Berlin Lift-Off Film Festival 2020 Officially Selected Screenplays

After a huge number of submissions for Berlin Lift-Off Film Festival 2020, here are the 5 screenplays officially selected to go forward onto the Network platform.

Congratulations to all!

The Theory of Moral Relativity – Elisa Manzini

SYNOPSIS: Four ordinary people in desperate need of money make some disturbing choices when a powerful church tests their morality with the promise of a million dollar reward.

What was the inspiration behind the screenplay
The idea came during a discussion with my husband who’s been vegan 15 years; he said he’d never eat meat, not even for a million dollars. I totally believed him, and if you knew him, you’d believe him too! Being vegan myself, I thought about all the good I could do with a million dollars, and the fact I’d probably bend my values for the pursue of a greater good. And then I asked myself what people would do if forced to make difficult choices regarding their moral values. We strongly believe in our morality and often we don’t realize how relative our values could be if tested in extreme situations.
What are you looking for to take this project to the next stage?
I’d love to find directors and producers I could team up with to create an anthology TV series about moral choices. Ordinary citizens in extraordinary circumstances choosing their personal lesser evil when powerful entities test their morality.
Each episode would have a different story, different characters, different actors (“Black Mirror” meets “The Twilight Zone”) but one common theme: moral choices and their horrific consequences.
My ultimate goal would be to find more the one director and producer, and develop with them an international series of episodes shot in different countries, written by different writers and directed by different directors. Moral choices are very relative to religion, politics, upbringing etc and I’m sure different people would have very interesting diverse points of view.
What advice has helped to get where you are now?
As a writer and an immigrant, writing in a foreign language, I learned to stay humble and ask for help.
One of the best advice I received is from my husband. He always tells me not to follow what everyone else does. I don’t think there’s a “right” way to do things in the artistic field, I can and want to find my own way.

SQUADRE – Charles Petrilla

SYNOPSIS: “SQUADRE”, this historical action adventure takes place in 1859 with Giuseppe Garibaldi and his “Thousand Red Shirt” volunteers invading the island of Sicily at the port of Marsala in order to free Italy from the foreign domination of the Spanish Bourbons (King Francis). Garibaldi surreptitiously enlists the aid of the feared mountain Squadres led by Don Alberto Mistretta who allows his godson, Carlo Sovrumano and his mountain warriors, to give guidance over the difficult Madonie mountains and with military might. Squadres, ferocious fighters, were considered heathens by the Neapolitan captors who governed the island of Sicily and maintained rigid control of Palermo with more than 20,000 troops. It’s a little known fact that without the aid of the mountain SQUADRE, Garibaldi would not have succeeded in freeing the “Two Italy’s” from foreign domination. “SQUADRE” is a fast paced action story with many fact-based battle scenes (factual dates), conversations taken place, except for Carlo Sovrumano (main protagonist), all characters, places, actually existed at the time. Although written in English, “SQUADRE” has been translated into classic Italian as spoken by Garibaldi.

What was the inspiration behind this screenplay?

My heritage is Sicilian (100%); while researching my family history years ago I found myself at the Italian embassy in New York City where I was allowed to read manuscripts pertaining to Sicily and also once and twice removed relatives of mine.

My surname, PETRILLA is derived from PETRALIA ( a small coastal town about 35 kilometers distant from Palermo, respectively. I found some very interesting facts:
some relatives were mountain dwellers (amazingly) and lived near a small hamlet, Corleone (now well known) and Partanna, respectively.

I decided to investigate further which led me to personal writings of those well known patriots who assisted Giuseppe Garibaldi and his “Mlle Rossa”, during his 1859 invasion of Sicily which (after many battles with Neapolitan soldiers) freed Italy from the grip of the Spanish Bourbon aristocracy. I became embroiled and fascinated with this story and so decided to put something down  in script formulation. But I needed add a “zing” to it and came up with a composite character: CARLO SOVRUMANO, protagonist leader of the feared mountain Squadres (mountain dwellers who actually existed lent great military aid to Garibaldi in overcoming the “bumble bees” (Neapolitan soldiers who wore black/yellow uniforms). Without the help of these “ferocious fighting” mountain dwellers Garibaldi would not have succeeded in the Risorgimento of the “Two Italy’s”.

Each character in “SQUADRE” is true to life, except Carlo Sovrumano, (a screenwriter’s dream character). In an earlier write up Question/answer (Melbourne Lift-Off 2019) I actually go deeper but I believe it not to be necessary here.

What are you looking for to take this project to the next stage?

As aforementioned, I would want my project “SQUADRE” move to is next stage: proper representation with a reputable agency or production company. “SQUADRE” would make a great movie for sure!

What advice has helped to get where you are now?

My answer pertains to all my work: Perseverance, Steadfastness, Stamina, Resolution, Doggedness and Indefatigability!

As stated before, honestly, it takes all of these, and more. Self help advice that I’ve given myself many times: “Never, ever, ever quit.”

I’m not the first person to have said this and won’t be the last, but saying it doesn’t make it happen. The work is tedious but the love is endless! I love to write screenplays, I love to have people recognise my work! I’m forever thankful to the powers that be
who have given me the ability to create words on paper (speaking figuratively).

Thank you for giving me this opportunity and most of all, thank you for recognizing my work, I will forever remain grateful to you and the entire Lift-Off Network.

The Yoga Retreat – Connie Jean


SYNOPSIS: During a yoga retreat, Mary has a vision, which she decides not to share with her friends. Meanwhile, the other four women each try to discover what they are looking for. Will their expectations be met?

What was the inspiration behind this script?

I was inspired to write the story of these women in light of the lack of
authenticity of female characters in their 60s in todays TV fiction. Driven by the
success of our 2018 short film GPS, from which the concept of the series stems,
I realized the amount of material I could develop from these characters was
endless, and so, building a world around them that felt unique and down to
Earth while having it be an entertaining and insightful look on friendship has
always been the goal.

What are you looking for to take this project to the next stage?

We are looking for an executive producer to bring this project to life by
facilitating the resources to film the pilot episode, The Yoga Retreat, in order to
attract the interest of networks that would see its potential and back it up for a
first season, consisting of 6 20-30 minute episodes.

What advice has helped you get where you are now?
I would have to say that my mother, producer and actress of the short film that
inspired this screenplay, as well as co-creator of the concept for the TV series,
has been my biggest source of encouragement and advice through this entire
She has always instilled in me the importance of following through, repeating it
like a mantra “remember to follow through”; and I believe that working with
that mindset has allowed me to get to where I am now: having the
perseverance and patience it takes to create the world these characters live in
and to sow the soil in which their stories will grow and allow the audience to
feel represented and be entertained.
IG: @dramaticmonkey
TWITTER: @studiodramatic

Rosa and the Black Tulip – Gena Ellis

SYNOPSIS: A humble prison-keeper’s daughter falls in love with a falsely imprisoned war hero, while helping him secretly grow the impossible black tulip in 17th century Holland, and she saves them all, and herself, in this witty, romantic historical drama.

What was the inspiration behind this script?

A great tagline, then and today. While Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Black Tulip, starts with the historical lynching of the De Witt brothers and the fictional prize money offered by the Haarlem Botanical Society for the black tulip, with film’s linear style, Rosa not only shares the stage with the tulip but towers over it. I wrote original scenes with Rosa on page one, giving a glimpse of what she truly has at stake as a woman- Rosa’s ‘me too and times up’ moment. True to Dumas’, ROSA deals with themes of greed, corruption, desire and obsession wrapped around a single flower’s stem. From Rosa and Cornelius’ blossoming romance to the jealous neighbor Boxtel and the ambitious Prince William, you’ll recognize this global story that resonates even today, when the most powerful country then was to be toppled. But not the tulip. And certainly not Rosa.

I first discovered Dumas’ book over a decade ago when we were in the throes of the Iraq War and political turmoil in the U.S. This story, though set in the 17th century, rang true then and still rings true today in today’s climate. I saw many similarities to the housing market crash in 2000s with the tulips. The wars going on. The politics. The religious struggles and use of religion for power. And those caught in the middle of it all. I was a young army officer serving in West Germany in 1988-91 when we began tearing down that Wall and healing a decades old war. I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter then. I wanted to tell stories. And I know the power of reading and knowledge, especially for women. That rings true in places like Afghanistan and the Middle East, and even in my home state in West Virginia in the U.S. With education, Appalachia can bring her people into the 21st century. Rosa represents that rising about it all, as a woman, and trying to save others while saving herself in the process. That is many women’s, and some men’s, story, but, in particular, the struggle of women- even to just be able to learn to read and learn period.

I am honored to be selected for this film festival. I liked to think I helped just a tiny bit with bringing together a country in Germany and I am so honored for Rosa And The Black Tulip to be a part of the Berlin Lift-Off Film Festival.

What are you looking for to take this project to the next stage?

I am looking for producers, to include financing, for ROSA to bring to the screen. I have some actor and director interest. I also have international composers interested in the musical score. I consider this a lower budget period piece than most, as the locations are minimal compared to others. We have two crowd scenes- the crowd protest outside the prison and the tulip festival. Other scenes take place in a couple of homes and in a prison. Original story location is in the Netherlands. The time period and setting are comparable to Girl With A Pearl Earring (2003) film.

What advice has helped you get where you are now?
One of the best pieces of advice I have been given was do not write a period piece (by agent at the time that I no longer have). That certainly contradicts what I did. I just HAD to write this script once I read Dumas’ book. So, I wrote a period piece, and this is one of the best scripts/stories I have written yet.
ROSA keeps winning awards, especially internationally, so I know this story resonates with people. I was also told by others to not give up when it seems impossible. Especially getting a period piece off the ground. And to keep writing no matter what.
I have written four more scripts since this one. So, I have grown my repertoire of scripts to seven available (three pilots, four features) and
I have co-produced two award-winning films. ROSA is a great story that resonates globally in today’s worlds. I thank Dumas for this story. I am glad to share it with Berlin and with the world on a screen one day.

Lavender Lights – Sam Cavalcanti


SYNOPSIS:Luz, Malia, and Craig, three best friends who spend their Friday
nights playing Dungeons and Dragons, attend their last college
party—and it’s the gayest party of the year. Luz’s annoying ex-
girlfriend shows up, Craig risks being outed on social media, and
Malia makes plans for grad school—all over the course of one
night filled with hallucinations, rejected straight dudes, and
true friendship.

What was the inspiration behind this script?

My friends and I could not name any coming-of-age films with an ensemble of queer characters of color, so my first impulse was to change that. Add some whimsical elements, truthful dialogue, and a ticking clock, and I got Lavender Lights. I had a reading of it not too long ago, and the actors’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive—for the first time in their careers, they got to read for parts that were close to who they were, and the identities they held. This inspired me to take it further and work towards producing it.

What are you looking for to take this project to the next stage?

Producers who appreciate and understand the world of Lavender Lights. This is a film to have fun with, and to foster an environment on set where originality, diversity, and just downright weirdness are all assets. The characters face intense hardships, but do so with wit and loyalty to one another. The concept of it is rather low budget– most of it takes places inside of a house party, after all–but those few settings should all be memorable, and have a soul that is youthful, queer, and proud. I would love to have a producer jump on board and help bring this lively yet naturalistic reality to the screen.

What advice has helped you get where you are now?
Don’t take rejection personally. There is an audience for all work– figure out what your work’s audience is and pursue it. And don’t stop writing—that includes pre-writing and re-writing, too.