Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter J J Hillard

An interview with screenwriter J J Hillard regarding the Diverse Voices Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: The title of my short screenplay is "MY STARDUST" and this is the logline: An astronaut’s elderly widow, watching TV news of an unmanned test flight to Mars, discovers evidence that she may be more than just a viewer of the mission.

IndieWire Press Release:

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: My short screenplay fit two important criteria for WeScreenplay's Diverse Voices competition, which was "designed to encourage writers who are under-represented in Hollywood..." My main character and I are both over forty!

My Stardust [and another short of mine ("S&M IN SPACE")] won a "platinum award" laurel in the Spring 2016 International Independent Film Awards:

The results for a few other contests I've entered are still pending.

Q: Were you satisfied with the administration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: I am very satisfied with the administration of this contest and with the direct communication (email and phone) I've had with Mark Stasenko, WeScreenplay's co-founder and director (and a screenwriter himself).

Cumulative scores (covering 9 aspects of screenplays) were posted by each reader in sequence during the competition and all deadlines were met. The awards for winners are now forthcoming and generous -- including an invitation to a party for all the finalists (WeScreenplay will pick up the drink tab)!!

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: This script has gone through quite a few revisions over the course of the past few years, based on helpful feedback from readers in other contests. This is the first time it has won an award. It was carefully structured and I would estimate the number of drafts it had to be more than a half-dozen.

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: I used Final Draft to write this script, but it's not the latest version of that software. I have used Dramatica Pro in the past for a novel manuscript, but not lately.

Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day?

A: Like many screenwriters, I try to set aside several hours to write every day, but that ends up including research as well. The good thing is I am now writing full-time as my career.

Q: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with that?

A: First, I prepare a detailed outline of my entire screenplay, so I'll know where I need to go in each scene. Then I start writing in Act 2 and move onto Act 3. That way I know the critical elements Act 1 will need to include to foreshadow what will be revealed later. This helps me avoid getting stuck in earlier scenes. Also, doing research, reading produced screenplays, and watching films helps me if I need a break from crafting a script.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: I took 3 UCLA extension screenwriting classes online, all taught by Screenwriter Jessica Scott.

One of my shorts (BOING!) won a Creative Screenwriting Magazine-sponsored contest at a past Screenwriting Expo. Because of that I was awarded a 2-year fellowship to Jeff Gordon's Writers Boot Camp.

Following that I completed Hal Croasmun's online ScreenwritingU ProSeries course.

I am rewriting 3 feature screenplays. I have written one teleplay (an episode of The Big Bang Theory) and a half-dozen shorts. I've had a short optioned once (S&M IN SPACE). My crime thriller short (CAGEY) got a Wildsound monthly contest videotaped table read.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: I don't live in Los Angeles, although I have lived in Long Beach. I'm in Northern California at this time. It will be very easy for me to fly down to L.A. and stay for meetings if/when invited.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: As well as rewriting the 3 feature screenplays I mentioned, I am working up a premise for a contained horror film centered in Napa Valley. I also want to revisit the novel manuscript I wrote which is the companion piece to a screenplay.

Thanks for making this interview format available.

Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2016