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screenwriting Archives - Filmstigator

Michael Curtis


September 1, 2015

ReelWriters Announce Winners

September 1, 2015 | By | No Comments

Recently I’ve been preparing to cast and direct a table read of “Gravel Heart” for the upcoming DC Shorts competition (September 18th). I’m also working on a feature-length screenplay in every spare moment I can find. So it was nice this morning to get a surprise break by finding this in my in-box:


Congratulations to the other winning screenwriters and thanks to the dedicated readers and organizers at ReelWriters for the opportunity to be a part of this year’s competition. The prize money we receive will go towards eventual production of “Gravel Heart.”

Fingers crossed for the fast-approaching DC Shorts Festival where “Gravel Heart” is one of six Finalists competing for fame and glory (and more importantly, prize money that could go toward production!)

Michael Curtis


August 8, 2015

Competition Update

August 8, 2015 | By | No Comments


Reel Writers

We are pleased to announce that “Gravel Heart,” Filmstigator’s upcoming project, is a Semi-Finalist in the 2015 Reel Writers Screenwriting Competition.  Finalists and winners will be announced later this month.

We congratulate the other Semi-Finalists and are proud to have our script listed in the top 30 short screenplays in competition!  The judges at Reel Writers provided some really gracious and helpful feedback on “Gravel Heart,” and we’re excited to receive their coveted “RECOMMEND” status.

2013 Labs

Writing Fellowship Opportunity

Additionally, writer/director Michael Curtis has been named to the list of 12 Finalists for a 2015 PAGE International Screenwriting / Stowe Story Labs Fellowship for “Inheritance,” his first feature film project. The Fellowship provides an awesome opportunity for two lucky writers to work with industry professionals in developing and packaging their projects for A-list talent, producers, and financiers.

The Stowe Story Labs is a Vermont-based non-profit helping emerging screenwriters, filmmakers and creative producers get work made and seen.  Their Fellowship is open to screenwriters who have made it to at least the Quarter-Finals stage at the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards that year.

Michael Curtis


July 1, 2015

“Gravel Heart” Selected as Finalist at DC Shorts

July 1, 2015 | By | No Comments


We are happy to announce that Gravel Heart, a short screenplay by writer/director Michael Curtis, has just been selected as a Finalist in the 2015 DC Shorts Screenplay Competition. A staged reading of the script will be held in front of a live audience during the festival on September 19th along with readings of the other Finalist scripts. The winning screenplay will be announced at the awards ceremony later that evening.

DC Shorts is the largest short film festival on the east coast, and we are excited to be taking part this year. Michael Curtis will be attending the festival to cast DC-area actors for the reading and to answer questions about the story and the writing process.

The winning screenplay will receive $2000 from the festival with a guaranteed screening slot at the next DC Shorts Festival if the resulting film can be completed in time. The screenplay for Gravel Heart has won at two other festivals to date and was also named a Semi-Finalist at the recent ScreenCraft Screenplay Competition out of more than 1600 submitted screenplays.


Michael Curtis


June 1, 2015

“Gravel Heart” Wins 2015 Best Short Screenplay at SIFF

June 1, 2015 | By | No Comments

SIFF laurels

Fantastic news this week from Maine!

We’re proud to announce that Gravel Heart has been named Winner of the inaugural Script to Screen Competition at the Sanford International Film Festival. The victory comes close on the heels of recent accolades for Gravel Heart at the WILDsound Writer’s Festival and ScreenCraft Short Screenplay Competition.

It’s what you hope for from the earliest stages of the writing process – that somewhere down the line what you’re writing will move people in some way.

There’s a sense of momentum now with the script that may prove helpful in launching a successful crowdfunding campaign sometime next year. But we can only consider going into production on the film once the screenplay finishes its entire festival run.

Many competitions disqualify screenplays from competition the moment they are optioned, sold, or moved into production in any way. So we’re waiting for several key festival competitions to be adjudicated before deciding which path to pursue with Gravel Heart. 

The hope is that any prize money the script might garner from competition could ultimately be used to finance the project down the line.

It’s been humbling and gratifying in equal measure that the story is resonating with people. It’s what you hope for from the earliest stages of the writing process – that somewhere down the line what you’re writing will move people in some way.

That seems to be the case with Gravel Heart.

This screenplay makes me happy that we rolled the dice on a screenplay competition.
– James Harmon, SIFF Director

Sanford International Film Festival director, James Harmon, summed it up generously: ‘Gravel Heart was clearly our best submission. We had judges crying at the table… This screenplay makes me happy that we rolled the dice on a screenplay competition. We’ll never forget Gravel Heart, and I hope we can play some part in its journey from award-winning screenplay to award-winning film.’

The festival in Sanford has offered to host a Maine premiere of Gravel Heart if the film comes to fruition late next year or in early 2017.  That would bring the project full circle with the festival and would be a really neat story for us.

We’ve been focused on film collaboration in the southeast, but to potentially work with a festival in Maine and bring filmmakers from the southeast and northeast together on this short film would be a lot of fun.

We’ll never forget Gravel Heart, and I hope we can play some part in its journey from award-winning screenplay to award-winning film.
– James Harmon, SIFF Director

At this point we’re not ruling anything out! Stay tuned over the next few months for more developments.

Michael Curtis


May 16, 2015

‘Gravel Heart’ Makes Semi-Finalist Round

May 16, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

festival_cover_photo_cropped_9bf945Onward to the Finals!

We are proud to announce that our new project, Gravel Heart, has been selected as a semi-finalist in ScreenCraft’s inaugural Short Screenplay Competition. The script, written by writer/director Michael Curtis, has won Best Short Screenplay at two other screenwriting festivals this year.

Congratulations to all of the semi-finalists in ScreenCraft’s competition. A full list of the semi-finalists – the top 7% of more than 2400 screenplays entered – can be found on the ScreenCraft web site.

We are excited to bring this award-winning story to the screen. We hope to go into production early next year if we are able to crowdfund the film successfully. Stay tuned for further updates including casting and crew calls later this year.

Michael Curtis


April 12, 2015

“Gravel Heart” Develops with Help of Table Reads

April 12, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

TableRead Photo

Atlanta-based actors Wayne Hughes, Barry Stewart, Sheri Mann-Stewart, Holly Morris, and Tendal Mann reading “Gravel Heart” with writer/director Michael Curtis. Photo by Melissa Bowers.

A Trio of Table Reads

Three recent table reads of the Gravel Heart script have been instrumental in helping to develop and hone the screenplay for eventual production. The screenplay won 2015 Best Short Screenplay at the WILDsound Writer’s Festival last month, and actors in Toronto read the script there on March 29th.  Another informal read was held with faculty and students at Georgia College and Statue University in Milledgeville, GA. And a final table read was held in Atlanta (pictured above) this past week.

We’d like to thank all of the actors who donated their time and talents to help us improve the script:

Toronto Cast:

Stage Directions – Angelica Alejandro
Tommy – Nathan Kohn
Brick – Jason Martorino
Cosgrove – Jason J. Thomas
Celia – Stephanie Seaton

Milledgeville Cast:

Stage Directions – Lyssa Hoganson
Tommy – Landon Bell
Brick – Jimmy Holder
Cosgrove – Scott Dillard
Celia – Julia Roessing

Atlanta Cast:

Stage Directions – Sheri-Mann Stewart
Tommy – Tendal Mann
Brick – Barry Stewart
Cosgrove – Wayne Hughes
Celia – Holly Morris

How These Help

We think table reads are an important way to get the writer and the rest of the team off the page and out of their heads for a change. When you hear the story read aloud, it can highlight areas of the screenplay that aren’t quite working – while also showing you areas that are.  Both insights are valuable. This is an especially helpful tool for gauging how well the dialogue is playing.

In the case of the Milledgeville and Atlanta reads, the screenplay got tighter and better after each read. Elements that seemed superfluous or redundant were eliminated. And that makes the rest of  the process more efficient every step of the way.

Can’t this all be done on set or during editing? Of course. We believe it’s never too late to change and improve a story.  But we also think it’s best to get your script as perfect as possible prior to shooting and editing. On ‘GIFT,’ our first production, we didn’t hold table reads to workshop the script prior to shooting, and we feel that was a mistake. It meant that in one case we all worked very hard shooting a scene – in the middle of the night – that was ultimately cut from the film completely. Workshopping the script could have helped highlight the problem before we spent all that time and effort just to throw the scene away during post-production.

So from now on we plan to build in “script testing” phases like table reads for all Filmstigator projects moving forward. We think our audiences will get better films, and our crews, actors, and editors won’t need to work quite so hard on scenes that will never see the light of day.

Gravel Heart is a better screenplay now than it was prior to its festival win. At Filmstigator we think it’s important to keep evaluating the work with fresh eyes… to understand it’s always best to get the screenplay right before picking up a camera. And we’ll be open to improving the story further in production and editing if we find new ways to strengthen the story. It’s an ongoing process.

We recommend you find some actors and put your screenplay through the paces. A lot of screenwriting groups can help organize these opportunities if you’re a member. If you live somewhere where this isn’t feasible, at least read your dialogue aloud to yourself to help you hear areas that need additional work.

Recording yourself or your actors reading the script aloud can be even more beneficial, because you can stop looking at the screenplay for a few minutes and just listen to the story like your audience will. We guarantee you’ll notice things about the writing this way that you wouldn’t notice just reading over it a thousand times.