Ellen Winburn recently signed her first shopping agreement with HG5 Entertainment for her feature The Least of These through an introduction made by Coverfly. Scripts like The Least of These are hosted for free on Coverfly and not only live there for the duration of the contest in which they are entered, but as long as writers choose to make their projects public, industry professionals can discover them.
When searching for a script that met what HG5 Entertainment was looking for, the Coverfly team came across The Least of These, which had placed as a semifinalist in the 2017 ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Contest. Inspired by the true experiences of her son, The Least of These follows a teenager with cerebral palsy who dreams of having a girlfriend and forms an unlikely friendship with a troubled girl with a difficult home life.
To learn more about Ellen and see what other projects she has available, visit her Coverfly writer profile here.
1. Where are you from and how did you get into writing?
I was born in the Nascar capital of Darlington SC and grew up listening to the races from my backyard. There were no children my age near me, so I entertained myself with stories. Once I realized I could write those stories down and that others liked them, I was hooked. I’ve performed on stage and directed. But real life and the birth of a special needs child meant all of that went on a back burner. Still, I entertained my son and husband with stories all the time. Then one day my husband gave me scriptwriting software and said: “I don’t want to hear it, I want to read it.”
2. How did your personal experiences shape the story of The Least of Us These?
My son, Duncan, is very bright but his physical disability has kept him at a place where he sees the world, but doesn’t get to interact with it very often. This created such a unique perspective that I knew I wanted to write something that would capture his personality. I watched him learn about human trafficking, the abuses of children in foster care, suicide, and his hurt after he tried to befriend a girl who was experiencing challenges and her rejection of him. Very quickly, he went from shy and timid to stepping up and leading missions and speaking out in public venues. My reactions were typical, his were not. He saw hope and could not understand why someone wasn’t doing something about all these things. I explained that many people are trying to help and his answer: then why isn’t it fixed yet? In the midst of all of this, The Least of These was born.
3. What inspired you to start submitting to screenwriting contests?
My family and friends were tired of me asking them to read my stuff. Of course, in those early stages, the writing wasn’t very good. Prior to screenwriting, I had written stories and plays, but the screen is totally different. My husband found a screenwriting contest online and paid for me to submit and get feedback. It was not good, not at all, but I was having too much fun to stop. No more friend abuse!
4. How have you found screenwriting contests to be beneficial to you?
I like to write, and I want someone to read my work. Contests allow that. ALL feedback is useful, and I consider every change very carefully and use if it makes sense. Hearing someone else’s perspective, even if I don’t agree, helps make the story stronger. Of course, getting a good score on Coverfly and getting some little trophies under the title is just so cool.
5. How did you come across Coverfly and how has it helped you?
Actually, I was submitting The Least of These to the 2017 ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Contest and at that point, the website asked me if I wanted to join Coverfly. I’ve registered with a couple of others, and nothing came of it. But Coverfly seemed so straightforward, clear, uncluttered, I decided to do it. Coverfly quickly became my go-to first website because it is so easy and fast to use. And I must not be alone since a producer was able to find my script!
6. What is the next step for your project and your career as a writer? What are you looking forward to the most?
While I’m thrilled such a personal story of mine is now in a shopping agreement, that process can take a really long time. There are so many other stories to tell! I have a monthly budget for script submissions (must feed my family first!) and I use every penny. We’ve also adopted a boy who has a very vivid imagination and he is helping me with an urban fantasy – a genre I’ve always wanted to play in! I’m also looking for filmmakers that like doing their own thing, that have an idea for a film, but haven’t written it. My best stories are the ones that were inspired by others. I’d like to help that filmmaker bring their idea to life.
7. Any words of wisdom or inspiration for other aspiring writers, particularly those outside of Southern California?
There was a time when the people making the movies were in Southern California, so it made sense to write there. Now some of the best film and TV is coming from other places, like Atlanta and Charlotte. Our world is becoming more global daily, and I don’t see being on the other coast as a roadblock.
And listen, if you want to take screenwriting classes, take them. If you want to read, watch films, do it. All of those things are great. But the number one most important thing you must do if you want to be a better writer is WRITE. Pay attention to the world around you then sit your butt down and write. Many things can help you get better, but fingers flying over a keyboard as your mind creates a world and you make new best friends there cannot be replaced. When time is limited, and it always is, choose to write.