FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards (FISA)

The 14th Annual
FilmMakers International
Screenwriting Awards (FISA)





Winners | Biography | Logline | Synopsis | Script Excerpt

Rampaging Wild Horses


Elite Prize Winner_John Panozzo

John Panozzo

of Hughesdale VIC Australia

Rampaging Wild Horses


John Panozzo

John Panozzo is 45 years old. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife, three young children and a cat called Mojo. John's day job involves
assisting businesses to locate in Victoria for the Victorian State Government. By night he's a budding screenwriter by table lamp light.

John likes Australian football, live concerts and stand-up comedy, and he enjoys the basics in life's good company, food and beer.



A dejected man is unexpectedly drafted to be the best man at the wedding of his childhood enemy.


Interview Part 1.

I knew I wanted to be screenwriter when I discovered the craft. I’ve always had ideas, stories, character arcs and humor in my mind but I’m an awful novelist. All inspired after reading Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity”, I wrote the first page of a novel once, and tried rewriting it a number of times before realizing… I’m no Nick Hornby.

When I discovered movie scripts, I found a medium that resonates with my style of writing, cutting through the in-depth description and focusing instead on the detail that matters.

I know I've succeeded
1) When I’ve made someone laugh.
2) When I’ve been acknowledged for my screenwriting.
3) When someone says, “hey John, I want to produce your script.”

My inspiration to write "Rampaging Wild Horses" was... for a short time I worked nights stacking grocery shelves during a university break. I was invited to a stag party for one of the guys who worked there full-time and was surprised to find that his best man was one of the other guys from the grocery store… I was surprised because I was sure they didn’t like each other. That sparked a broad idea for a humorous story around childhood “frenemies” who are reunited around wedding obligations.

I was very keen to explore themes of relationships, adulthood and responsibilities. And I wanted to challenge myself to weave in as much fun and humor as I could into the story I was telling.


Interview Part 2.

FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?
John Panozzo: For me it is an avenue to express myself, to challenge myself and, with a life revolving around my three young, beautiful (and busy) children, to have something of my own. It gives me great joy to get my stories down on paper and to share them with others.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
John Panozzo: “Rampaging Wild Horses” is my first script. It took about sixteen months to write given I took time to read many good comedy scripts along the way. This ensured I knew what the benchmark was. I found the times when I left my script to ‘sit’ while I read other scripts gave me inspiration to review my script with a renewed vigor.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
John Panozzo: Inspiration comes to me in different places and at different times and I just have to get my idea down somehow and then put the meat on the bone at the next possible opportunity, usually in the evening at my desk at home.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
John Panozzo: I believe any serious budding screenwriter should enter writing contests... just make sure it’s ready to go. Writing contests are important, even vital if you have limited access to industry feedback, as you get an indication of whether you’re around the mark.

If you’re a winner or a finalist then it should give you great confidence to pursue your dreams (it has for me!) and if you place in semi or quarter finals you know you’re on the right track. One thing I do know is that scripts will be judged differently by different readers, so don’t be too disheartened if you miss out – just keep working on your craft (and take up reader feedback options).

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards?
John Panozzo: The thing that set the Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards apart from many other big screenwriting contests was the classification of scripts in three distinct streams. I liked the idea that my comedy script would be assessed against other comedy scripts and not against other genres.

While cash prizes are great if you win them, for me it’s all about potential exposure in the industry. Filmmakers offers great opportunity for exposure, even for scripts that missed getting an award – having the top 50 scripts read by a production company was a great incentive to enter.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
John Panozzo: Well, I’ll answer this from a comedy perspective given my interest in this genre. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on Michael Arndt’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” It’s a beautifully written script with crisp, vivid expressions that conjure images that just blossom in your mind.

And it won the Academy and BAFTA awards for Best Original Screenplay.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
John Panozzo: I’m a proud Australian of Italian heritage. I love my city, Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city with a population forecast to surpass Sydney in the next 20 years. I have played a small part in attracting business to Melbourne as part of my day job.

I’m passionate about my family and helping my kids along their life journeys. I’m into Australian football, live music and comedy and a good story regardless of its medium.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?
John Panozzo: That’s like asking me who my favorite child is. Really?

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg get a special mention for the joy they have given me with the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. I have derived great pleasure in following how they weave comedy through themes such as growing up, being an individual in the system and personal relationships.

I’ve loved the likes of the Farrelly Brothers, Michael Bacall and John Francis Daley/Jonathan Goldstein for comedy writing that has had me regularly laughing out loud unabashed.

Basically, I’m interested in reading the scripts for movies that have been box office successes and have personally struck a chord with me - and that makes for a long list of writers.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
John Panozzo:
There are, of course, many directors I would love to work with, but to name one – I would say Judd Apatow. I admire character driven comedy and how he finds the right balance between the hilarious and the serious. He has also well and truly put the “b” into bromance comedy – this resonates strongly with the characters and story in my script “Rampaging Wild Horses.”

Did I mention The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Trainwreck.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
John Panozzo:
That’s not easy - Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Seth Rogan and Michael Cera.

If forced to choose one, on the basis of character type and age in my script - “Rampaging Wild Horses” - it would have to be Michael Cera… and Seth Rogan.

I love these guys. If you know they’re in a movie, you know you’re in for a fun ride. They’re relatable, they know comedy and they make it look easy.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
John Panozzo: Get a handle on the craft - read lots of successful scripts in your chosen genre and sweat the little details of script formatting. You can’t expect anyone to invest their time and engage in your story if you can’t be bothered to get the basics right.

Be vivid, not boring, in all aspects of your script. Review and rewrite character and scene descriptions, dialogue and action (basically everything). But don’t over fluff it!

And for non-American writers, check the phrases and spelling you use to ensure they won’t be misunderstood, e.g. humor v humor, flashlight v torch, gas station v servo (that’s an Australian colloquialism for service station!).

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
John Panozzo:
There’s a story buzzing around in my head, another comedy, involving poles-apart brothers, built form and cultural heritage, ships that pass through the night and the most inner-beautiful and innocent girl in Rome.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
John Panozzo:
 Collaborating with some of the funniest minds in the movie industry. Here’s hoping :). And writing, writing, writing.


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