Access Screenplay Contest Grand Prize Winner Elizabeth Samaroo discusses her winning script and the unusual concept that helped it rise to the top.
Congratulations to Access Screenplay Contest Grand Prize Winner Elizabeth Samaroo. Script wanted to find out how she did it and what she thought it was about her script that propelled to the winner’s circle. Elizabeth was kind enough to grant us an interview.
Script: Is this your first contest or are you a regular entrant?
Samaroo: I’m a regular entrant. I was familiar with what contests were out there since I’ve entered one of my previous screenplays via Filmfreeway. The internet’s very helpful for finding what you need!
Script: What drew you to this particular contest?
Samaroo: The fact that it was its first year running. Usually contests ran by industry professionals that have been doing so for maybe ten years or more are extra competitive because of how much exposure it’s gotten a chance to have. On top of that, when I read about the execs who judge the feature category and saw it was teamed with Script magazine and Roadmap Writers, I saw this as an opportunity to at least get my name seen by some big-shot producers.
Script: Have you entered this script in other contests? How did it do?
Samaroo: I have! I’m both thrilled and humbled that Eileen has received so much attention. Even the contests I didn’t win, it made semi-finalist or was selected to be featured at the festival. I got to chat with one of the coordinators of a Miami-based contest, since I am a local, and we talked about the subject and how it stood out to him – I was screaming internally (with joy)!
Script: Tell me about the script’s concept and the story it conveys.
Samaroo: It’s the story of an institutionalized sexual-assault victim finding the will to live when he forms a bond with an autistic young woman. It’s set in 1953 for a reason – the 50s tend to be romanticized in young people’s minds; it was all milkshakes, jukebox dances, and poodle skirts. Abuse and mental disorders existed then too, but people were even more inclined to hide it because of how strict societal norms were and misunderstandings about mental illness. If a man was molested or raped, they were more likely to hide it than a woman. If a woman wasn’t the nurturing, conforming housewife-in-training and had problems communicating or in basic social interaction, she wouldn’t be told there’s a reason – people would believe she was just dumb. Eileen’s parents institutionalize her because they don’t understand her autism and worry that she isn’t able to care for herself.
Script: Tell me a little about the trials and tribulations of bringing your winning script to the contest.
Samaroo: Getting a solid story together. Eileen herself was a character I had in my head for a long time; someone who was naturally warm and compassionate, but had something not quite right about her and was trying to figure out how to deal with it. Robbie became part of Eileen’s story, someone who had problems of his own, neither one knowing that they could help each other. When I finally decided what kind of story I wanted to tell, the next step was getting it to a point where I felt it sent the message I wanted while also giving my characters closure.
Script: After all that how did it feel to win?
Samaroo: It still doesn’t feel real. I remember seeing the email and having to do a double-take. My mom was over the moon. At the same time, there’s still this humility it gives you – that although someone enjoyed your screenplay and saw its potential, you’re motivated to work even harder to show them they made the right choice.
Script: What are the strengths of this script that you feel propelled it to the winner’s circle?
Samaroo: I’d say the topics I chose to bring to the surface. We don’t often see Hollywood films openly discussing male rape-victims or women with disabilities. It’s usually reversed. I think how personal these topics are to me and how much I want them to get people’s attention are what helped me tell this story the best that I could.
Script: What’s one thing screenwriters should know about contests?
Samaroo: It’s competitive out there – and it’s all subjective. Some people are looking for certain things at a certain time. They can love your screenplay and praise it to the skies, but it’s not what the judges are looking for right now. Keep exposing it, make connections. But most of all, love your work and your characters. Because other people won’t if you don’t.
Script: What’s next for Elizabeth Samaroo?
Samaroo: To keep exposing Eileen until it makes it to the silver screen. I also have other screenplays I have started and hope to enter into more contests and get noticed. In short, lots and lots of writing await me in my future.
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