Stamford woman wins grand prize at Seattle Film Fest

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Former environmental scientist and Stamford resident decides to try her hand at screenplay-writing, wins grand prize at the Seattle International Film Festival’s first Catalyst Screenplay Competition.

As plot twists go, it may not have much on “Gone Girl” or “The Usual Suspects.” But it certainly came as a surprise to neophytic scenarist Yvonne Paulin, who said she’d hoped to be named a finalist in the competition at best.

“When I got that email, I couldn’t begin to believe it,” she said.

As grand prize winner, Paulin and her husband were flown out to the festival, which wrapped on June 12, for two days, where they saw several films and attended a number of panels, as well as witnessed a live reading of her thriller script “The Trail” by a group of local actors.

“The Trail” takes place in the Pacific Northwest. The thriller tells the story of a distraught scientist, still grieving the loss of her daughter, who discovers the body of a dead child while collecting water samples in the remote wilderness and becomes trapped in a blizzard along with the child’s killer.

Not surprisingly, the idea first came to Paulin years ago while she was working at an environmental testing lab in Oregon. While it remained a character sketch, she says her protagonist, Maddie Scott, came back into full focus when she decided to try her hand at screenwriting at New York University’s School of Professional Studies Boot Camp. Instructor Jason Greiff became a mentor to Paulin and remains closely involved with her new career, she said.

Paulin had segued from environmental science to being a stay-at-home mom. When her son went off to college, she said, trying her hand at scriptwriting became a natural choice.

“I’ve loved movies since I was very young. I’d watch anything, including old black-and-white movies my mother had seen, which drove her crazy. And I still watch everything – comedy, horror, thrillers, drama,” she said.

The trick now, she added, is to sell the script. “It would be great to sell it to a conventional studio. I’m moving into the business side of screenwriting now, trying to make connections with agents and producers. But I’d also be happy if an independent production company wanted to do it … that would be a little easier for me at this point. I know a few independent producers, so I’m learning how to network.”

As with book publishing, having an agent is an important step. “Having someone who has those contacts in L.A. is important to shop it around,” Paulin said. “But I’m trying to do it from here. There are a lot of connections with the movie industry in New York as well.”

Paulin has already completed a couple of other scripts, including a science fiction thriller set in a dystopian future. “And I’m still constantly rewriting ‘The Trail.’ Changing little things here and there to make it stronger and cleaner,” she said.

Regardless of whether “The Trail” makes it to the local bijou, Paulin indicated that the screenwriting bug is not something that will leave her anytime soon.

“This is something that really appealed to me, and still does,” she said, noting that she’s still jotting down concepts in journals. “I’m always looking for ideas for the next one.”

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