Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist J. Franklin Evans

Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire

By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.

Who are you and where are you from? 

J. Franklin Evans, born and raised in Georgia (USA state). I am politically progressive and spent most of my life in the Deep South, which I know impacts my writing. I’m currently living in Northern California, having moved here from the Atlanta area a couple of years ago..

Where and when did you come up with the idea for your screenplay? 

A couple of years after I moved to Savannah, in the early 1990s, there was an unusual snowstorm. It had been years since the city had experienced more than a trace, but this was a couple of inches. Nothing spectacular, and nothing like what happens in the script, but the sheer strangeness of a snowfall like that in the Deep South started the wheels to turning. And Savannah is fertile ground for strange, dark tales anyway. I’ve made several attempts over the years to write this story but I didn’t like anything I came up with, until recently. 

Can you take us through your screenwriting process? 

I start with an ending that I like, and then develop the story leading to that ending to give it meaning and impact. I usually create a partial outline, then start writing the first draft when I can see where the rest of the road is going. And I remind myself that nobody is going to see a first draft but me, so I feel free to let it be poorly-written and full of mistakes and strange plot mishaps, because I’ll fix it in a later draft. That is extremely important to me.

What made you want to become a screenwriter?

I grew up isolated, living way out in the sticks, so when I was a kid I made up stories to keep myself entertained. I fell in love with TV and movies as I grew up, and decided that screenplays are a perfect medium for the stories I want to tell. I can’t not write, and my natural inclination is to write a story as a screenplay.

Who are your biggest filmmaking influences? 

Ridley Scott, in particular Alien. M. Night Shymalan. Rob Zombie—his music and movies.. Tolkien. Lovecraft. Stephen King. Tanith Lee. Roger Zelazny. John Carpenter—especially The Thing. A little Orson Welles, a little William Goldman, a dash of Harlan Ellison, and a sprinkling of Dave Barry and Terry Pratchett. 

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? 

Alien. I’ve been obsessed with that movie since I first saw it in the theater, in 1979. I’m still obsessed with it to this day. I still have nightmares about it.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? 

The La Marseilles scene in Casablanca. So powerful. Perfection.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? 

Boromir, from The Lord of the Rings. He’s my favorite in the books and in the movies. He dies fairly early in the story but his presence can be felt all the way until the very end.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

I’d ask Orson Welles if Citizen Kane is really based on Hearst, or if he actually based the character on himself and just let people assume it was based on Hearst.



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