American Gem 2005 Short Screenplay Competition - SECOND HORIZON
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Hannah Sanderson

Sixth Place Winner

Hannah Sanderson
of New York, NY

Hannah Sanderson recently graduated from the Writing Seminars program at Johns Hopkins University. This summer she has worked as an assistant to the director of an independent film, "Mentor", starring Rutger Hauer, in Baltimore, MD. Come fall, she will move to NYC to pursue a Master's at Columbia University and intern at a film production company. She is currently finishing up a feature-length script and plans to write many more in the future.


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

after taking an introductory course with Professor Marc Lapadula at Johns Hopkins. His energy and passion for good film-- particularly with regard to writing--made me fall in love with it as well. More importantly, though, he made screenwriting into something accessible for me and gave me the courage to at least try it out. During workshops, he made our class do a reading of each script . Whenever there were problems with dialogue, screen direction, chronology, I could hear them loud and clear. But when things worked, I suddenly and clearly envisioned how a particular scene might look and sound. I felt the script becoming something larger than an arrangement of words on a page and I think the impact of that moment is what pulled me into all of this. 

I know I've succeeded.......  

Well, to be honest, I'm not sure I've 'succeeded' at this point. I haven't been writing scripts for long enough and I have a lot to learn-- a lot of hard work to do before I can declare anything about success. However, I will say that, in general, I know that I'm doing something right as a writer when I show my work to someone and they want more. If they say, "Okay, but where's the next part? I've got to know what happens with so-and-so..." then I know I'm moving in a good direction.

My inspiration to write SECOND HORIZON.......

My script is about a recovering meth addict and a lot of people ask me if it comes from personal experience or something of the sort. The truth is, though, I wrote the story out of a desire to explore what it's like to "start over" again in life-- more specifically, how previous experience continually shapes that of the present and how sometimes, it is virtually impossible to move on from certain people, places, memories, etc...The matters of drug use and drug addiction really only served as
modes through which I examined that particular issue. From the get-go, I started writing the script simply as an exercise in creating a real person with a real life, and then focusing on just a piece, a bracket in time. 




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Hannah Sanderson: I've been writing here and there since as far back as I can remember writing...As a little girl, I loved coming up with stories and in middle school I started writing plays. For me, writing has always just been something I do because I can't help but do it. Something involuntary and essential in my life.

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

Hannah Sanderson: Before I started writing the actual scenes, I took some time to map out a basic plotline of how I envisioned the story. After that, I wrote character analyses for each main character, as well as monologues to figure out their voices. At that point, it was just a matter of getting myself into the mindset of the story. 

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

Hannah Sanderson: This is my first script. From the first draft to the most recent
draft, it's taken me around seven or eight months to get the piece where it is today.

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

Hannah Sanderson: I'm not as structured or disciplined as I'd like to be. Usually, I'll write first thing in the morning or very late at night, whenever I find the time. I always write with my IBook, which is my favorite possession, and if I can get in the zone, I can write pretty much anywhere. 

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

Hannah Sanderson: I think contests like this one are a great way for writers to get their work evaluated while they are still in the process of honing their craft and clarifying their voice. It's exciting to enter a contest, but it doesn't feel like so much of a gamble that ordinary writers can't apply.

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

Hannah Sanderson: I found the contest online and figured, "what the hell? I'll give it a try." I honestly never expected to make it anywhere near this far along in the contest. I'm very thrilled.

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

Hannah Sanderson: The first one that comes to mind is Fargo, by the Coen Brothers. When I read it last year, I was so impressed with the way each scene rolled into the next. Every word of dialogue and screen direction made the story "buzz" with comedy and creepiness. It's such an original, quirky piece and most importantly, it takes risks that most people wouldn't think of taking with their writing.. 

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

Hannah Sanderson: I love Latin culture-- speaking Spanish, listening to Latin music, dancing salsa, etc. I'm also very passionate about the interfaith cause; that
is, working towards mutual respect and understanding between different religious faith traditions. It's something I got involved with in college and I'm now pursuing a Master's in Religion at Columbia University so that I can hopefully do that kind of work on a more global level. Lastly, I LOVE going out to eat. My fantasy is to be a
full-time food critic. Scratch that, dessert critic.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Hannah Sanderson: I'm certainly not an expert, but again, I really like the Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson. They both write scripts that defy categorization and summarization, which is, I think, a testament to how fresh and raw their work is.  

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

Hannah Sanderson: There a few directors who have made movies that I love because they fit my vision of great cinema so nicely. I'd feel privileged to work with David Gordon Green, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Craig Brewer, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, among others. I think all of them have done brilliant work, each in their own way. 

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

Hannah Sanderson: I'd love to work with Jim Carrey because I think it would be an incredible learning experience. Also, Ludacris, who's also a rapper. He's my favorite new actor.

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

Hannah Sanderson: Rewriting isn't just a good idea, it is the idea. Even if you think you know what you're writing about in the first, second, even third
drafts, you are wrong. Be patient, put in some effort, and the truth
of the project will emerge eventually.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Hannah Sanderson: I just moved to NYC to work in the film industry in various capacities, while at the same time completing my Master's part-time.

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

Hannah Sanderson:
I have no idea, but I hope more than anything that wherever I am, I will be making film. Good film. Great film, perhaps?

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