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Hall and Robinson: Writing Team from Europe Wins Grand Prize

"I believe in the adage 'there are no coincidences.' Case in point, Jonathan Hall and Hannah Robinson who are the winners of the American Screenwriters Association's 11th Annual International Screenwriting Competition (co-sponsored by Gotham Writers' Workshop).
So you find yourself languishing in an airport on another monotonous layover when something pique's your interest. Okay, you're kind of eavesdropping on a fellow passenger's cell phone conversation. Semantics-schmantics. The woman with the cell phone is talking about her trip to the Mediterranean Film Institute in Greece. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly where you're traveling? The call ends, you quickly strike up a conversation about the twist of fate - and right at that moment a creative partnership is formed. You soon find yourself and your new associate getting along like old friends, and laughing at each other's jokes. This is a very important detail, because you don't know it at the time, but each one of you shares half of the imaginative brain that will eventually create the ASA's winning comedic screenplay Fireworks.
Fireworks is the story of 13-year-old girl, Cat, who hatches a plan to steal her Father's ashes from her Mother so she and her eccentric (Bipolar) Uncle can launch them in a firework. However, with many best laid plans, something goes awry.
Jonathan Hall, who was born into a show business family (his mother is theater actor Anne Rogers), had the creative bug bite him from the start. After completing his MA in screenwriting at London's University of the Arts, he landed a staff writing gig on BBC's The Doctor's. And on top of his writing success, Jonathan also gives back by tutoring young writers at his alma mater.
Hannah Robinson is an award winning Scottish director and writer. Her films have premiered at several film festivals (Edinburgh, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Melbourne). Hannah and Jonathan first partnered on their award winning short film In The Mood before writing Fireworks.
Fireworks, on the surface, is a comedic coming of age drama, but it does deal with mental illness and a young woman's struggle to understand it. I'm not certain there's anything really funny about mental illness, but there is something very human about Robinson and Hall's approach to the subject matter.
"It's difficult to tackle mental illness in film, but if you can find a realistically entertaining way of dealing with the subject matter the better off you'll be," says Hannah. Jonathan adds, "We don't write too many gags. It's the tone of the screenplay that's comical. We went for that quirky angle in the vein of The Station Agent." The subject of Bipolar Illness and Manic Depression strikes close to home for Hannah Robinson - her father and cousin suffer from the disorders. Hannah adds, "I've experienced, first hand, the ludicrous situations that my family member's illness can cause. " Hall says, "And if you try to preach to an audience, you'll turn them off." In fact, because of the comedic realism in Fireworks, the screenplay has won the support of the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest medical research charity.
Although both Robinson and Hall are extremely affable and upbeat individuals, how can a visually gifted director (Robinson) and a perfectionist comedic wordsmith (Hall) write as a team? "We literally write every word together in the same room. Arguing every word. We're both a little hard headed so we have to constantly justify our choices," says Hall. Robinson adds, "But we do spot the holes in our stories immediately by writing this way. With the give-and- take in the room together it's also a better way for us to write comedy." "And you have to be prepared to lose some of your creations," interjects Hall.
Why enter The American Screenwriters Association's 11th Annual International Screenwriting Competition?
Hall is quick to point out, "Quite simply it's got a great reputation: a combination of prestige, a very generous cash prize, script development with a guru every writer in the world has heard of and meetings with production companies. We'll be entering the next competition, too!"
What does the future hold for Hannah Robinson and Jonathan Hall? "I'd like to move to LA as soon as I can," says Robinson. "We'd both pack up our 'respective families and move there in a flash," adds Hall. And that day may not be too far off. There's already been an offer on their script.
Maybe it's time to call the travel agent? "

by Matt Hader


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