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American Gem Short Screenplay & Literary Festival
2011 Screenplay Contest

Enter your Short Screenplay, Short Story, Treatment in American Gem Short Screenplay Contest / Literary Festival. 

Winning Screenplay in the American Gem Short Screenplay Contest will be Produced.

Grand Prize Winner / Short Screenplay Gets to Pitch Screenplay to Producers, Studio Executives and Agents. Certificate of achievement awards to the Top 25 scripts and top 3 in each of the other categories.

from script to screen


FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards
Screenplay Contest Interview

| Winners | Bio | Synopsis | Script Excerpt |




Terrance Mitchell Thibideaux for The Scythe


Terrance Mitchell Thibodaux
San Francisco, CA


Logline: Families fight for their lives when an apocalyptic hurricane strikes New Orleans -- and sweeps in a terrifying new predator from the seas. A horror allegory based on the events of Hurricane Katrina.



Terrance Mitchell Thibodaux

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux grew up in Louisiana, and graduated from the University of New Orleans with a degree in Accounting -- because it was the
first thing on the list of Majors. Afterward, he ran off to California and spent the next several years sleepwalking through various office jobs, eventually becoming a consultant. He'd spend the work week in the real world living out of a bag just big enough to fit in the overhead bins -- then fly home to the surreal world of San Francisco on the weekends. Lather, rinse, repeat. A strange life.

But a collapsing market, the Great Recession and, particularly, his own sour attitude about the whole situation, eventually put a bitter end to all that. So, Terrance finally let it go, so to speak, (or sing as the case may be), and started doing the ONE thing that he's ever truly wanted to do; which is screenwriting.

Fast forward a few years, and now Terrance lives on a hillside with his partner and their cat, in a house with views of the sea, (which fascinates, frightens and inspires him; sometimes, in the middle of the night, he can hear the surf crashing in the distance -- he's always amazed by the sound), and all he does now, for the most part, is write...


Part 1.


I knew I wanted to be screenwriter when...

In middle school, when I first came to understand that a movie starts with a screenplay. Specifically, I wanted to write monster movies, because I was 12, and at that time I liked monster moves more than just about anything…

I am no longer 12; I’ve completed middle-school, high-school, college, grad-school, several years of employment, gotten married and settled down. But…I still like monster movies more than just about anything. So, here I am – finally – writing screenplays, and in the case of “The Scythe”, a monster movie.

I know I've succeeded when...... 

I’m sitting in a typical theater during a regularly scheduled screening surrounded by absolute strangers who are completely engaged in the movie – screaming, groaning, laughing, crying, just staring in rapt attention, whatever – but wholly and completely engaged in the story unfolding on-screen.

The movie closes and the audience files out happy, (or sad, outraged, enraged, etc.) as the credits roll. The “written by” credit, is to me -- and nobody notices or cares: Because they can’t stop talking about the MOVIE, and how they’re going to see it again, and tell their mom about it, and tell all their friends and post about it on Facebook, and so on, and so on, and so on. When that happens, I’ll know that I, (and well, alright, the director, the actors, the crew, the producers and everybody else who had a hand in it), have succeeded…on that particular project.

My inspiration to write THE SCYTHE.....

Hurricane Katrina. I was born and raised in New Orleans, steeped in its unique social and religious culture. As I watched saturation media coverage of my hometown being destroyed in August, 2005 -- and listened in on frantic phone calls from friends and family trapped in or fleeing the city -- I remembered all the searing sermons I'd heard as a boy.

Katrina and its after-effects struck me as the long-foretold apocalypse finally coming to pass: the Angel of Death, carrying his iconic Scythe, had swept in from the seas around southeastern Louisiana to claim New Orleans. And Death's arrival was being broadcast live, in a stream of horrific images...

In the screenplay’s allegorical retelling of the events of Katrina, the apocalyptic storm becomes Hurricane Pam -- the name of a real-life training exercise that was only too accurate in predicting the likely outcome of a major storm making landfall near New Orleans. Other real-life aspects of contemporary New Orleans -- crime, drinking, roughneck cops -- are also in this story.

Finally, the screaming winds of Katrina itself, (and the dark, underlying cultural demons that were exposed when an American city imploded in front of the entire world), are embodied in the Scythe; a dark, screaming pack of demon-like predators that comes in from the sea and brings death.

Part 2.


FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux
: Well, for quite a long time, I didn’t write at all. Screenwriting struck me as an insane and impractical thing to pursue because it’s almost impossible to break into the industry. But I’ve lately come to believe that it is insane and impractical to NOT do the one thing that I’ve ever truly wanted to do – which is screenwriting, regardless of how “impossible” it might be to break into the industry. So, depending on how you look at it, I finally either lost my mind, or came to my senses. Whichever the case, I finally started writing, so here we are…

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux: No, “The Scythe” is not my first script. (My first script reads like…a first script, and is therefore due for a page-one re-write later on this year.) Meanwhile, the first suitable for public consumption draft of The Scythe was written in a caffeinated rage over roughly four months – and it has been completely re-written at least twice since then. (And intermittently tweaked as new ideas occurred to me.) So, all efforts considered from the first word of the first draft up to the last word of the current draft, roughly three years, off-and-on, while tearing my hair out over other things…

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux: Generally, I write in four to five hour blocks, moving around from place to place, or breaking for exercise, errands, etc., to reset between blocks, (or to get my head in a different place for a different project). But if there’s a deadline looming, or I’m engrossed to the point where the script is “writing itself”, or my insomnia is being especially wicked, I’ll just blitz straight through and get it done -- then pass out, wake up and re-write.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux:
Absolutely. It’s good to have completely impartial eyes read your work – particularly in the context of other pieces of competing work -- and provide candid feedback. Further, screenplay contests enforce discipline; you learn to allocate your time so that your best, (hopefully), work is put forward for public consumption. And, of course, screenplay contests are a great venue to have your work evaluated by knowledgeable readers and exposed to industry professionals.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards / Screenplay Contest?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux:
Very likely the same thing that influenced most, if not all, of the other entrants – a shot at obtaining representation and industry exposure for my screenplay.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux: “The Walking Dead”, pilot episode, by Frank Darabont – brisk, clean, cascading reveals, crafted to kingdom-come but doesn’t “read” like it’s crafted, riveting from page 1. Read it for the pleasure of reading it, then read it again, more closely, to study the writer’s technique for building the story – and springing surprises – from page to page.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux: Electric trains. I grew up across the street from a rail-road yard. Huge Southern Pacific locomotives chugging back and forth all day and slamming into box-cars all night left a lasting impression, (or perhaps some type of deep psychological trauma), and much later, as an adult, I started collecting HO scale trains as a hobby. Then, once upon a time, thirteen years ago, a guy who collected O-scale trains, (bigger, cooler and way more hard core), saw a picture of me online…with my trains. He sent me an e-mail, I replied, and a year later we got married in Vermont. So, besides screenwriting, I’m passionate about…electric trains. We’re going to close off the garage and remodel it as a dedicated space for the trains. The cars can sleep outside.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux: Pick just one? Fine: George R.R. Martin – because he’s a writer, period, with command of the craft for both screen and long form prose. Perhaps you’re aware that some of his books have been adapted for television

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux: Steven Spielberg. Yes, that Steven Spielberg – because he did “Jaws”, and those dinosaur movies, as well as some other notable work. Actually, quite a bit of “notable work”; and he’s the absolute King of Bringing It when it comes to big-screen creature feature spectacles. (Well, okay, maybe co-King with James Cameron). But, particularly, because of all those iconic scenes in “Jaws”. There are so many single shots from “Jaws” in which, even when there are no actors onscreen, you know EXACTLY what movie that is – and exactly where you are in the story. That didn’t happen by accident… So, my script, “The Scythe”, might be considered a somewhat darker, nastier “Jaws” from a different time, and a different perspective – and if I could pick any director, (yeah, right), I’d go straight to the source; the director who did the unsurpassed original, and a few other notable things as well. (Of course, if Mr. Cameron could be persuaded to look at the script between trips to Pandora, I’d be okay with that too…or would you suggest I dream small – in a visual medium presented on 30 foot screens?)

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux:
Viola Davis. Because she’s killing it in “How To Get Away With Murder”, (and she kills it in everything she does). The first time super-lawyer Annalise Keating wiped off all that make up and pulled off her wig, and was just a black woman sitting there as a black woman, (in a moment of betrayal!), it was almost visceral. You couldn’t stop looking at her; there was so much symbolism loaded – and stripped away – in that scene. Annalise became somebody else, and you could FEEL the transformation just by watching her. So, yes, Viola Davis is the actor I would love to work with – and I’d definitely have to bring my A triple-plus game, but who wouldn’t want that challenge?

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux:
WRITE EVERY DAY!! Set schedules, and timelines – and stick to it. Also, as trite as it sounds, and however much you’ve heard it before, it’s true: Fear NOTHING, least of all disapproval. And even if it seems, well, insane and impractical – always follow your dreams. (Or die miserable regretting that you didn’t.)

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux:
A time travel script centered on a rather touchy subject, (so we’ll see how that works out…); an idea that’s been turning around in my head for a sci-fi TV pilot; developing feature-length screenplays from a couple of 4 - 5 page shorts I wrote in connection with webinars on horror and animation; various ongoing projects, etc…

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Terrance Mitchell Thibodeaux:
Spending most of my time in Los Angeles, working…as a writer. And then flying back up the coast to my house, my trains and my partner, (not necessarily in that order), in small, beautiful Pacifica – where I’ll pass out, wake up and re-write.



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