Screenwriter Stephen G. Levy Talks About Being a Scribe

Published On July 19, 2011 | By admin | Blog Post, Q&A, Screenwriting

I spent the weekend attending the Las Vegas Film Festival at the Hilton Hotel and had an amazing time speaking with the winner of the Indie Icon Award actor Michael Madsen and the moderator of the special event actor/director Ash Adams, who won the 2010 Best Film Award for “Once Fallen” at last year’s festival. I’ll be posting those interviews later in the week along with a recap of  the Producers and Filmmakers Panels and a podcast interview with filmmaker Brian Shay. 

Screenwriter Stephen G. Levy

Since those stories will take a few days to write, I thought in the meantime I would post an interview I did with Las Vegas Screenwriter Stephen G. Levy, whose short “Breakfast & Epiphanies” recently had its world premiere at the Beyond Baroque Theater in Venice, CA and was named a Love Unlimited Film & Art Award Winner.  Another short Stephen served as associate producer on entitled “Happy Anniversary” won a Silver Ace Award this week at the Las Vegas Film Festival, so it looks like his work is definitely getting noticed. 

How long have you been writing screenplays?  

I was a bridge professional and owner of a bridge club. Once the game started losing popularity I wrote a script called “Tournament”, which was an inside story of the combativeness of the bridge world.  I used real names including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and James Cayne of Wall Street.  They were not amused. The treatment I received was similar to Truman Capote’s treatment when he ran around with the Newport upper crust…they ousted him.

Since 1999 I have written about 15 scripts…only of which a couple are okay.

As the screenwriter what did you find the most difficult part of watching your script brought to life? 

In “Breakfast & Epiphanies” I didn’t like the references of certain words that might give a clue to the end’s twist.  I found them irritating but the director wanted them as possible audience clues and after all, it is a collaborative process. 

Do you have any recommendations for other writers who want to produce their work?

Most screenwriters would prefer to direct their own scripts…but they often don’t have the expertise or experience to do that…me included.  You must face the dilemma of abandoning one’s baby for someone else to raise.

Aside from “Breakfast & Epiphanies” what are some of your other projects? 

Currently, I co-wrote “The End”, which is in post-production. I have a couple other shorts that I’d like to see produced and a feature that I’ve been working on for 11 years that is in development but as the business goes…it may stay there…it’s been optioned 3 times.

You’ve started entering “Breakfast & Epiphanies” in festivals, but I heard that the original script won an award prior to shooting.  If so, what are the details? 

Award may not be the right word. Francis Ford Coppola owns a website called Zoetrope. I posted the short there and it was read and scored by other writers. It was the highest scoring script at that site during that particular month…another script I wrote was the 2nd highest.  So it is more of an honor from one’s peers rather than an award. 

What criteria do you use when selecting film festivals?

"Breakfast & Epiphanies"

Good question.  At first I decided to enter into the big festivals that are IMDb qualifiers and Oscar boosters.  Now I have decided to enter into local festivals or ones that I can go to during their screenings. I also want to enter into festivals that have categories such as less than 10 minutes, campy, horror or the like. T here is a tendency in open festivals to go with drama and that would be a mark against “Breakfast & Epiphanies”, but would be great for “The End”.

As a screenwriter you’ve been exposed to a lot of online sites and writing competitions.  Are there any you would either recommend or suggest that other writers stay away from? 

I think the best sites for posting work are Coppola’s Zoetrope or Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street. I would stay away from any site that charges money to post…but if you have a low budget script and you want to sell it…then go with InkTip.  They also will post shorts for sale for free. 

Where do you find ideas for your stories? 

Life’s experiences  

What inspires you?  

Escape from life’s experiences…that’s when the imagination runs wild…and that’s the fuel for story.

You mentioned using script doctors to improve on your screenplays.  Why do you advise using them and how do you find a good one? Are there any you would recommend?

I’ve used script doctors that charge from $50 to $550.  You get what you pay for. The expensive ones are always based on recommendations.  I prefer written notes and notes that are written in the script.  I don’t usually care for verbal notes (which I’ve used several times in the past).  I like notes from producers who don’t charge…but you’re on your own there.

There’s a feature you’ve written called “Kiss/Kill” that you’re planning to produce yourself.  You said that you wrote the first draft in 1999 and it’s been optioned 3 times since then.  Why have you decided now to raise the funds and produce the film yourself rather than trying to sell the screenplay?

It’s what is referred to as a niche script…so therefore before making it, one must know niche distributers and producers.  The script should market better in Europe and Southeast Asiathan in the states…it is not that unusual for a script to be optioned that many times.

What do you see as the greatest pluses and minuses for being a screenwriter or producer in Las Vegas as opposed to living in L.A.? 

I can fly to Burbank in 50 minutes and rent a car and return the same day without living in that madness and breathing their air.  The minus is that if you are not living in LA, many feel that you are not passionate.

Like this Article? Share it!

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>