10 screenwriters to watch

For a writer of scripts about cloning, human tissue research and biohazard recovery, Megan Holley made a strangely low-tech debut in the film world.

The Virginia-based scribe spent seven years editing industrial safety films on the manufacturing of cheesecakes, grout and windshield wipers before she paid five bucks for a Super 8 camera and began telling stories of her own.

“I’d always had a desire to get into film, but I had no idea how one went about that,” Holley says. “It just seemed so removed from my life.”

Local film venue Flicker became her inspiration, and then the showcase for her shorts. “I just got such a jolt out of it,” she continues. “It was fantastic. And so I really started writing to have material to go out and shoot.”

Holley tapped friends from the Richmond film community to make human cloning feature “Snowflake Crusade,” which traveled to smaller fests like Seattle Underground and San Francisco Independent.

Buoyed by that success, Holley “set about to really figure out how to write a screenplay, to really do it right.” After reading all the screenwriting books she could find, she drafted her breakthrough feature spec, “Sunshine Cleaning,” which became her ticket to Hollywood.

Producer Glenn Williamson, a U. of Virginia grad, discovered the script while judging submissions for the Virginia Film Festival. The former Focus Features prez says he responded to Holley’s strong voice and her ability to create characters with an authentic and interesting essence.

Now in pre-production with Ashley Judd and Zooey Deschanel attached to star, “Sunshine Cleaning” is the story of sisters Rose and Nora, owners of a crime scene-cleaning company.

“What’s very original about this screenplay,” says Williamson, “is that Holley found a way to use this bizarre, even macabre, world to tell a character story about two women trying to find themselves. And so it’s this odd mix between a story of personal growth and an unusual setting.”

Expect more unusual settings from Holley, who hasn’t given up her day job administering relapse-prevention pharmaceuticals to drug-addicted lab rats at Virginia Commonwealth U.

VITAL STATS
Age:
38
Birthplace: Evansville, Ind.
Inspirations: “Getting together with my friends and telling them stories of random things that have happened. They always become a little more flowery and a little more entertaining than when I initially experienced them.”

Favorite unproduced script: “Eucharist,” about a computer technician at a research facility who finds the face of Jesus on a human tissue sample. Script earned her a slot at the prestigious Nantucket Screenwriters Colony and won the Virginia Governor’s Screenwriting Competition.
Agent/manager: Jenny Fritz at Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silbermann; Colin O’Reilly at Smart Entertainment

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