Sydney Lift-Off Officially Selected Screenplays

After a huge number of submissions for Sydney Film Festival, here are the 5 screenplays officially selected to go forward onto the Network platform. Congratulations all!

Summons – Alainna MacPherson

SYNOPSIS: Thrust into an underground war between monsters of legend, Deirdre must entrust her safety to strangers who believe her to be the last known person to see their lost leader alive. Desperate to locate him, they help her navigate her memories from hallucination.

What was the inspiration behind the screenplay
I initially wrote a short story and it was fantasy but the idea to make it into a horror/psychological thriller made it a lot more interesting. Most of my stories come from some sort of dream I’ve had.
What are you looking for to take this project to the next stage?
The next stage for “Summons” is to pitch it.
What advice has helped to get where you are now?
A lot of people will tell you to “keep writing” but honestly, I am a mother of three, with a small farm and a husband who works long hours, so that advice never helped me. I have learned, though, that to find a way to work writing into your schedule, is much more achievable. I write when my youngest naps and the older kids are at school. Or when I can beg off an hour or two from my husband to run to Starbucks. When you sit down to write, ONLY WRITE! Don’t get distracted by Social Media. Turn off your notifications so you can focus.

Ms Molly’s Psychic Readings – Samantha Silver

SYNOPSIS: Mourning for her daughter, Gloria sees a psychic in hope of speaking to her one last time. Though Molly may be a sham psychic, she’s a natural when it comes to the human condition and through her help Gloria finds relief and release.

What was the inspiration behind this screenplay?

This story was inspired by real events in my own life. In 2003 a close friend was killed in a car accident. Later I discovered his mother regularly attended a psychic for years to stay close to him. A flamboyant character with a sarcastic nature I couldn’t help but imagine my friend – now long deceased – contacting his mother to tell her that “everyone knew psychics were a scam” and that she should get on with her life.

I grew up reading books where the mystical and the magical were accessible to the charmed and initiated. I’ve never quite been able to give up hope that the right person or place could bring enchantment into daily life, and when I lost my own father I often imagined what it would take to talk with him again. This script is an ode to the pain that comes from loss, the recognition that we are all searching for a bit of guidance, and the hope that there is a little magic in the world.

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

I would be thrilled to receive funding or support that would allow me to direct this film.

What advice has helped to get where you are now?

Just write. It doesn’t matter where you start, just get something down and go from there.

THE BOSUN. – Carmel Joyce


SYNOPSIS: Henry never knew his father and was only returned to his mother, Pernilla at the age of ten. Henry is able to work and support his mother who is now allowed to leave the forced labour conditions of the spinning house, and live with her son.
When Henry turns sixteen, his mother signs him up at the Karlshamn seaman’s house where he becomes a bosun, an able-bodied seaman. Henry is forced to leave his work in the Baltic Sea as a seaman, and Sweden forever when his mother’s circumstances change.

After a few years on other oceans, Henry appears destined to live a lonely bosun’s life until a chance meeting draws his attention and ultimately, his affections to the beautiful voice of a young Irish Londoner, Maryann. For him to wed and show his worthiness, Henry must sign crew agreements for higher wages and return to more dangerous and longer sea journeys, to foreign lands.

Aboard the Royal Mail ship to the British colonies, he survives a calamitous shipwreck of the Durham. Returning to Sydney aboard the Cutty Sark, he deserts the ship for the goldfields of New England.

Years later, Henry comes under attack when his illegal entry into Australia is exposed by his suspicious neighbours.

Henry finally gains Australian Citizenship, discovering where you are loved is where you belong and not to continue wishfully clinging to a sachet of tokens from the past. His children held him in awe by the stories he told of shipwrecks and treasures without ever knowing the truth of their father’s life or of their rich Swedish heritage.

What was the inspiration behind the screenplay?

“THE BOSUN” screenplay evolved from one of my historical novels, “The Bosuns’ Quests for Fairer Skies”, which contains several true stories about Australian pioneers. ‘THE BOSUN’ is the sequel to ‘PERNILLA’S GIFT’, a feature screenplay of Henry’s mother and of his earlier life in Sweden.

Henry’s true-life story as the bosun is indicative of the many Scandinavian sailors who jumped-ship Australia, and were lucky enough not to be caught and returned to their ships. Nevertheless, their heritage was passed down through the generations, and contributed toward today’s wonderful and homogeneous way of life in Australia.

I made the transition from writing novels to screenplays with much passion after a valuable and informative course of “Writing for TV” at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney. Although my writing of screenplays reached greater heights, I discovered my work sparked a brighter zenith for me when I began directing those screenplay trailers.

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

Since then, I have gained recognition through international script and film festival competitions in Los Angeles, Ireland, Europe, Melbourne, London and Tokyo; however, the job offers could only be realised if I was to relocate and take up residency overseas writing for or with other writers. I have a dozen other screenplays screaming to escape the corners of my mind yet to write.
With this in mind, these award-winning scripts need to attract option deals where other film experts can take over and produce a quality film for the greater audience.
I am mindful of the overall filming budget and location costs with every screenplay I write. To see my screenplays come alive on screen for me now is my greatest quest.

What advice has helped you get where you are now?
This time last year I received a very positive email from M.Gilbert of Ocean Road Entertainment who stated after reading both these screenplays, “I think if you joined those two scripts you could very easily have a 10 part series on your hands.” Michael also added, “Something like “roots” meets “anne with an e” with a Scandinavian overtone. It’s a style of storytelling that really excites me.”
The best advice I have received recently, came from a cinematographer and member of my not-for-profit film creators club. Ash said as long as we are passionate and committed with our work, we can only get better at what we love doing.

Erased – Camille & Ambrealys Huot-Petonnet-Vincent

SYNOPSIS: From skilled criminals to misfit government agents, Elizabeth, Lolita, Katarina and Avah must dodge both terrorist bullets and political games to earn back their freedom.

Four highly skilled female criminal are given a choice : a life sentence or serve their country in a secret anti-terrorist unit.

What was the inspiration behind this script?

The script was commissioned by a small production company, Lopes Brothers Film, and is based on their original concept : “Four highly skilled female criminals are arrested by the US government and offered the possibility to investigate a wave of terrorist attacks on American soil to avoid prison”.
Beyond this concept, we used current events, among which the terrible attacks that recently occurred in France. The action led us to Syria and the training camps (especially children’s), because I was appalled by what happens there. I read a lot of articles on those camps in order to be as close as possible to reality.
The characters are inspired by various films (from Kill Bill to Nikita for the female characters), but also by current politicians (a mix of Trump and the French president for Robinson, young and ambitious politician with a project based on populism and heavy-handed security measures).
Then, as an adept of intuitive writing, I let my muse take the wheel as I was progressing in the story.
Lastly, the inspiration also came from exchanges with Ambrealys (the translator, since I write in French) regarding the story and our ideas. Therefore, Erased is also the fruit of emulation and of our common desire to see this project through.

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

We are lucky enough to already have a small production company attached to this project since, again, this screenplay was commissioned.
Now that we are done writing it, our goal is to see if our story works, if the characters are relatable and the action engaging. Is the plot compelling? Are the themes interesting for the reader/future viewers?
This is why we submitted our screenplay to various festivals (with some success, so far !), hoping to be read by professionals working in this sector, producers, partners, investors…
Who knows? Should this work, we’d be thrilled to be contacted again for new exciting and ambitious projects (!!!), our ultimate goal being to eventually be able to make a living out of our passion.
But all dreams set aside, I’d say that the next step for us would be some sort of first recognition for our work as screenwriters.
What advice has helped you get where you are now?
We didn’t really follow any advice, we just decided to dive into this opportunity we were presented with.
The concept was appealing and the prospect of working together again exciting so, Ambrealys and I didn’t hesitate long before jumping into this project, fueled by our common goal.
I am a writer for her publishing house in France, so Ambrealys is my editor. Though normally working from English to French, she is a trained translator and knows how to format a screenplay.
I’d say that the only advice guiding us was to stop being merely a spectator. The only way to grow is to get to work and just DO IT ! So we decided to embrace the risk of failing as wholeheartedly as that of succeeding.

Kansas Kid – James Brosnahan

SYNOPSIS: A vengeful American young man and a feisty British teenage girl, both orphaned after witnessing the brutal murders of their parents, manage to find each other and fall in love. When the same renegades who murdered his parents and attempted to violate her, strike again by brutally killing their dear friend, a girl with Down Syndrome, he goes on a journey of revenge.

What was the inspiration behind this script?

We set out to develop a story that was true to history while remaining honest to all involved parties and peoples without modern day social bias. This project was inspired by a novel that my grandfather wrote and is based upon his extensive historical research. We feel that this work fulfills a need in cinema for a serious and meaningful portrayal of a person with developmental disability.

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

We’re looking for the right partner that can bring the experience and knowledge necessary to help us advance our story from page to screen. As writers, we believe we have a great story, however, we fully acknowledge the fact we would benefit greatly by entering into a strong collaboration with someone who brings the knowledge of the production side of the industry to the table.

What advice has helped you get where you are now?
As a collaboration team, we’ve both accepted that keeping an open mind and being willing to hold nothing as untouchable is the only way to truly write a work that is “ours”. Also, when it comes to research, it is important to stay true to both the facts and the voice of the historical period. While going through the publication process for one of my earlier stage plays, I received feedback from the publisher that I had misrepresented a historical setting in my work. I can still recite the quote that the publisher stated in their critique; “Just because you write fiction, does not give you the right to make things up.” This resonates with me always and, because of this advice, I strive for a high level of attention to historical detail in my works.