"It can be very difficult to "break up" with the characters I have written"
The following interview was originally posted at https://www.filmcon.net/post/zafrani
Today we'd like to introduce the founder of the Screenwriting Tip community, Roy Zafrani, whose projects have been screened around the world over the past 20 years.
The pandemic hasn't stopped Roy from staying productive, as he not only completed 3 feature screenplays this year, but also written a children's book ("The Snail Who Left His House"), a book on screenwriting ("The (He)Art of Screenwriting"), and created several short films, including a fundraiser for "Upstep", which helped the company raise $2M. His multi-award-winning film "Over the Wall" won Best World Cinema Short at the 19th annual Phoenix Film Festival and his screenplays have done incredibly well on the festival circuit: "Mondays with Amy", Roy's dramatic fantasy screenplay, won Best Screenplay at the 21st annual California Independent Film Festival; his animated project "Lenny" was selected by the Oscar qualifying Austin Film Festival and made the Lotte Reiniger list at the British Animation Film Festival; and his crime-comedy "Cursed" won Best Feature Screenplay at the Portland Comedy Film Festival.
We asked Roy 5 questions about screenwriting and his recent projects.
Roy, congratulations on all of your achievements! How do you stay productive during these times?
Thank you! To be honest, it is not always easy to stay productive during this time. In addition to all the daily distractions, came the coronavirus that disrupts everyone’s daily routine. Whether it is the children who are at home, a quarantine that disrupts the work or even a sense of uncertainty. But I try to set goals for myself and meet them, and of course not give in to any factor that might distract me.
Of all your recent projects, I was most intrigued by your comedy screenplay "Cursed". Sounds like a pretty crazy story out there! Tell us a little about the project.
Cursed is an amazing project to me because it completely took me out of my comfort zone into a wild place I never dared to meet. I wrote characters I did not believe had their dialogue come out of my mind. I wrote the first draft of the script at UCLA, and one of my classmates said, "If I read that screenplay without knowing you, I'd swear the writer was on hard drugs. That's hilarious!" Of course, I took that as a compliment.
"Cursed" tells the story of Ryan, who has ruined his life with his own hands (or with another part of his body...), after he got in trouble with a real lunatic, Javier. A year later, Ryan decides to return to where it all began and to risk everything to get things back up (literally).
Writing Cursed was pure fun - it's undoubtedly the coolest and most exciting project I've ever written. Having written many screenplays over the years, I can tell when a project is really dear to my heart by how difficult it is to "break up" with the characters I have written. And God, how hard it was for me to say goodbye to Ryan, Kyla, Eric and the other characters.
At Screenwriting Tip, you share some very useful and practical tips for screenwriters. What made you start this project?
Screenwriting Tip is a growing community of screenwriters from all over the world who want to help each other evolve and improve all the time. I started this project to help screenwriters maximize their potential because I believe that each of us is unique and creative, and sometimes we just need to get that extra boost of confidence and knowledge in order to fulfill our dreams.
In such a competitive world, with hundreds of thousands of scripts thrown away before anyone decides to produce them, you need to know how to stand out and make your story unique. I contribute my knowledge and experience with great love, to give my colleagues the tips that could have helped me so much at the beginning of my journey.
From "Screenwriting Tip"
Your short drama "Over the Wall" has received wonderful reviews worldwide. The Cinema Files described it as a "Simple, mildly minimalist film that does a lot with very little, portraying a compelling and relevant topic with a strong humane awareness". Writers such as Sherry Vacik, praised the story: "Roy brings such humanity to a very dehumanizing situation. He brings light and love, and reminds us we're all human at the end of the day". What message did you want to convey?
Over the Wall is a project that will stay in my heart forever. It's a story of two kids, an Israeli boy (Nathan) and a Palestinian boy (Khaled) who coincidentally meet through a hall in a separation wall, and discover that reality is different than what they have been told. The main message of the film is that on our basis, we don't hate other people for whatever reason.
The film doesn't pick sides but is set to raise awareness of how communication - or, the lack of it, has a major impact on our day-to-day life.
Through the exploration of a friendship between innocent kids, the film raises the question of how we can move forward in a reality where politics, brain-wash and what we call ״the conflict״, only prevent us from living in harmony with each other.
My hope with this film is to develop a conversation about the importance of communication between regular people on both sides of the wall. I always envisioned the change will come from the bottom.
Tell us about your next project, what's in development for 2021?
I'm currently rewriting "Start Over" a crime comedy about a mafia man who decides to quit, in a world where a criminal cannot retire and come out alive. I can't say much about it yet, only that it started as a feature screenplay back in 2018, and then I decided to completely rewrite it as a television series. I can't wait to see where it goes.
Follow Roy Zafrani
Join Screenwriting Tip