Atlantic Filmmaker Focus: 2015 Script Development Program Participants

Jesse Harley (above), Glen Matthews (right), Tamara Segura (below)

Co-Writing Team Bob Mann (left) & Adam DeViller (right)

The Atlantic Film Festival is a champion of Atlantic Canadian filmmakers. In keeping with this promise, every month we profile some of the most incredibly talented people in the filmmaking industry today. This month, we look at the four finalists for the 2015 Script Development Program - Jesse Harley, Glen Matthews, Tamara Segura and the team of Bob Mann and Adam DeViller.

The four feature film outlines that will be developed into rough first drafts through three intensive weekend sessions this summer, under the guidance of Michael Melski, one of Canada’s top story editors.

All writers will also take part in the Script Pitch Event, during the 35th Atlantic Film Festival, where the writers will pitch their feature film idea to a room of industry professionals with the aim of attaching a producer and/or director to the projects and to compete for the $10,000 development prize made available through The Harold Greenberg Fund




JESSE: February 21, 1979

GLEN: Friday the 13th, June 1986

TAMARA: December 2, 1985

BOB: December 9, 1975

ADAM: October 7

Where are you from?

JESSE: Born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, although I've lived all over this beautiful country.

GLEN: Lunenburg, NS

TAMURA: I was born and raised in Holguin, a city in the northeast of Cuba. When I was 17 years old I went to study in Havana, and there I spent most of my adult life.

BOB: St. Peter’s, Nova Scotia

ADAM: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Where do you presently reside?

JESSE: I'm living in Halifax at the moment

GLEN: North End, Halifax, NS

TAMARA: I moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland in 2012. Originally I came for a two months contract to write a screenplay, but I fell in love with the people (not so much the weather) and ended up staying.

BOB: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

ADAM: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

When did you write your first script?

JESSE: I believe I was around 20 years old. I wrote a script to a mockumentary simply called, 'Death', about following the Grim Reaper around on his day job.

GLEN: When I was 19 years old, I wrote and directed a short film about a man breaking-up with his pubic hair. It won an award at a film festival and I’ve been making movies ever since.

TAMARA: Approximately 7 years ago.

BOB: I was nine and I co-“wrote” a screenplay called Carvings on Fire, which was about a graveyard that catches on fire. There were three sequels that only made it to the treatment stage and every movie ended with someone narrowly escaping death after dangling from the roots of a big tree jutting out of the edge of the cliff next to the graveyard. I’ve over-answered the question, haven’t I? Ah, yes I have. The answer is: I wrote my first script in 1984. Carvings on Fire. That was the script. I was nine.   

ADAM: First script? 10 years old. I had been making movies (or at least reasonable facsimiles of movies) since I was eight, but they were usually freewheeled with a whole lot of improvisation. When I was 10 I decided it was time to buckle down and start doing prep work. All that said, my first 'coherent' script didn’t happen until I was 13 or 14. I convinced my English teacher to let me write and direct a play starring my classmates, to be performed in front of the rest of the school. If a teacher were to allow that play to happen today, they absolutely would be suspended. Ahh, memories. 

What do you think makes a good script?

JESSE: Anything that makes the reader compelled to read further. We don't necessarily have to identify with the character's problems, but we do have to empathize with their struggle.

GLEN: It sounds cliché, but if a script can make me forget that I’m reading a script, that’s a pretty good indicator.

TAMARA: Cadency. The first thing a screenwriter should explore and polish is their sense of rhythm. 

BOB: I think you only need a small handful of simple things to have a good script.  You definitely need heart.  You need 'relatability'. Clear intentions. Conflict. Humour. A few long faces, for variety. You need relationships. Movement. Water is always nice. A wedding or a prom; it doesn’t really matter which because they’re basically interchangeable. A really long scene where a salad is being made. A father/mother/sister/brother/cousin figure. Dinosaurs (the 'real' kind). No fewer than three speeches. Unleaded gasoline. Children dressed as vegetables. A surfboard. A lesson. If you have those things, I’m pretty sure you’ve got yourself a hell of a script.   

ADAM: To me a good script has characters that are complex yet relatable, working within a simple premise that is completely thought-out and executed really, really well. It shouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel. Unless you’re Aaron Sorkin… or writing a movie about the re-invention of the wheel. 

How would you describe your experience, so far, in the 2015 Script Development Program?

JESSE: It's been great! I've been learning a lot, to say the least. I'm enjoying the interactivity with the other participants as well. I don't think we see each other as competition but as collaborators trying to further our skills with this art form.

GLEN: Even though we’re all technically competitors, the program has been refreshingly collaborative. I love it. Melski has been incredible, leading the group and encouraging discussion and feedback amongst all of us. I have no doubt that I, along with the others in the program, will leave the program with a strong script in hand.

TAMARA: I think it’s wonderful. I’ve always felt comfortable working in a group of men and this one in particular is specially smart, funny and respectful. I especially appreciate how our mentor Michael Melski can help us dig, not just in our individual stories but also in our motivations to tell it.

BOB: Adam and I applied for the Program because we had an idea and felt it was time for it to grow. After bouncing ideas back and forth between us, we felt that it was time to bring it to a table to get some honest feedback. The Script Development Program seemed like the perfect way to get our project to a stage where we could workshop it and see it come to life. That’s what we were hoping for, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten so far. Michael Melski is a great story editor, and so far his feedback and ideas have done nothing but ignite new sparks under whatever piece of our script is under discussion. The other participants have been generous with their views and I feel we’ve offered the same generosity. It’s a good group. Michael’s great. I’m loving it, frankly.  

ADAM: I just read Bob’s answer and he literally said everything I was going to say. So instead of repeating his answer verbatim, I’ll just say “ditto,” but reiterate that the experience thus far has been everything we wanted it to be and more. A strong story editor is invaluable to script development, and we’re very lucky to be working with Michael on this one. He’s helped us find potential within our story and characters that we hadn’t seen on our own. 

What do you think will be the biggest challenge when you pitch your script?

JESSE: Picturing all the jurors in their underwear. 

GLEN: Everyone’s scripts are really strong. It’s honestly going to be a tight race. I have a plan in place for the pitch but it’s super-duper-top-secret. Shhh!

TAMARA: Talking in public about my work without blushing. I have never been great at self promotion and in English things get even harder. I honestly hope I won’t sound like a toddler.

BOB: The biggest challenge will be 'notdoing the entire pitch in battle-rap rhymes. Because our film is about battle-rapping and I want to do the whole thing in battle-rap rhymes. I may do it accidentally, even if we don’t plan it that way. 

ADAM: The biggest challenge will be trying to keep Bob from accidentally battle-rapping the entire pitch. 

The Atlantic Film Festival is celebrating its 35th year. What does the festival mean to you?

JESSE: I love the Atlantic Film Festival. I've been to many film festivals around North America, and I have to say this one is unique. I've never seen a festival play so many professional and entertaining 'local' films. During the week of festivities, I find it truly encompasses the meaning of the word, 'festival'. I can't wait to attend again this year.

GLEN: Every year, the festival is where we, the film community, all gather to see our work from the year before, and it’s always been something that I’m incredibly proud of, to be a part of that. I’m especially looking forward to this year’s fest, after our industry’s debacle with the Nova Scotian Liberals, to really rally together and celebrate what we do so well: tell our stories. PS. I’m also and actor, and last year, I’m pretty sure I set a record when I was in seven films at the AFF. That’s a badge of honour that I won’t shut up about any time soon.

TAMARA: My first Canadian film ever was screened last year at the Festival and of course, that makes the entire event very special to my heart. Coming from an island and now living in another one, the Atlantic Film Festival has become a space to learn, to make connections and to beat isolation in every possible way.

BOB: For me, the Festival is mainly about community. We have many great films come to our festival every year, some that we might not get to see otherwise, and it’s wonderful. But personally I’m a big fan of going to see what our Atlantic Canadian artists have done. I’ve always loved the idea that we can have a filmmaking culture right here at home, and AFF is the moment when everyone can come together and celebrate each other’s work. Getting to see your work and the work of your colleagues up on a big screen is a special, community-building moment that’s hard to describe, and I’m grateful that Festival provides us with the opportunity to have that moment. 

ADAM: For me the Atlantic Film Festival is about inspiration. Every year I leave the Festival with a new set of goals, and a fire lit to work towards them. For a small city in a small province our artistic output is second to none, so it’s always an honor to be a part of AFF and always inspiring to see what the rest of our talented community has created.  

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Jesse, Glen, Tamara, Bob and Adam. We wish you all the best as you further develop and pitch your projects at the 35th Annual Atlantic Film Festival!

For more details on each of the finalists and their scripts, click HERE.