Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Tim Tolka

Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire

By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.


  1. What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby? 

Tim Tolka born in Salem, IL, based in Mexico City. My hobby is giving assholes bloody noses with my journalism. 

Derrick Dawson was born in Oakland, based in Oakland. 

  1. Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now? 

My co-writer, Derrick Dawson, and I came up with the concept, partially out of his frustration with the corruption and brutality of his hometown. I’m a bit of a police misconduct nerd, so I brought together crimes by cops from Oakland and around the country in order to create the plot. It took about eight months to write it. 

  1. From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process? 

Derrick started with a two-page synopsis and I elaborated and brainstormed. We later came up with a beat sheet and that guided us through the writing of the script. I eventually made a scene sequence, which helped me visualize the whole story in one excel sheet. We have continued to edit and change the name long after it was finished.

  1. When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter? 

Around 2014, I knew I wanted to make my first book (published in 2018) into a film, but I needed to become a screenwriter to do that. 

  1. Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?  

I admire and borrow from Wes Anderson for his immaculate attention to detail and fun minor characters and Quentin Tarantino for his spellbinding dialogue and twisted plots. 

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

The Wire because of its tirelessly accurate portrayal of how a police department functions internally. 

  1. What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why? 

Federico Fellini’s career was a good moment. 

  1. Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why? 

The son in the Bicycle Thief. 

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

I’d ask Newton about his lucky horseshoe.


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