Project Type: Screenwriting – Marie Cooper

Acoustic – Horror Screenplay

A girl sitting in the middle of the road depicting the screenplay Acoustic by Marie Cooper
Reading Time: 4 minutes


Bel is reluctantly heading home to her family home, Bridge House, in Vermont. She’s late. She’s been thrown out of a car. She has lost her shoes and she’s hungry.

Some scripts that I work on, I hardly look at again once the initial draft is done and the story is out of my head. Whilst there are others that I am unable to get out of my head. They wriggle around inside until I have no choice but to go back and read them again. The short horror script, Acoustic, had been irritating my brain meat since the autumn of 2020. So, when the opportunity to submit it to a horror screenwriting contest arose a year later, I knew that it was this script I wanted to work on and submit.

Horror Screenplay Competition – Frights! Camera! Action!

Usually, when you enter a writing contest, there is a good, lengthy, wait. It is common for it to take months for the judges to read through the scripts and make their decisions.

The advantage of this competition for me was that there would be no long wait for results. There were several themes throughout the year based on different horror monsters. Each theme had its separate deadline. It serendipitously turned out that my screenplay fit the final theme. The only downside was that the cost of entering the contest increased at each stage of the competition as the deadline drew closer.

My script was submitted for the final theme deadline on 31st December 2021. So, as I write this, there isn’t much time before the results are announced on 31st January 2022.

Writing the Horror Screenplay

I wrote my first ideas for this script and a very messy draft on 12th October 2020 during Scriptly Writing. As well as the prompt for that day of the challenge, I randomly generated words and images to help get me started.

These were:

  • Genre: Horror
  • Location: A bridge
  • Image: Red, retro transistor radio
  • Word: Railroad

Almost immediately I could see her. My character. She was walking along a road, towards a distant bridge, swinging her radio. The odd thing was that the clothes she had on didn’t seem warm enough for the time of the year and she had nothing on her feet.

I thought she seemed nice, albeit maybe a little ditzy. After all, she was walking on the road in bare feet. Why would she be doing that?

I remembered picking up a huge, caterpillar that had fallen from a tree outside work one morning. It was laying in the middle of the pavement and I moved it to the verge, under a bush to prevent it from being stepped on. I thought that was just the kind of thing that my character would do too. So, in a later draft, I gave that experience to her.

I felt that this young woman didn’t want to head home yet. She was reluctantly heading back, slowly, making the most of her walk through the forest that she appeared to love. She carried a guitar on her back. She’d been singing in a local bar the night before. One last performance before collecting supplies for her family and heading home. Then a man offered her a lift home. Initially, my character had been picked up hitchhiking home in my first draft in a twist on the hitchhiker trope. But in the later draft, I decided in the rewrite that the victims were purposefully hunted and preyed upon by the demon/s rather than just unlucky chance encounters along the road.

Frights! Camera! Action! Screenplay Competition

My first rough draft sat on the metaphorical shelf for a year. When I saw the Frights Camera Action contest, I knew I had to enter. People who gave feedback on the contest described it as “fun”, “friendly”, “affordable” and “that results were given promptly”. At my early stage of screenwriting, I felt it took off the pressure to be perfect. There were also various prizes for films and scripts…

  • Best Screenplay (feature)
  • Best Screenplay (short)
  • Best Twist
  • Best Villain
  • Most messed up death

It was the “Most messed up death” category that amused me and grabbed my attention to this contest in the first place. Characters in my demonic horror come to a rather bizarre end, so I thought that, if nothing else, my screenplay might be a contender for that category.

I dipped in and out of the screenplay throughout December, re-reading and revising. As soon as I made the decision it was done and proofread, and even after I submitted I was still thinking of further changes I could make. Every time I read it through, there were more questions. Further things I could add or remove. But I had to let it go.

Then it was gone… and in the hands of the judges.

Frights Camera Action Announcement

The winners and runners-up were due to be announced on the 31st of January. The website did not say when the unlucky non-winners would hear back. I can’t bring myself to say losers, because, in my opinion, everyone who has worked their ass off in the creative process and submitted a script is winning in life.

I have to confess that, as the date drew near, I began checking the competition page and my email regularly just in case the announcement was made earlier than expected. When it got to the evening before the announcement, I was so on edge that I had a ‘Call of the Void’ urge to press the ‘Withdraw from Festival’ button to avoid having to face not winning, removing any chance of rejection. If I had done, that would mean not winning either. My brain is stupid sometimes.

Honorary Mention of Acoustic, from Frights! Camera! Action!

I did not win the prize my heart was set on, which was the ‘Most Messed Up’ death. However, I was extremely happy to receive an Honorary Mention. I have not been writing screenplays long so to be recognised at all at this early stage has been overwhelming.

Congratulations to Acoustic from FilmFreeway

Screenwriting Battle 2021

silhouette of ninja with words Marie Cooper Screenwriting battle
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I am still new to Screenwriting and I am very much learning the craft as I go. This Screenwriting Battle was an invaluable experience that did not give me time to over-research and overthink (which I am prone to do). just like Scriptly Writing, I had to just take the brief, or in this case, card prompts and write with it.

A theatre director, Jen told me about the Screenwriting Battle. I had never come across it before but I took my usual approach to these kinds of opportunities. That you have to be in it to win it and the prize money was tempting enough for me to enter.

For most competitions, the entry fees are offputting, despite the potential prestige of winning a prize and the pile of prize money that means it might be possible to both eat AND pay bills that month. Usually, when you enter a writing contest, it feels like you are ****ing your money into the sea if you don’t win. Not only that, nobody tells you that you haven’t won. You have to wait for the winners to be praised and you see their smug happy faces painted all over the unfurled sails of the long list before you realise that you have been shoved unceremoniously off of the fail plank back into the murky depths of the poverty-ridden ocean of obscurity once more. Not sure where the piratey metaphors came from.

The Luck of the Screenwriting Battle Draw

The Screenwriting Battle makes the contest entering process fun and engaging and not all just about winning and losing. Everyone gets something out of it.

As the battle progresses you know exactly where you are. Emails and your page of the Screenwriting Battle website keep you updated. You draw your three cards to receive a prompt at the beginning of the battle. You draw a Genre card, a Location card and an Item card. You can redraw, but once you do you can not go back to the previous card if you feel your choice is not as appealing as the one you discarded.

Your Hand is Cast

There are nice little deadlines along the way to prevent too much in the way of procrastination. Once your hand is set you have until the next deadline to write your screenplay which can be no longer than ten pages long. Then once the writing deadline has passed you become an arbiter of other screenwriters for the Genres that you did not choose. You read pairs of screenplays from each genre and decide which you liked best. You leave comments to say what you liked and what you thought might need improving.

Screenplay Feedback

The great thing about this screenwriting battle is that not only can you see where you are in the contest every step of the way, but you receive praise and constructive feedback from other participants wherever you finish in the overall war. So, no matter what, even if you don’t land the luscious loot you had your eyes on (last pirate reference, I swear), you still come away with something of benefit to your writing.

Marie Cooper’s Screenwriting Battle Experience

Science Fiction Screenplay

I stuck with my initial card dealt for the genre, which was Science Fiction. Not because I thought I would be any good at writing in that genre, but because it is one of my favourite genres to both read and watch. My location card was Pharmacy and my item card was a Mallet. That had me stumped (intentional woody pun), but I had already re-dealt once. Also, I had just handmade a mallet from a single piece of tree on a nature reserve getaway. So, I have to confess, that it felt a serendipitous deal, so I went with it.

It was difficult. The writing time fell over a weekend when I have my granddaughter and even though there was an extension to the original deadline due to an error on the website, I could not take advantage of it because I had work that day. I did the best that I could do in the time that I had. It felt rough and rushed and my writing did not feel as good as it could be. Not my worst. Not my best.

Feedback on Screenwriting Battle screenplay – Acorns

Constructive Criticism

I am keeping the constructive feedback to myself, to re-read and to make use of going forwards. I have already used some of the feedback to improve the horror screenplay I am currently working on.

The Good Stuff

The positive comments I am sharing, in no particular order. I feel that I am gradually improving and I am enjoying celebrating every little win, even if I haven’t managed to land a prize… yet… Yay! Go optimism!

You’ve built yourself quite a world in 10 pages, it was enjoyable.

I love the world you created. So mysterious but ouch, depressing and hitting close to the bone of today’s world. It’s a creepy cautionary tale but definitely a little spy/thriller in there too. An exciting world that holds a lot of intrigue. And hope!

I’m totally captivated by this world and want to see more of it.

Another thing that your script has going for it, is that it not for hardcore sci-fi types only but could be done with enough science to catch that audience and also people who have no science background. It’s a universal worry but still has the good guy/bad guy appeal.

Original idea too.

Great script! You did a good job keeping the audience wondering, driving them forward. I wanted to keep reading, so that I could better understand the world you had created.

I also think the title is very creative! It summarizes the story perfectly.

It is a wonderful concept for a story, with lots of complicated layers. The whole time I was wondering what “Barbiture watches” meant – and I think that’s a good thing! It keeps your readers engaged, even after the story concludes.

Overall – you did a great job!

This is a very interesting concept. I would love to see it as a larger piece. Very relevant given our current ecological situation and I can really see something like this being a reality. You’ve envisioned a very detailed world with a history and scope that stretches far beyond the confines of a 10 page script. Nice twist at the end.

Interesting concept, well described environments. Seems to be a thought out world, feels like it has breadth.

I really see the world you are building it almost feels more inmense then the characters.

14 Screenplays 2021

Notebook that reads Marie Cooper Writes 14 Screenplays
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marie Cooper wrote fourteen screenplays from the 11th to 24th October 2021 during the Scriptly Writing challenge.

What is Scriptly Writing?

Scriptly Writing is an annual screenwriting challenge, run by the Literal Challenge. The aim is to write fourteen complete short screenplays in just two weeks.

The Stats

How many words did I write during Scriptly Writing?

This year I wrote 14878 words over the course of the two weeks of the challenge. The fourteen screenplays consisted of 69 pages and 106 scenes, containing a total of 97 characters. Well, there were many more background characters and wildlife, but I left those out of my count.

Looking at the ratio of male to female characters, it might initially seem as if my screenplays were male-dominated with 60 male and 29 female characters. But, there were groups of male characters in some of my plays that skewed my stats. Despite the stats, many of my main characters were actually female. If I were to count the time characters were on the page and their lines, then the figures would most definitely be reversed. But I am not going into that much detail. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I wrote 1107 fewer words compared to Scriptly Writing 2020, but I wrote in more characters this time. Or had become more aware of including those in the background to my scenes.

2021 A Challenging Challenge

I did spend far less time on my work this year though and therefore did less research for each brief and felt I wrote in much less detail.

It has been incredibly difficult to write my screenplays for this year’s challenge. Last year I had the luxury of lockdown, which provided time to think and create. This year the challenge has coincided with the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, pushing me into dire straits financially and with the impending doom of the Minimum income floor on the horizon. Sadly, the UK (well, the Torys) does not value its artists, arts and culture, or heritage or, well anything that does not fill someone’s already bulging coffers. Prices rise and Brexit empties our shelves in the UK, my face is still messed up and waiting to be fixed, forcing me off the stage and any unmasked acting work. I am working face to face again when Covid cases are currently higher in the UK than they have been since March, which is a worry.

I can’t deny, it has been incredibly difficult to work under these conditions. Trying to write around work and under pressure has been stressful. It only took receiving a Council Tax demand to send me to the edge this month. As a result, I really don’t feel that the standard of my writing has been as good as last year and this has left me feeling despondent. That the stress and pain have not been worth what I accomplished. But maybe that is what I thought at the end of the challenge last year. I will reassess now that the challenge is complete and once I have given myself a week or two of space to recover.

14 Short Screenplays written by Marie Cooper 2021

Obsessive Coffee Disorder – Day 1. Oct 11th 2021

Whatever is cooking in his oven, it doesn’t smell good.

The Elephant on the Grass – Day 2. Oct 12th 2021

An explosion of angst-ridden frustrations of planetary destruction explode out of a woman’s vagina, and then things get a bit weird.

As the Crow Flies – Day 3. Oct 13th 2021

Crow has no choice but to be crow, until his captor sets him free.

Spiders – Day 4. Oct 14th 2021

Don’t eat spiders.

You Shall Not Pass – Day 5. Oct 15th 2021

Protestors are holding up traffic at Dartford again and the locals are not happy.

Swan Island – Day 6. Oct 16th 2021

In 1810, two men discover each other in their small riverside, town.

Somnus Persona – Day 7. Oct 17th 2021

The masks we choose to wear.

Windows – Day 8. Oct 18th 2021

Watching from her window, a woman creates worlds.

Finding Nina – Day 9. Oct 19th 2021

Nina has been missing for three days. The community gather together to search for her, hoping to find her safe and well.

Tusks – Day 10. Oct 20th 2021

Taking a musical track as inspiration, a story of a woman’s first day on the job.

In Perpetuity – Day 11. Oct 21st 2021

Immortality is lonely.

Skinwalkers – Day 12. Oct 22nd 2021

A strange occurrence at a local school attracts international press coverage.

Emma’s View – Day 13. Oct 23rd 2021

Scriptly Writing brief Day 3 from 2020, from the perspective of Jess’s sister Emma.

Little Doors – Day 14. Oct 24th 2021

Let little doors lie.

Other Writing Projects

14 Screenplays 2020

An autumnal tabletop and notepad saying Marie Cooper writes 14 screenplays 2020 in Scriptly Writing Challenge 2020
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Could you write 14 short scripts in 14 days?

I signed up for the Scriptly Writing Screenwriting Challenge for the first time on 8 September 2020 during the lockdown. I saw an ad for it on the BBC Writer’s Room Twitter feed. It asked the question, “Could you write 14 short scripts in 14 days?” I didn’t think I could, but me being me, decided that I could not leave the gauntlet just laying there. But it turns out that yes, yes I can.

I confess it was a stressful couple of weeks, where I got up and wrote until I finished a script. Even when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about what I might write. Everything I did write I thought was rubbish. I was tired and grumpy by the end of the two weeks. But it was an amazing experience.

I wrote 14 short screenplays between 10th to 23rd October 2020. Not all of them… No, none of them was great. I wrote one script a day between 9 am and 10 pm, for goodness sake. I wasn’t going to write my masterpiece. But, by the end of the fortnight, I had 14 screenplays that I would never have had otherwise.

Plus, prior to the challenge, I had never written a screenplay before. The only script I had written was for the stage that relied very much on dialogue. I didn’t even have any idea how to format a screenplay or write so visually.

The wonderful thing I found afterwards though, was that as first drafts go, not all scripts were half as bad as I had originally thought. The sometimes bizarre themes and prompts had forced me out of my comfort zone and made me write things I would not have considered had I not taken the challenge. And there are a few I would definitely like to re-read and work on further in the future. These are the scripts I wrote during the 14 day challenge.

14 Short Screenplays Written by Marie Cooper 2020

Waggledance – Day 1. Oct 10th 2020

Acoustic – Day 2. Oct 11th 2020

The Fallen – Day 3. Oct 12th 2020

The Boy in the Canal – Day 4. Oct 13th 2020

Bin Day – Day 5. Oct 14th 2020

Catface – Day 6. Oct 15th 2020

There’s no Place Like Home – Day 7. Oct 16th 2020

Too Late – Day 8. Oct 17th 2020

Am I Real? – Day 9. Oct 18th 2020

Possessions – Day 10. Oct 19th 2020

The Slow Movement – Day 11. Oct 20th 2020

The Roving – Day 12. Oct 21st 2020

After Work Drinks – Day 13. Oct 22nd 2020

Story Time – Day 14. Oct 23rd 2020

Other Writing Projects

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