Watch the July 2016 Winning Best Scene Screenplay
EPIPHANY, by Despina Moraitou
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure, Thriller
Based on the Greek Christmas myth of the Kalikantzari
Get to know the winning writer:
1. What is your screenplay about?
Epiphany is a screenplay based on the Greek myth of the Christmas Kalikantzari, a story grandmothers tell their grandchildren all over Greece during the holidays.
The myth is pretty simple.
Greek legend has it that, all year long, the Kalikantzari, impish demons of the
underworld, saw the Tree of Life that holds the earth on its trunk aiming to end our
world. On Christmas, thinking the Tree is cut, they travel up to earth to celebrate,
unleashing their greed and havoc. Twelve days later, on the Epiphany, they’re sucked back into their underworld to find the Tree has regrown! Cursed and chained for all eternity to an unreachable goal, they start to saw again, until next Christmas.
And so it’s been for a thousand years….
Except, in my story, this year the Kalikantzari may succeed, after all. So… When they kidnap a young girl in Crete under a nefarious plan to end the world, her mother goes on a frantic search against time to find her, only to discover that she was their intended target and, on her actions, rests the fate of the world.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
It would be the perfect fantasy adventure for the whole family on Christmas. It is a story about a world we have never seen before in the movies. Although there are plenty of films about Greek mythology, there are none featuring the Kalikantzari.
These B-class demons of the Greek underworld are not to be underestimated. As a collective, they can destroy the earth — a social allegory, if I may, about how collective stupidity can destroy our world. They are also mischievous, gullible and kid-like but endearing even in their evilness, so audiences will love them.
No guns, no explosions, no crazy car races here. Instead, it is a story that takes place in forests, bottomless lakes and gorges, full of magical creatures, gorgons and winged horses, love potions and doomed lovers, all while the world hangs from a thread. It is a fairy tale and we all love those.
Unlike most movies these days where the hero is always a male, this movie features a female hero, the mother, a strong character who is accomplished, capable and
courageous. She can find her girl like any father could, she is a formidable opponent to the whole collective. And the villain king, well, he is evil and mean but also lovesick.
How can you not feel for him?
At the end, in the ultimate fight between good vs bad and just when sacrifice is
inevitable, we realize that the only true poison to evil is love. I can’t think of a better
message by a movie for the holiday season. Or, any season for that matter.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
The Titanic. Every time it comes on tv, I drop everything and watch it, again and again. I love James Cameron.
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
Two and a half years.
6. How many stories have you written?
Two other screenplays. One three-act theater play. And one 10 minute play. And lots and lots of short stories that I work and rework and rework.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
Sitting at a Greek taverna in Athens one afternoon, a friend and I were talking about the collapse of the Greek economy. That night I saw a documentary on Greek folklore myths, featuring the Kalikantzari. I remembered I used to tell the story to my kids and suddenly, it all materialized in front of me. I envisioned the whole fantasy world, Pegasus and the Minotaur, adventure and romance and mischievous Kalikantzari causing havoc and so… The next morning, I told my friend that I wanted to write this story and shoot it in Greece. That would be good for the economy, no? She said, everybody wants to help but nobody does anything. I said, I’ll take the first step, I’ll write the story. She said, doubtful. Let’s bet, I said. I’ll do it in two years.… I lost the bet, it took me two and a half. But I wrote it.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
When you write a spec script, it means you are not getting paid. Yet. So, the family
doesn’t realize that when I say, “I’m working,” it means, I am actually working. They
think it’s a hobby. But it’s not. I’m now training the family to understand that.
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Another obstacle was cutting the screenplay down. My first draft finished at 298 pages. I cut it down to 170, then to 150, 120 and finally to 114. I killed characters, crossed out locations, discarded story lines, it was a bloodbath. But at the end, I felt exhilarated.
Also, although I hold two M.A. degrees, neither one of them is in Writing. So I had to
home school myself in the art of screenwriting. Many times, I would put the screenplay down just so I can read everything I could about scene, action and dialogue in books, blogs and online classes. Then, I would go back and continue writing the story. That’s why it took me two and half years to write it. The next screenplay went way faster.
Then, of course, there are the psychological obstacles, self-doubt being the king. But I love writing and writer is what I want to be when I grow up. So, I ignore them and keep writing. What else can I do? Not writing is not an alternative.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Martial arts, tango and an occasional ride on my motorcycle, a Laverda 650 Ghost
Strike. But I spend an inordinate amount of time following the politics of the land.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I entered the festival when I fist started to write the screenplay, sending in my first ten pages and got some great feedback. This time I entered because I really want to hear professional actors read what I wrote. Not out of vanity, but because I crave to see if I make sense, at least to myself.
I found the feedback very helpful and made changes to implement them. The reader
definitely read my script carefully and the comments were right on target.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Single-space after a period. On a 120-page script, it’ll save you a couple of pages.
But all kidding aside (actually, I’m not kidding), my advice to other writers is to read as many scripts as possible. And to seek feedback. I found them invaluable.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson