Watch the winning January 2017 Horror Best Scene Screenplay Reading.
|Best Scene from the screenplay THE LEGEND OF YAKATUTCH Screenplay|
Written by Sean Francis Ellis
Genre: Horror, Action, Sci-Fi
In the Canadian wilderness, a snowboarding champion must embrace his indigenous legacy to save his girlfriend from a legendary creature, which has kidnapped her in order to become human once more.
Get to know the writer:
What is your screenplay about?
A young man, the descendant of a First Nations warrior, must embrace his destiny in order to save his girlfriend from a legendary creature, which has escaped its icy prison and threatens his small Canadian town.
The story explores our relationship with nature and the loss of traditions that once kept us in balance with it. It is a redemption story, and a coming-of-age story, about the passing of traditional values from one generation to the next.
What genres does your screenplay fall under?
Action, Adventure, Horror.
Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
“The Legend of Yakatutch” is inspired by a long tradition of ‘Creature-Features’, which includes blockbuster franchises “Jurassic Park”, “Jaws” and “The Mummy”. Recent hits like “Godzilla”, “Pacific Rim”, The “Twilight” Series and “Snow White and the Huntsman” prove the genre remains popular internationally, with many more examples on TV, like “The Walking Dead”, “True Blood”, “Grimm”, “The Vampire Diaries”, “Roswell”, “Smallville”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Supernatural”, “Hemlock Grove”, “Haven” and “The X Files”. These hit movies and TV shows all bring to life incredible monsters that excite our imagination, and take us to the fascinating worlds they inhabit.
The mystery of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, and the creature’s Asian relative, Yeti, have always fascinated the public. Thousands of stories and reported sightings have spawned a culture of pseudo-scientific research, known as ‘cryptozoology’. The character of Yakatutch combines elements of this legendary ‘cryptid’, with Canadian First Nations mythology. But unlike Bigfoot, Yakatutch is a creature that was once an ordinary man.
As humanity faces the threat of extinction caused by our lack of respect for the environment, the conflict between modern man and a creature that represents our primal nature, is a timely one, reminding us that we need to respect the natural environment and learn from the past, if we are to survive. But it also tells a coming-of-age story, about a young hero embracing his destiny through rites of passage that connect him to his heritage and First Nations identity. He must embrace the past to save the future.
The outdoor, ‘filmed on-location’ visual elements of the script would be compelling on the cinema screen. The spectacular frozen wilderness is a dramatic backdrop to the action-adventure elements in the film, with sequences on glaciers and mountains, and within the forests and small towns of the Yukon Territory. Action elements such as snowboard chases, helicopters, airplanes, and off-road vehicles, combined with ancient threats, such as the mysterious curse that created Yakatutch, and his journey to redemption, would produce an exciting and emotionally engaging movie. The mix of First Nations and European/Canadian culture found in the Yukon will also set “The Legend of Yakatutch” apart from recent films in the genre, and give the film broader audience appeal.
How would you describe this script in two words?
What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
Hard to say for sure, but probably “Superman: The Movie”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, or “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
How long have you been working on this screenplay?
I started writing a version of this script in 2004. It had many of the same elements, but has evolved significantly. I’ve reworked the story several times, with various titles, including “Out of Bounds”, “Prey”, and “Claws”. I’ve also worked on several other feature and short screenplays during that time, but mostly this one.
How many stories have you written?
Dozens since I started writing short stories in school, but there are many more I haven’t written down.
What motivated you to write this screenplay?
When I started this one, I’d written two screenplays in very different genres. The first was a sort of Romantic Comedy with Action, the second was a Crime-Drama with Comedy. So, I wanted to write something closer to what I love watching most, which are movies with lots of suspense, action, and elements of sci-fi or horror. As a nine year old, I was inspired by the Wampa Snow Monster from “The Empire Strikes Back”, and always thought that creature deserved a movie all its own. I felt sympathy for it, living in isolation inside its cave. It was frightening, and Luke killed it to save himself, but it wasn’t a monster in the usual sense. It was just an animal. So I thought it deserved to have its story told.
I was also motivated by my interest in extreme sports like snowboarding, my love of snow-capped mountains, and the cinematic potential that goes with a creature stalking people in the frozen wilderness. As I did research into the Yukon Territory, I became fascinated with the history of the area, the protected wildlife parks and the First Nations who live there. I added these elements to the story and built them into the creature’s backstory.
What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Many years worth! The obstacles were mostly about making time and finding a space where I could write, and sacrificing other things to make time (like a steady income!). After spending a year or so on the script, I went to the US and stayed for several months at a time in Los Angeles, for about 5 years. I survived on a very tight budget, and after interning and finding a short-lived assistant job, I decided to live as a struggling writer, writing in cafes and libraries. It was lonely, exhausting work. I spent most of 2007 & 2009 writing in LA, then from 2012 to 2015 (back in Australia), writing either part time or full time. At times I had no money, no social life, and my relationships suffered. I invested a lot of savings in the process. I pitched regularly, paid for professional coverage and sought feedback as often as possible, to improve my writing. I had help from a producer in Australia, who was a sounding board for several years, helping me edit and tighten the story. The feedback improved over time, and I believed I had something with potential, so I pressed on. It was a lot of sacrifice, but I learned a lot about writing and myself.
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I love everything about film and have been making films since I was 10, using super 8 equipment, then video, to shoot, direct, edit and produce short films. I love history, sociology, art, design, architecture, dance, choreography, music and language, as well as travel and great food. I’m also passionate about social justice, environmentalism, conservation, and the preservation of art for educational purposes.
What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
I have entered the festival and received feedback before, which was helpful, so I knew the contest and the services they offer. The feedback I received was encouraging and gave me something new to think about, which I hadn’t really considered before. But I felt some frustration too. It’s always hard to be told what is lacking, or not working, after so much hard work. Feedback is a great way to start you thinking, and to make you look at your story from a new viewpoint. That’s always valuable. I think it helps to get several viewpoints and find a consensus.
Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
While developing your abilities as a writer, develop other skills and passions as well, whatever they are. Balance is key to productivity. Along with good health and plenty of sleep. Observation is a crucial aspect of good writing, and so much of writing is done when you aren’t at your desk. Once you know the concept and the dramatic need of your characters, play the movie in your head whenever you can, so the pacing becomes clearer. Then, you’ll be prepared to drop something if it doesn’t move the story forward. Outlining is so important, and I think the more time you put into plotting the story first, the easier it is to write scenes that will stay in the script.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editing: John Johnson
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