Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Angel Connell)

What’s your name?

My name is Angel Connell.

Where were you born?

I was born in Lowell, Massachusetts (USA).

Where do you live?

I currently reside in Providence, Rhode Island (USA).

And what’s your hobby?

I would consider reading a hobby.

Where did you come up with the concept that just won the screenplay contest?

The concept sprang from a dream I had in 2017 inspired by President Donald Trump. His rivals and the negative impact their incessantly negative feuding was having on the psyche of the American people.

How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

It took me one day to cough up the images of my dream into a surrealistic narrative. Then including a beginning, a middle & an end. I fine-tuned the details within a week. After letting it rest for a month, I came back to the script outline & tweaked it. Finally, it had a clear narrative drive that didn’t sacrifice its inherently Lynchian dreamscape.

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

There was no concept. I had a vivid dream with a stream of images that I quickly held in my head. After I woke up, jumped out of bed, & ran to my office in order to “vomit” everything onto my processor. After that, I assembled the images into what I thought would work as an outline for a story. It was similar to legendary screenwriter Ernest Lehman. He created the script for NORTH BY NORTHWEST from a bunch of specific images/scenarios by Alfred Hitchcock.

Once done I moved to tweak the details of the story. Gave it a few layers without distracting from the mystery of the images. For example, issues of economic conflicts, race, sexism, (et al) certainly fueled on a sub-textual level the nightmare that became the inspiration of my story. But I didn’t want “issues” to overwhelm the story’s foundational theme: the destructiveness of hate.

After a week of doing this, I let the script rest for a month. Once a month passed by, I re-examined the script from the audience’s POV (point-of-view) so that it had a clear narrative drive without losing any of the mystery in its inherently Lynchian dreamscape.

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

I always wanted to be a filmmaker. My story & visual skills evolved when I drew comic strips & comic books as a kid. As I ventured into indie filmmaking, those skills came in handy as I shot my first short films such as SHE’S SO COLD (1995) & STOCKING STUFFERS (2001). My plans were put on a hold after the 9/11 attacks, getting married in 2002, & being a stay-at-home dad raising my son (born in 2005).

I used background acting as a way to slowly get back into the business & started to develop screenplay story structures. The only positive thing that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was the time it gave me to hone my screenwriting skills.

My short script EVENING OF THE EVIL EYE (“EOTEE”), however, existed before the pandemic. It has done fantastic in the film festival circuit as its run draws to a close. “EOTEE” was an “Official Selection” at over 90 film festivals & contests while securing almost 50 “Best Short Script” awards (with the Atlanta International Screenplay Awards being the latest competition to honor my short screenplay with another win).

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences?

My biggest influencers tend to be the “auteur” filmmakers who have a personal style that elevates their view of the world & sets them apart from other filmmakers.

Alfred Hitchcock would probably be at the top of the list followed by (in alphabetical order) Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Cocteau, The Coen Brothers, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Orson Welles, & Billy Wilder.

What about their style do you like or borrow?

From a writer’s point of view, I like how most of them say a lot with few words, use words in a way that sets a unique environmental tone when spoken by its indelible characters, & how the sound of words can be as evocative as a musical instrument.

From a filmmaker’s point of view, I most enjoy the ones who create a dreamscape in which they seduce the audience to enter it & find it more convivial than real life itself. Strong use of visual language in their storytelling is also very attractive. It helps to reinforce aspects of the story through iconic images into one’s subconsciousness.

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

CITIZEN KANE (1941) is probably the most compelling film I’ve seen multiple times. I like the fact that the story is “open” as opposed to “closed” so that it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Its narrative & subtext are told in a creatively visual manner that’s intoxicating to behold. It sticks with you long after you’ve viewed it.

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

The “Shower Scene” in PSYCHO (1960) remains my favorite scene due, in part, to how skillfully Hitchcock assembles it. Its subtext is also “meta” before “meta” was a “thing” such as when Marion Crane’s lifeless eyes stare back at us – the voyeuristic audience. It’s a brilliant merger of pop art dynamics with the sensibility of “high” film art.

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

George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) is my favorite character. I bond over his thwarted ambitions because it has happened to me & most people I know. It’s not hard to cry along with him in prayer if you’ve been in those situations yourself.

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

I would have loved to have a long conversation with Hitchcock. Pick his brains on why he chooses the stories he does and why he turns them into movies. Moreover, his thought process when going over a screenplay outline & discussing the tactics he uses to find the right way to visually tell a story. So one can say that Hitchcock was a major player in developing the language of cinema. I could learn a lot from a master filmmaker who helped to create the art form we enjoy today.