American Gem 2007 Short Screenplay Competition - SAVING GRACE OF NUMBERS
  American Gem Short Screenplay Competition
2007 WINNERS  

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Mary Carroll-Hackett

Seventh Place Winner

Mary Carroll-Hackett
of Rice, VA

Mary Carroll-Hackett sold her first screenplay in 1999, and since June 2006, her work has placed or won in the following script competitions: Moondance 2006 (teleplay winner), Great Lakes Film Festival (finalist), WriteMovies Summer Competition (semi-finalist), Acclaim TV (finalist), The Writers Place (finalist), the Beaufort Film Festival (finalist), Gimme Credit Short Script Competition (finalist) and the PAGE Awards (quarter-finalist). She recently had a short script optioned by Blend Productions of New York as part of a package development deal with Lifetime. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and has published more than fifty short stories and poems in literary journals across the United States. Currently she directs Creative Writing at Longwood University in Farmville, VA.


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

When I was seventeen, but poverty, then motherhood, kept me in rural North Carolina. Those things didn't keep me from writing though. So I watched every movie I could, read every book I could, and finally got up the nerve twenty years later to go back to the dream of writing screenplays in 1999.

I know I've succeeded.......  

Because I'm getting to tell stories. My scripts and fiction are both finding homes, finding audiences, and that's what I wanted all along.

My inspiration to write SAVING GRACE OF NUMBERS.......

When my daughter, who is twenty now, was born, she had to wear a heart-apnea monitor for her whole first year; she would simply stop breathing and the alarm on the monitor would alert us, startle her back to breath. And I did, I believe, count every breath she took until the doctors cleared her at her first birthday. I never realized how afraid I was for that year until ten years later when I wrote a short story along similar lines.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Mary Carroll-Hackett: I've always written, been compelled to write. Just took a long time for me to make a life of it.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: I've always watched movies, the best preparation I think, but I also read books on the craft, took classes, and read tons and tons of scripts; the ones I loved I read again and again, trying to figure out how the writers did what I loved.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to write SAVING GRACE OF NUMBERS?

Mary Carroll-Hackett: No, I've written probably fifteen or so, most of which I'd never show anyone, shorts and feature-length. As for time, I draft really fast--this one in a couple of days, then spend much, much more time revising.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: I'm a single mom of three who teaches full-time, so I cram in writing time whenever I can get it--drafting notes at cross country meets or during my office hours when no students come by. I try to keep an early morning routine--4:30 to 6, usually manage to do that at least four times a week.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Exceptionally important. For those of us who love screenwriting but can't be in LA, contests provide vital opportunities, to share our work, to get feedback, to compete at all. I learned a lot from the contests that provided feedback from seasoned readers to whom I never would have had access otherwise.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: When I was first coming back to screenwriting these last few years, I did a lot of research on contests before I started entering. In every case, I found writers' responses to American Gem to be glowing. So I entered last year for the first time; I found the staff, communication, everything about the competition to handled professionally, expeditiously, and with obvious respect for the writers. So I came back for more. Glad I did.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Anything by the Coen Brothers--whether they're writing drama, action, or comedy, they're superb. Also The Shawshank Redemption. Anything by Paul Schrader.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Fiction, teaching, my kids, my cats.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Can't pick just one. But, I guess, the Coen Brothers. I also love Frank Darabont, Paul Schrader, Alan Ball, and Billy Bob Thornton. I wish he wrote more. The details of why would be too long. Simply put, I love all of these guys because they're fearless in looking at what fiction writer Harry Crews called "the unspeakable and the unendurable."

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Scorcese, again, because he's fearless, and he takes on the darkness in all of us, the violence, the guilt. Being raised Southern and Catholic, I guess I'm drawn to guilt, violence and darkness.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett:
Billy Bob Thornton. Holly Hunter. Robert Duvall. Vincent D'Onofrio. All four have done brilliant character work, inhabitation, marked again by that fearlessness, that willingness to brave, to really explore, to be, the facets of being human that are often the hardest for us to see.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Read, write, revise, revise, revise.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Mary Carroll-Hackett: I'm currently revising a feature length script that's a slightly different--I hope interesting--take on the Second Coming. The stories come, and I'll keep writing them, and sending them out. Writing, reading, teaching.

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

Mary Carroll-Hackett: Writing, reading, teaching. Watching movies and writing my own, always writing, always revising. Can't predict anything more than that.


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