Update on the Development of the Winning Script from the Stage 32 Microbudget Horror Script Competition! Originally Seen in Deadline Hollywood

Posted by Martin Reese
Jason Mirch Jason Mirch

Good morning Stage 32 Creative Crew! We're coming to the end of the year and I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on one of the biggest success stories of 2020. In August, we announced that Martin Reese of Cleveland, Ohio was the winner of the Microbudget Horror Script Competition presented by Stage 32, Trick Candle Productions and Glasshouse Distribution with his script, THE EYE OF OWUO

There were a record shattering number of entries from around the world and it was a major accomplishment for Martin to come out on top. He was awarded a $5,000 option agreement for the script with a potential $100,000 greenlight down the road. Unlike other contests that leave their writers off at the curb, Stage 32 and our partners continue to work with our winners to develop their scripts and their careers. That is why the winners of our contests have been optioned, signed to representation (and signed, and signed, and signed), hired by major studios, and even produced (excited to share that story soon)! 

As it has been 4 months since we announced Martin as the winner, I wanted to check in with him to get a sense of how the development process was going with Trick Candle, Glasshouse Distribution, and Stage 32! We all know the old saying goes, "writing is rewriting". Let's hear from Martin on whether his expectation of the professional development process matched with the reality.

Take it away, Martin! 

My screenplay, THE EYE OF OWUO, was the Grand Prize Winner in the Microbudget Horror Script Competition presented by Stage 32, Trick Candle Productions and Glasshouse Distribution. The grand prize not only included a $5,000 option agreement, but a mentorship and the opportunity to have the screenplay greenlit with a $100,000 budget through Trick Candle Productions and Glass House Distribution.

One may assume that the screenplay was perfect as written. After all it’s a contest winner. Right? Excuse me while I rent my tux. I’ll see you on the red carpet at the premiere. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s still more work to be done. Let’s be realistic, professional screenplay writers go through a number of drafts before their screenplay is finalized. Why would it be any different for me?

The process for me began with an initial meeting with the production team comprised of Tom Malloy of Trick Candle Productions & Glass House Distribution, Amanda Toney and Richard “RB” Botto of Stage 32, as well as Robert Deege of Glass House Distribution. They presented some development notes. The notes delved into such matters as getting into and out scenes faster or removing scenes that didn’t move the story forward.


Watch: Martin Reese finds out he is the winner of the Microbudget Contest LIVE!

One of the more interesting comments was in regards to a scene I wrote where a double-scoop ice cream cone cost $2.50 (yeah, back in the 1980’s maybe). Basically it wasn’t realistic. I had an opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions with how to make improvements. I also explained my train of thought with some the scenes. When you’re immersed in the writing process you’re too close to it to see certain issues. The producers giving you the notes don’t have that problem which is a good thing. They are more clear-eyed and able to give you honest feedback.

My next task was to take the notes and make changes. Did I agree with every note? No, but that’s to be expected. It is truly a collaborative process. We all want the screenplay to be the best it can be. Many times, a note means something you are trying to convey is not resonating so it’s up to you to figure out how to bridge that gap. Over the next couple of weeks, I made the changes. When I turned in my next draft I made a point of explaining to the team what changes I made and why I thought they were improvements.

After a couple of weeks, I made sure that I followed up with the team for comments on the last draft. Downtime is to be expected as the producers are busy on other projects. I wasn’t trying to be pushy at all, I just wanted to be sure I was moving in the right direction and in the meantime, I had additional thoughts on more changes that could improve the script. I was told the screenplay had indeed been improved, but I still got more notes. Was I discouraged? Not at all. The notes took an even deeper dive into the screenplay.

Now it’s up to me to incorporate the new notes to make the screenplay even tighter. I am currently working on the next draft. I’m also watching more horror films and reading more horror screenplays in order to get ideas regarding such things as adding scares or looking at how certain scenes are described. One other thing I’m trying to be conscious of as I write is the budget. Writing in crazy VFX or extraneous characters definitely can affect cost.

The entire process has been great. I will definitely be a better writer once this process is complete. I will also have a better understanding of the development process which will serve me well in my next opportunity.


Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Got an idea for a post? Or have you collaborated with Stage 32 members to create a project? We'd love to hear about it. Email Taylor at taylor@stage32.com and let's get your post published!

Please help support your fellow Stage 32ers by sharing this on social. Check out the social media buttons at the top to share on Instagram @stage32online , Twitter @stage32 , Facebook @stage32 , and LinkedIn @stage-32 .

The Montage Co-Star: A Most Unique Role
Coffee & Content - 10 Screenwriting Tips from Taika Waititi & Meryl Streep's Formula for Success
register for stage 32 Register / Log In