March 13, 2000
The Washington State Screenplay Competition 2000, sponsored by Clear Blue Sky Productions in association with the Washington State Film Office, recently announced that a Mountlake Terrace writer is among its twelve semifinalists.
The semifinalist, Monte Kenniaston, has moved into the second tier of the competition with his original screenplay, Cry for Help.
Competition 2000 received more than 130 screenplays, and according to Suzy Kellett, director of the Washington State Film Office, the competition is gradually building a reputation in the industry. She says, "My goal is to make the Washington Sate Screenplay Competition one of the competitions to watch for new writing talent." The contest was created to promote both undiscovered writing talent, as well as filming opportunities in Washington.
Kenniaston has been writing for the past six years and has created a total of six screenplays. Two years ago, one of his screenplays, Out of the Office, also made it to the semifinalist stage of the competition.
Kenniaston has always been passionate about films, and began writing because he saw it as the route he wished to take to get into the film industry. He says, "Ever since I was a kid, I felt that I have had this connection with movies. They've always fascinated me. I like a wide variety of films and my taste is eclectic. For example, my favorite shows from this past year include American Beauty, Toy Story 2, Magnolia, The Matrix, and October Sky."
Kenniaston's screenplays reflect this eclectic taste, as they range from comedy to drama.
Cry for Help is about a recently widowed woman who relocates next to some neighbors whom she begins to believe are sociopaths. These people have a child and the woman feels that the child is being treated abusively. She plots to kill these people in order to get the child.
"I like to have characters in my stories who have a set value structure and then put them in situations where these values are tested," explains Kenniaston. "This particular work deals with a woman of a certain time period and her search for an identity. She is put in a situation where she must make some choices, and this makes the situation more interesting."
Kenniaston studied telecommunications and film at the University of Oregon and attended workshops and seminars about screenwriting, as well. His process involves writing down a list of story lines from A to Z and then choosing one that he feels most passionate about to pursue. He comes home from work and writes for about three hours each day. On weekends, he spends up to five hours a day, and this includes time spent in self-marketing and promoting his screenplays.
"My dream, of course, is to have one of my screenplays produced," says Kenniaston. "It's a tough industry, though, and very competitive. You need to be assertive and persistent to bust down the doors. I spend time calling producers, talking with agents, and sending letters with synopses of my work. I've had some bites, but nothing materialized, because somehow the connection wasn't there."
The Washington State Screenplay Competition awards $1,000 to the writer with the winning screenplay, but according to Kenniaston, the real prize is the exposure that accompanies it.
"If your screenplay wins," explains Kenniaston, "then it will automatically get read by top agents, producers, and people of power. This exposure is invaluable. Past winners of this competition have had their screenplays optioned, and the writers have signed with top agencies. It opens doors."
Being a semifinalist definitely helps Kenniaston feel legitimized about his work. He says, "I know that there is someone who feels passionate about my writing and that it's just a matter of hopefully getting it into the hands of the right people."
Perhaps, with a little luck, Kenniaston will someday get to sit in a theater and watch his screenplay come to life.