Q&A with Jeff Shevlowitz, award-winning screenwriter Q: What's "Year 73" about?
A: It's an 'alternative history' in looking at what the world (specifically the USA) if Germany had won WWII. This happens because when Hitler is assassinated 1940, those who took over the government were better militarily and won the War. This opened a lot of questions such as "what would the 'right-wing' look like if that means Nazism? And what would Nazism look like in America? This of course led to a twist on the classic "kill Hitler before he comes to power." Now it became, "keep Hitler from being assassinated."
Q: Does this script represent your personal "niche" or do you like to write a variety of genres?
A: I have always loved Science Fiction and most of my work is in that genre. However, I have also written comedy, family drama, historical drama, and adapted a screenplay from a memoir I wrote for a Holocaust survivor. All of them (with the exception of the adaptation because very few contests allow for entry of adaptations) have made it to at least the quarter-finals in some contest or competition.
Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Aside from winning, did it fulfill your expectations?
A: I'm always on the outlook for a new competition. This one looked liked it would be very supportive of the winners and that aspect appealed to me. The right promotion can wind up being the most valuable aspect of a contest.
Q: How long did it take you to write the script?
A: About a year and a half. However, I also work full time and I was taking a business course through the Wharton school of business for work. And in my "free" time, I started trying to learn Hebrew. It probably would have been done faster if I hadn't overbooked, but I'm not certain it would have been done a great deal better.
Q: What is your writing process? Outlines? Several drafts?
A: I usually get an idea that then percolates for a while. As it does, scenes to come to mind to further the story. The story and characters may change during this process. I have to admit that I'm terrible at outlines. Even if I do manage to outline something, I often find that the situations and characters may lead me in a different direction and change the story that I thought I was going to tell. Usually this is for the best. I find when I try to force a story line or a character, it comes across as seeming forced, which means it's really not working.
Q: Have you written any other screenplays? Books?
A: The book I wrote for the Holocaust Survivor "Abiding Hope: Bearing Witness to the Holocaust" is the work I am proudest of completing. I have an illustrated children's book (although I'm not the illustrator) "The Dragon Who Feared Fire" about having the courage to find strength in what others see as weakness. (Both books available on Amazon.com) As for screenplays, there is "Do No Harm" (psychological thriller - Nicholls quarter-finals; Austin 2nd Rounder; Reel Writers semi-finals), "Hidden Faith" (historical drama - Final Draft Big Break quarter-finals), "All of Her Life" (family drama - Hollywood Screenplay Contest finalist).
Q: What is your dream career in the film industry? Where would you like to be in the next 5 to 10 years?
A: Simply being able to make a living by selling screenplays. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?
A: I'm about a quarter of the way through a new script wherein humanity must embrace the next step in evolution, or become extinct. I also have completed another children's book, but my illustrator won't work on it until "The Dragon Who Feared Fire" sells 500 copies.