Interview with Reno-Tahoe Screenplay Contest Finalist Christine Inserra

Screenplay requires screen time

MJP: So Christine, out of the blue, you got a query email?

CI: Yes. You know the saying when the writer is ready they find you. And it led to my first TV pilot, Teleception, being optioned!

MJP: Tell me more about how that happened.

CI: So, one day, I got an email from CHERI, a production designer/acting head of a new start-up film production company looking for scripts written about and by women. She had done an internet search, presumably something like “women screenwriters.”

I had won awards in WOMEN WHO WRITE IN FILM screenwriting contests. So, up I popped as a recent winner. Then I appeared in more of her internet searches. I have all my scripts, awards, artwork, and one-pager on many websites.

MJP: Which ones?


Cheri said she was drawn to many of my award-winning script loglines/images and asked for one-pagers. Teleception, the TV pilot/series, was listed but not promoted because the pilot was not quite polished. She wanted to know more about Teleception, so I sent her my beautiful STORY BIBLE. I had paid my medical illustrator friend to lay it out for me.

That bible NAILED it. The president and others loved it and wanted to option it and add it to their 10-script-slate to a big streamer.

Then I had a Zoom meeting with the president and Cheri.

MJP: Wow! That is amazing to hear. Congratulations.

CI: YEAH! RIGHT. That was the quick and easy part. Panic set in. I redrafted the pilot to the delight of my script adviser. But, I knew nothing about CONTRACTS or what I should ask for. So, I did a bunch of research consulting with my associates. I even asked you for advice. I interviewed two entertainment lawyers, and it wasn’t a good fit. I then got a membership with the Counsel for Creators. They’re a group of creative arts/business lawyers available by phone for unlimited advice, and I got help understanding and negotiating my contract. It cost me $95.00 a month, but I did pay more for a redraft once we had worked out the terms. This process of back and forth between all parties took 6 months.

MJP: I hate the contract negotiation part — it’s like you are suddenly in war with the very person who wants to buy your script. How did the negotiation go?

CI: Cheri was also learning, so it was quite a joint venture. I tried to be reasonable in my requests. Now I play the wait on development game, the next option renewal, and any word from the big streamer. This industry is glacial.

MJP: Any interest in your other scripts?

CI: Yes. Cheri has read three of my scripts and loves them. As a new start-up, they are positioned to open a brick-and-mortar production studio in 2022. So all in due time.

But She thinks I am a great writer, creating fresh, complex yet clear characters and stories. That’s the kind of encouragement I need as I embark on my first adaptation of a lesbian crime novel set in a sleepy southern Illinois town.

MJP: How’d you get hooked up with that assignment?

CI: I connected with this local novelist by letting my SCREENWRITER FLAG FLY wherever I go. I met a retired doctor at my wife’s Tai Chi banquet. He knew this author and hooked us up. I have a two-year shopping agreement and rights to adapt the novel. That contract negotiation was not as easy. **********

MJP: How long have you been writing screenplays?

CI: Religiously? About seven years. I still work part-time. I started my first script in 2005, spent 10 years working on it, then moved on. Maybe one day I’ll go back to it.

MJP: Do you have representation?

CI: None -yet. I’d like to redraft two more of my best before seriously looking.

MJP: Produced a film?

CI: No. Only small music and educational videos for my physical therapy practice.

MJP: Won awards?

CI: Sure, but not the big first-place prize, which gets you hob-knobbing with producers.

MJP: Do you have a polished portfolio?

CI: Yes, six award winners, two not so.

MJP: How about networking?

CI: I have several trusted screenwriting/producing associates.

MJP: Who gives you notes on your work?

CI: I have a Great script advisor/reader. This has made all the difference in elevating my craft. Yes, it costs me $300.00 for a script read, overview notes, on-the-page notes, and an hour conversation. It’s a great deal, and it’s well worth it.

MJP: Are you big on social media?

CI: I really hate the time-suck of social media. I do announce all my contest wins on Facebook, and the other sites I’m on. Like I said, though, I widely promote all that I do, music, screenwriting, and my physical therapy work.

MJP: You mentioned your original screenplay artwork. How do you produce that?

CI: I come up with an image(s) for each script. Then do a pencil mock-up; collect photos to model ideas, then hire a Fiver artist who refines and draws it. Voila! It costs me between 75-125 bucks.

MJP: Hey, thanks for sharing your success and keep me updated.

CI: Will do. It’s been my pleasure. LET YOUR SCREENWRITER FLAG FLY!

Interview with Bernhard Riedhammer

The first winners of the Reno-Tahoe Screenplay Contest were produced in November 2021.

The winning short script — Tree O’mine by Bernhard Riedhammer — will be screened to all Reno-Tahoe Screenplay Contest entrants in a private online premiere in January 2022 (date to be determined).

After that, the film will get film festival run and worldwide distribution with royalty share so everyone can watch it!

We sat down with Bernie to ask about his screenwriting journey and experience with the contest.

1. Bernie, congratulations for winning the contest. We would like to know a bit more about you. Can you summarize your screenwriting career up to the point you won the contest?

Intern, Trainee, Assistant, Screenplay and Outline Editor and a lot of festival wins and loses in between 🙂

One word: Rollercoaster

2. Have you attended film school or other educational programs for screenwriters?

I have a BA in Screenwriting and Film Studies from Staffordshire University and a M.Litt. in Film Studies from the University of St Andrews

3. What inspires you to write and do you have a specific genre you write in or are open to all genres??

Mostly every day situations… and a lot of weird ideas. I’m open to all genres; however, more often than not, I end up writing real life drama and dramedies.

4. Now that you won the short script contest and had your script Tree O’mine produced. How was the whole production process with Mad Wife Productions?

One word: Smoothly. All I can say is that it was a real pleasure working with all of them.

5. What did you think of the film?

Really great stuff! I like it a lot 🙂 I like the cinematography, specifically the camera work when John enters and finds Kristin on the couch [Mad Wife note: this was a Steadicam shot] and Ben as he overhears them, also the scene after the storm, when Kristin knows she’s dying, very emotional. 

6. Is Tree O’mine be your first produced credit?


7. Why did you submit to the contest and what does winning the contest mean to you?

The contest is affordable and gives you the option to be produced.

8. How do you hope this will propel your screenwriting career?

Connections. Connections. Connections!

9. What do you want to say to other writers who are considering submitting their screenplay to the contest?

What are you waiting for?!

10. Considering other screenwriters or filmmakers, who inspires you the most?

Amongst others: Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Alexander Payne, Darren Aronofsky

11. If you could name one film or TV series you wished you had written, what is it and why?

There are many, but if I had to choose, it’s probably the The West Wing. Watching it for a second time, I can’t help but think, it’s still as relevant and as great as it has been roughly 20 years ago. This speaks to the quality of the show as a whole and is a testament to outstanding writing – by Aaron Sorkin at the helm – that stood the test of time.

Thank you, Bernie!

You can watch the winning short film below!