Rosalyn Rosen, LISP Feature Screenplay FINALIST
LISP Feature Screenplay FINALIST, PRAYING MANTIS BY Rosalyn Rosen
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I am a filmmaker, produced playwright and screenwriter. My first feature film,The Other Kind, released in 2016, that I wrote, directed and produced, was in 22 festivals, won 15 awards and has distribution with Indican Pictures.
Prior to my life in film, I was the Resident Playwright at Capitol City Playhouse in Austin, Texas. In the 2000’s I directed music videos and concert films for Epic Records including Los Lonely Boys’ Heaven, Matisyahu’s King without a Crown Live at Stubbs and the concert film, Los Lonely Boys Live at the Fillmore.
I have adapted many of my plays into screenplays and they have received numerous awards. Praying Mantis in a Jar is an adaption of one of my plays. My next feature, Supremacy, will also be an adaption of one of my plays. I also write original screenplays and TV pilots that have also done well winning contests.
When and how did you get into writing?
I got bit by the playwriting bug watching Tennessee Williams’ 27 Wagons Full of Cotton while starting my dissertation for my PhD in Exceptional Children. My standup comic boyfriend asked me to go on the road with him for a writing sabbatical and I took him up on it. That is when I wrote my first play. We moved to Austin, Texas from Columbus, Ohio and my play was discovered in a pile of scripts at Capitol City Playhouse. CCP began producing my plays and I had the good fortune to have the best dramaturge in the world, Marla Dean Macdonald.
My plays began getting produced nationally and then my manager suggested that I adapt one of my plays into a screenplay. I did, and I directed my first short film of a few scenes from that screenplay which did well on the festival circuit. Then, years later, that short film blossomed into my first feature, The Other Kind.
How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I love to write and as Neil Simon has so famously said, “Writing is rewriting.” I love the play and screenplay development process. I love rewriting as much as I love writing the first draft. I look at the development process like a sculpture that I’m building. My father was a sculptor. I suppose in this way, I take after him.
I write every day I possibly can. I love to go in the morning from the dream state straight to my computer.
Typically, what inspires me to write are questions. Why did this person behave in this unjust way? What drives people to make the choices they do? I am driven to understand the complexities of human nature. And then, in the climax of the play and/or screenplay, I am always amazed to see what shifts them to make an important choice, whether positive or negative. In all of my plays, my characters do not land where they started. They all shift in one way or another as they are impacted by the other characters. I love character development. I love peeling the onion on who a person is. What is at their core? That is what I want to know.
How does it feel to have your work recognized?
It feels great! It is wonderful to get validation for your hard work as in any other profession. And, it also means my work will reach more audiences. That is important to me. I hope that my work brings insight and healing to people.
What is the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a screenplay?
Writing is my Zen. Writing is my jazz. I actually can’t live without it. I need it like food and water. It nourishes me. Nothing is more fulfilling than to have your characters come alive and speak through you. You become their vessel. It is fascinating for me to see where they take me.
The most challenging thing about writing a play and/or screenplay are days where something keeps me from writing. Life gets in the way sometimes. For me, the joy is the writing itself, the process. I never think about awards or productions when I’m writing. I just go on the journey draft after draft.
How did you come up with your idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it?
I didn’t have to come up with the idea about Praying Mantis in a Jar. It is based on my true story. I was the teacher in this classroom. Chris was my student. They all were. This tragedy really happened to him and it was heartbreaking for me. I feel his verdict was unjust. I knew what was going to happen to him with this verdict and it did. This story still breaks my heart. I was driven to write it. I am also driven to direct it as a film.
I wrote Praying Mantis in a Jar first as a play. I developed in the playwriting workshop with Marla Dean Macdonald, my dramaturge. It was produced at Capitol City Playhouse to an overwhelming positive response. It was during the pandemic lockdown that I adapted it from a play into a screenplay and then developed the screenplay with my screenplay dramaturge, Justin Ross, the Executive Vice President of Development at Bohemia Group Originals.
Can you give us a few tips on writing a screenplay?
Read screenplays. Read screenplay bibles. Prior to writing screenplays, I did the same thing as a playwright. I read every play I could get my hands on. Don’t rush. Let the first draft happen. Don’t overthink it. Let it come through you. You have plenty of time to rewrite. Find a good dramaturge/coach. Someone who gives you notes that ring true to you. I call them light bulbs. Toss out notes that don’t ring true. If you can’t get inspired by their notes, then they’re not the right dramaturge/coach for you. I always said, I’ll take a note from the cab driver if it’s a light bulb. It doesn’t matter where the note comes from. Finally, make writing a discipline. Find a time each day that works for you to write and do it. Sit down even if you think you’re inspired. Let it unfold. It will come to you. I guarantee it.
What is the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
The best thing is winning and getting recognized for what you are trying to express. It is wonderful to be validated and then to receive the perks for winning.
The most challenging thing is that some festivals/contests don’t come through with their promises if you win. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I have learned to let it go and just be appreciative of the win.
Lastly, do you recommend the writers give LISP a go?
If I am understanding this question correctly, yes, I am so happy with your festival so far just even learning that I’m a Finalist. Your communication is outstanding and I love that you interview us. It was both poignant and fun for me to answer your questions. I look so very forward to what happens next!