The 11th Annual American Gem
Short Script Contest Winners


Winners | Biography | Logline | Interview | Script Excerpt

Secrets of the Stars

American Gem Short Script Contest


Short Screenplay
Secrets of the Stars
Fantasy/Black Comedy/Sci-Fi

Darlene Inkster
of West Hollywood, CA, United States



Darlene Inkster

Darlene Inkster is an artist, writer and filmmaker resident in Los Angeles, California. She has a Ph.D. in Art History, Curatorship and Film Studies from the Australian National University and recently completed the writers program at UCLA.



The staff at an unusual day spa offers their ageing clients products they just can't resist.


Interview Part 1.

I knew I wanted to be screenwriter when  I picked up a video camera for the first time. I was an undergrad studying fine art and became intrigued by the creative possibilities of film. I've been obsessed with it ever since.

I know I've succeeded when  I see my work on the big screen, on canvas or in print. It's always a buzz to see something from inside my head out there in the real world.

My inspiration to write Secrets of the Stars stemmed from living in Los Angeles where the onus on age and body type, particularly for women, is brutal. The script was written as a stand-alone short film that serves as a commentary on ageing. My hope is that the short film will be made and used as a pilot for a television series.


Interview Part 1.

FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?
Darlene Inkster:
I use screenwriting as a way of exploring issues I feel passionate about and make a point of writing strong female characters interacting with the world in intelligent, effective ways.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Darlene Inkster:
I've written several spec scripts, and lots of shorts. This particular one started out with Rod SerlingísThe Twilight Zone in mind. The first draft probably took a week or so before being stuffed into my filing cabinet to fester for months or years before being plucked out and polished. Itís my standard modus-operandi.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
Darlene Inkster:
Routine? Whatís that? I live on my own planet and run on my own timetable. Iíve taken over the dining room of my apartment as an office and art studio. This means I can cook while I write, paint and run the household. It's called multitasking. Women do it all the time. It also means we have to eat on a little cafť table in the living room. Itís a matter of priorities. One must suffer for one's art and anyone who lives in my house has to suffer too. Earth is my planet. I just let everyone else live here.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
Darlene Inkster:
It certainly gave me a shot in the arm. When I finished the Writers' Program at UCLA I asked one of the lecturers what I should do next and he suggested I enter competitions, so I did. Earlier I had written Beyond the Shadows, an environmental thriller that I considered to be a throw away script. To my utter astonishment it was a finalist in the UCLA Feature Film Screenwriting Competition. I then entered it into the Hollywood Screenplay Competition and won the grand prize for best thriller. Since then, every screenplay Iíve entered into competitions has either won or placed highly.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Contest?
Darlene Inkster:
I did some research online and liked the reviews. Also, there are few competitions where one can enter a 40 page script as a short.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Darlene Inkster:
Gas, Food, Lodging is one of my favorite films of all time. Allison Anders directed and wrote the screenplay. She did a superb job. The screenplay was a sensitive and insightful adaptation of a novel by Richard Peck. Actually, Iíd recommend anything Anders wrote or directed. These days she seems to work mostly in TV, and does it with her usual panache.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Darlene Inkster:
Art, scuba diving, cooking, travel, environmental and human rights issues keep me busy and intellectually engaged. As I grow older, I have come to the unfortunate realization that one single lifetime isnít nearly enough to thoroughly explore the things that interest me. Iím hoping the Buddhists are correct, and that we get to come back and do it all again until we are fulfilled.

The one-shot-to-get-it-right Judaeo-Christian belief in Heaven and Hell fills me with dread.
My Idea of Burning in Hell is to Spend all Eternity Stuck in Heaven with my Ghastly Relatives.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?
Darlene Inkster:
I have to say the Cohen Brothers have traditionally tickled my fancy, although their last movie, Hail Caesar, was absolutely dreadful. Letís hope there will be no repeat of that fiasco.

I especially loved The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, Fargo and Barton Fink. Their compelling characters and off-beat humor provides an intriguing alternative to standard Hollywood fare.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Darlene Inkster:
Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang and Leni Riefenstahl would be my top 3 picks. Unfortunately they all dropped dead ages ago. It is a poorly recognized fact that some of Hitchcock and Langís most famous films were actually written by women at a time when women were seldom allowed behind the camera. I canít help wondering what great films those women writers might have produced if theyíd been so inclined, and had been given the opportunity and tools to do so.

If I could catch a live director, Kathryn Bigelow, Alison Anders or Jane Campion would be top of my list. Why? Because they are all brilliant, and it is ever so important for women in the film industry to support each other and promote diverse voices in popular culture.

Film is a collaborative art, and it all begins with a good script. Writers are seldom acknowledged, or rewarded, for their contributions to the most influential cultural medium of the 20th and 21st century. That needs to change, and womenís voices need to be heard loud and clear.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Darlene Inkster:
Jessica Lang would be perfect for the lead role in Secrets of the Stars. Iíve also written a juicy supernatural thriller sheíd be brilliant in.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Darlene Inkster: Procrastination is a bitch. I find the only way to concentrate on, and finish a project is to jot down any ideas that are distracting me. It might be for a short story, or a script, or an academic essay. I just spit it out in whatever fragmented form it might be, print it, pop it in my ideas file and (hopefully) get back to it later. The trouble is that every time I go to the file to pluck out a project and finish it, I discover ten new ones in its place. My filing cabinet is a bottomless pit and Iím drowning in paper.

My other non-tip is to forget all the rules and just write the most compelling story you possibly can, in the most economical way feasible. If you enjoy writing it, you know youíre on the right path.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Darlene Inkster:
I have several projects in the works at any one time. My current priority is to finish the second draft of my sci-fi novel and a comedy feature screenplay. The documentary Iíve been working on for the past year is calling my name, there is a pile of correspondence Iíve been meaning to address, a stack of books to be read, a Kashmiri curry on the stove needs stirring, washing in the machine to be dried, the carpets need a vacuum and I refuse point blank to iron anything, ever again.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Darlene Inkster:
Not here.


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