sarcastic and witty and serious when they need to be. And you can tell that a lot of care has been put into what each character would say based on their temperament, background, and the current situation they’ve been thrown into.   

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

Theonnye Shelto: I would love to work with Joss Whedon. It doesn’t matter what it is. He’s just this enormously creative guy who finds different and exceptional methods of doing things with his work, combined with the many other inventive minds around him, giving birth to something new and exciting. Buffy, Angel, and Firefly were all great shows. Firefly especially, was a phenomenal project that built on the “don’ts” of cinematography producing this fantastic sci-fi adventure. And I would have loved to be part of that imaginative group. 

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

Theonnye Shelto: Normally I don’t “see” actors as much as I do the talent, and personally I’d prefer to work with an up and coming star. But if I had to choose it would definitely be a toss-up between Rachel True (The Craft), Anthony Montgomery (Enterprise), and Alan Tudyk (Firefly). They each bring something different to the proverbial table. And different is always a plus. 

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

Theonnye Shelto: YIf you’re passionate about something never stop doing it no matter what anybody says. Take the criticism into consideration and build on it. Just don’t lose that thing that makes you different, original, YOU, in the process.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Theonnye Shelto: High school graduation.

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

Theonnye Shelto:
Hmmmm . . . five years? Hopefully, not living in my parents’ house mooching. But definitely still writing.

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