Interview with Screenwriter : Mellissa Briley 

I’m originally from the States and moved to Greece. I’m a screenwriter, photographer by hobby, and most recently the Director of Development at Epagon Pictures.  

When did you fall in love with the art of “storytelling” screenwriting (your defining moment)? 

The written word has always been a part of me. As a kid, I’d write short stories to cheer up my friends; taking difficult situations and “rewriting” their experiences with positive tones. Later, I was fortunate enough to attend a high school that specialized in performing arts. It was during then, during a trip into NYC, I saw Phantom of Opera for the first time. I was spellbound, I couldn’t breathe. I swore that I would pursue writing.

Much later, I concluded it unrealistic and abandoned it. I needed to survive. However, it was a night in Athens when I first looked up and saw the Parthenon lit up over the Acropolis rock…I was mesmerized. What were the stories behind the hands that created this ancient wonder? I had to write.  


What was your first movie making experience? 

A studio in Athens was kind enough to offer me space to develop a series of short films. It was a humbling experience; it was an opportunity to surround myself with local film makers and I was exposed to the inner-workings of post-production. However, as a result of the economic crisis, studios shut down. Throughout the city, artists of all walks became scattered and deeply discouraged.  

Resources are limited and I am completely self-taught, grabbing mentors at any chance I get. But there is a humbling lesson here: don’t make excuses to stop what you love. Make the best with what you have and keep fighting forward. 

Funny enough, looking ahead; my first experience on set will be next month, as associate producer for a high production value web series I co-wrote. 


One piece of advice to screenwriters just starting out? 


Besides being a disciplined reader, watch as many films as you can. Study shots and transitions. The script is the audiovisual blueprint, so it always helps to know and visualize your final outlook. 

When you have finally reached that glorious moment of fade out, and you feel ready – find a producer, I can’t stress this enough, find a producer and then a director who shares the same vision as you. And if you want to direct it, become comfortable with the cameras and shot composition. It’s vital to tell your story. 

I’d like to add for screenwriters who write in English as their second language, prioritize your story and don’t worry about mistakes. Find a native speaker to help you clean up any mistakes. You can take that knowledge into future projects you may develop.   

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style? 

Write honestly – dive into your project will all your love and all your pain. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and free. In that process, you find you. 


When a writer has an idea for a screenplay, what questions should they be asking themselves before writing? 


Personally, when an idea hits me, I let it linger in my mind. If it haunts me and I find myself expanding on it, it’s time to lock myself in the writers’ room. First step: what genre am I writing? It is vital to understand our audience.  

I’ve made the mistake of losing time researching. Please don’t lose your time in too much research. First, get that idea out of your head, whether it be a synopsis or a draft. Then finish your research and fill in the blanks. Fiercely protect your writing time.  


What are common myths about being a successful screenwriter? 

There is a strange misconception that screenwriting is a fun, colorful, childlike task that is a financially rewarding profession.  

Reality is, screenwriting is a risky and grueling journey to get from fade in to fade out. There are no guides or fact sheets when inventing worlds. We alone are the authors and take responsibility. But at the end, the satisfaction is in seeing our characters come alive on screen. We offer escape from a volatile world and if our viewers walk away feeling inspired, asking questions, or with any emotion stirred, in my opinion, that is the greatest reward.


What’s next for you? 

A blockbuster sci fi thriller film, the first of a trilogy, is soon to be announced. It has been green lit and is fully funded. My role, besides working alongside the creator, is on set production assistant and associate producer for a dramatized mini-web series that introduces the film. 

I’m currently developing a feature script, regarding Greece. For years I’ve been obsessed with the idea of how Ancient Greeks and Modern Greeks would interact. This project is very close to my heart, my way of saying thank you to a beautiful country that has inspired and taught me so much.  

 How can we keep up with you?

Epagon Pictures 

Personal Blog 


Interview with Director : Karolyn Szot 

I’m a Director, Writer, Producer and Fencer. Growing up in the competitive world of fencing taught me the discipline and skills that have helped me stay focused and driven. I draw upon my personal experiences and constantly try to develop and grow my directing career by telling my own stories.    

When did you fall in love with the art of “storytelling” (your defining moment)?

To make a long story short my parents almost named me Zuzu after Jimmy Stewart’s daughter in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Instead, they ended up naming me Karolyn after my dad, Karol. When I was a kid my dad and I were buying a “Bedford Falls” sign from the movie on “Ebay.” We called the person who was selling this piece to give them our information. Who picked up the phone, no other than Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu from the movie). Karolyn spelled with a “K” like my name!
She invited us up to Seneca Falls, New York, where she was doing a promotion for the film. I got to meet Karolyn Grimes and got to sit next to her at a screening of the film. She would lean over and tell me all of her experiences filming the movie with Jimmy Stewart. I remember her telling me that there were bubbles in the water when Jimmy Stewart jumped in because the snow falling down was actually made of soap. I was fascinated hearing about what went into making movie magic!

Her stories fascinated me. I knew that night that I wanted to work in the film industry and tell my own stories.
Tell us about your “PSA”, commercial “Speak Up When You’re Down”. Is the creative process for commercials different than let’s say a film or TV show?

Although a commercial is a lot shorter than a film or a TV show, you still have to create a script and tell a story in 30 seconds. In some ways it can be more challenging because every second counts. When directing a commercial, I am trying to picture how the spot will edit together in post. For example, if you want to show someone picking up a glass of water and taking a sip, they can’t take ten seconds to do the action or that’s a third of the commercial. If I want the actress to take her time picking up that glass of water, I have to visualize what would look good to cut in between the moment of her picking up the glass and taking a sip. Usually commercials are snappy and have quick edits. A good commercial director understands all stages of production, especially editing.
I actually edited my “Speak Up When You’re Down” PSA. It was a national campaign commercial for postpartum depression. Another PSA I did was a car and bicycle safety commercial called “Share the Road.” This one was a challenge for me because there were a lot of story elements and shots I had to edit together to create a well-paced 30 second cut. Vimeo

You attended college at Northwestern University where you learned the foundations of your directing skills from working alongside director Garry Marshall, how did that professional connection come about? 

Well, I studied filmmaking at Northwestern University and although Garry Marshall was a Northwestern Alumni that is not where I first met him. Garry was directing the musical “Happy Days” in New Jersey and would frequent my uncles’ restaurant. Garry had a contagious way of making friends with just about anyone. At a “Happy Days” wrap party he met a lot of members of my family. (I’m half Greek… if that helps paint a picture lol). After meeting my family he heard all about me from a dozen or so people and let me come to Los Angeles to interview with him. That summer I became his intern and then after I graduated I became one of his assistants.

Garry was my first boss and role model that I’ve constantly looked up to. He was a person you always wanted to work very hard for. From him, I learned that being a director of a film you not only want to know how to direct the camera and the actors but you also want to create a warm environment on set. If the crew is feeling good then everyone will want to be there and work hard for you. Positive vibes go a long way to make a successful movie.

And what advice would you give to someone who is interested in directing but doesn’t have a mentor to learn from?  

Find someone who you admire and ask them out for coffee! Rarely do people say no if you approach them in a way that’s not asking for anything except advice. (People love to talk about themselves!) I still ask people to get coffee with me. Hearing about other people’s experiences gets me inspired and excited to start working on something right away. Then afterwards, follow up with that person and tell them what you accomplished since meeting with them. *Boom,* you have a mentor! 

 Specifically for directing, the best thing you can do is pick up a camera or an iPhone and start filming. Keep trying things out and learn from your own mistakes. 

Also, ‘Women in Film’ has a great mentorship program!


How do you earn a living and sustain a career doing what you love?

That’s the golden question. It’s really hard to become a working director… let alone a working female director. Even though I’ve directed a TV show that is now on Broadcast TV and on Netflix, I still have to constantly prove myself to keep working.

I’ve been able to sustain my career by freelance producing and making other people’s projects come to life. Producing is a great skill and you meet many people in different avenues of production. My producing work has made it easier for me to get my own projects made, and has gotten me into the Producer’s Guild of America.
Tell us what does producing really consist of?

Everything – I’m not kidding! Producing is keeping tabs on every stage of production. The first thing I do when I get a script is I do a breakdown. You need to know all the elements of every scene. (Location, actors, special effects, props, costumes, etc.). Then you need to figure out how to make it all happen. The next step is to create a budget based off your breakdown. How many shoot days will it take? What are your restrictions?

A producer has to then communicate with all the departments to figure out what everyone’s needs are. Based on the project restraints, you need to be realistic with what is possible or not and communicate that with department heads.

It’s the Producer’s job to make sure all the pieces of production keep moving, delegate tasks, and often wear many other hats to make sure things are handled.

It’s definitely a job that requires you to be organized and to be able to prioritize. 
How does a typical day (for you) begin when you are in full swing production?

I have a notebook that I always have with me. When I wake up I look at my to-do-list that I made the night before and I start to prioritize what I should tackle first. When I am directing a project I am still always wearing my producing hat as well. A Director/Producer has to be a delegator but constantly has to keep tabs on all aspects of production in order to make sure it gets done the way you like.

On pre-production days I am usually on the phone or emailing people following up on progress. On a production day I get to set early to walk around the location or sound stage and visualize where my setups are going to be. When production heads start to arrive I check in with everyone and make sure everything is communicated. First I check in with my Director of Photography and go over our shot list order and setups to make sure we are on the same page. Next I check in with Makeup, Wardrobe, Production Design, etc. When my actors get to set I let them settle in and brief them on what we are doing.

Just before the first shot of the day I like to have an all cast and crew team quick meeting. Usually we will have a few important announcements but mostly it’s to provide words of encouragement and gratitude to get everyone pumped to start the day. This starts the day on a positive note.

On set we will usually rehearse a few times with the camera and while we are waiting (most of the rehearsing goes on before the production day).

After we wrap for the day I usually like to chat with crew heads again to touch base about the next day.
What one piece of advice do you have for women looking to get started in the industry?

Believe in yourself! You will find out that no one is going to believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. Keep fighting for yourself everyday with persistence. When you find those people who want to work hard for you and believe in you as a leader, keep them close and always invite them back to your team.


What’s next for you?

 I have a few of my own projects in various stages of production and some scripts I hope to make into feature films.

Recently I directed a proof of concept short film “En Garde!” The feature film is the first-ever teen fencing movie, based on my experiences growing up as a competitive fencer. I hope to show people this unique untapped world of high school fencing, seen through the eyes of a passionate high school girl.


The project was featured on IndieWire (link below). My next step is to direct the feature film and to find the right team of people who will invest in the project.

Social Media Links:

Karolyn Szot 






Interview with filmmaker: Pamela Woolford

I’m a writer. That’s it in a nutshell. If you want the long version: I write fiction and creative nonfiction, screenplays, literary journalism, journalism journalism, and once upon a time I had poetry published. I’m an artist: a writer but also a dancer and filmmaker, a creator—whatever form that creation takes.  

photo by Carolyn Greer

When did you fall in love with writing (your defining moment)?
Wow. Not one defining moment, but there were several transforming times for me. As a child my mother would tell me stories of her life growing up dirt poor in rural North Carolina, and I was fascinated by her stories of a life so far removed from mine. I would ask many questions, and she would tell me her truth. That was the beginning of my enchantment with storytelling.

She’s a writer herself, and she used to read me fairytales and children’s stories when I was so small, but she would also read to me stories written by some of her favorite authors, people like O. Henry and Guy de Maupassant. I was young, in my single digits, bedtime-story aged. We wouldn’t talk about the stories. She would just read, and I would let the words wander around in my head and do their magic. That was another defining moment because—and this is honestly true—it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I found out that O. Henry and Guy de Maupassant weren’t children’s authors. I had carried those stories around with me –“The Last Leaf,” “The Necklace”…—and thought they were fairytales because I had heard them with the fairytales when I was a child. So I was a lover of stories long before I wrote my own.

I wrote my first piece of fiction, or part of one—I never finished it—that I felt incredibly proud about after my senior year in high school. I felt that I could write after that. I attended an open-space high school with a stellar reputation in Columbia, Maryland, but to my memory, I was never required to read a book by a person of color until I went to summer school in San Francisco the summer after my senior year. The vast majority of the students were black or Asian, and we were handed a list of books written by people of color and told, “Read one.” I read Langston Hughes’ “The Best of Simple” and was blown away. I had heard of Langston Hughes all my life— his poems “Mother to Son,” “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “Harlem (A Dream Deferred)”—but I had never read his fiction. The characters were so real and funny and poignant. “This is the great Langston Hughes?” I thought. “These people seem like people my parents and relatives would maybe know.” It was an awakening. Great fiction could be about people in my universe, so I started writing what I knew in a more intimate way. There were other transforming moments, but that’s a few.
What movies or stories inspire your creativity?
Well, I would have to say O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf.” It was one of my favorite stories as a child, and when I found out it was written for adults and then went back and read it, I was, at first, confused, and then I understood that my memory of the story, the one I had carried with me all those years, had been colored by my own life. I had been a sad child in some ways, and the story gave me hope. I had always thought the story was about a little girl who was lying in bed dying and her mother is caring for her and the little girl thinks she’ll die when the last leaf falls from the tree she can see from her window. But I was stunned when I read it as an adult. It’s about a grown woman who lives with her friend who thinks she’ll die when the last leaf falls from a vine she can see through the window from her sick bed. I had placed myself in the story, and it gave me so much hope and strength as a child. My mother would read it to me by my bedroom window, where I could see our Japanese maple tree as I lay there listening. I had imagined myself as the protagonist, and my mother as the protagonist’s friend, and my maple tree as the vine. In the end, the dying woman gains strength and lives. In my child’s mind, I had let the story encompass me and give me strength.
In terms of movies, well, the list is too long to write here. Suffice to say that I survive thanks to the art of film. I watch a part of a film, or a whole film, or films most days of my life. It’s not just one that stands out but rather I could be reminded of a film I hadn’t thought about in a decade or two, and it could call up so much for me. Films have so much meaning in my life, and the art form influences all forms of my writing, perhaps more than books. The author Marita Golden described one of my essays as having “a definite cinematic quality.” I’d describe much of my fiction and creative nonfiction as cinematic.
What is the biggest misconception about being a screenwriter?
I don’t know that there are prevalent misconceptions because I don’t know that there’s a conception of what it is to be a screenwriter, and that’s problematic. Screenwriting is not often what young people aspire to do because it is an underappreciated art. Filmmaking is thought of as directing and producing, but the heart and soul of any film is the script.

It seems stage plays are much more often read than screenplays are, which is unfortunate. When I was in my early 20s, in the late ‘80s, Spike Lee started publishing his screenplays, and he said he was doing it to take the mystery out of screenwriting. I thank him for that. I read his work, and I also searched for other screenplays to read. I read Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and the screenplays compiled in Screenplays of the African American Experience edited by Phyllis Rauch Klotman. That reading empowered me. It wasn’t long afterwards that I wrote a screenplay for the first time, which won a state arts council grant. It was my first recognition as a writer.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?

Continue to grow as a person, live your life; it’ll show up in your work. 

photo by Ross Lewin

One of the biggest mistakes first-time writers make?

I don’t know because I don’t know what others have been through, but for me, when I look back on it, the only mistake was to think I could be something else, get a job with a regular salary—retail, PR and marketing, fundraising…—and not go buggy. I’m meant to write. I’m 49, and I know that now.

What questions should a writer ask herself prior to crafting her story?

I can’t say that I do that, ask myself questions before I begin. I usually start with a first line, or paragraph really, which compels me to write. That opening just comes to me, and the story happens from there. The words propel me forward. I ask myself questions as I write, but the answers are found in the writing itself, what I’ve written so far. The poet Lucille Clifton once said to me, there are no rules to writing, in general, but once you start a piece you are creating rules that you need to abide by. You need to listen to the essence of the story, I’d say. In some way, the story itself tells you what to write as you write it.
What’s your favorite quote?

There are quotes from people I’ve interviewed that stay with me and also quotes from characters I’ve written. In my most recent published piece, “Just After Supper” the protagonist, an elderly woman who lives in the rural south, says, “I live my life the way I want, I live as I want, and that’s important, too. It’s not just seeing the world, but doing what you want in the world, living your life like you see fit to live your life.” That’s been humming in my head lately.

photo by Denee Barr

What’s next for you?

I’m producing a multi-discipline memoir, Meditations on a Marriage, about my short-lived marriage with my former husband, a composer whom I loved like no other man. He was clearly mentally ill, but I had no inkling of it until six months into the marriage, and it really didn’t dawn on me that there was something seriously wrong with the way he thinks until a year in. Soon thereafter I was forced to leave in fear. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. I look back on the relationship now, and I’m shocked at what I had become so quickly. I was so victimized by him, and he was so victimized by his own mind. I want to create art about it because I think it’s not an uncommon story. I’m writing a book and producing an accompanying short film in which I dance and exorcise the pain and confusion of our union—the love, the bond, the bitter end. I refer to the film as a film about a dance about a book about emotional abuse. It’s that and very much more.

How can we keep up with you? 

Pamela Woolford 




Interview with cinematographer: Mina Monsha’

If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life…” and I have to say that I love what I do. I swear I was an architect in my past life, I enjoy buildings and skylines and I believe that is evident in my work. 

Did you study cinematography in college, or do you have any other kind of training in this field before doing it professionally? If self taught, how did you go about developing your craft? 
Nope, I have a BA in social work and realized my junior year I wanted to be a journalism and media major, but it was too late. I spent mad hours in their lab, learning how to edit. I learned from others and eventually bought a camera and been doing it ever since. I’m constantly wanting to get better, so I’m always studying. 

For someone looking to start out what equipment do you suggest they invest in (especially those on a budget)? 

 When I stared off I thought I needed like a 8k dollar camera, but then I learned about DSLR’s. So I suggest you research DSLR’s (Nikon or Canon) I use a Nikon D3100 and various cinematic lenses. This is an expensive ass hobby, so make sure you invest a lil bread into it.

In terms of cinematographers, who do you like (who do you look up to and why)? 

  I honestly keep to myself, it’s hard for me to trust people. I have good friend (Freshie) who helps me with filming and we are a good team. Besides her, I prefer to do things myself. I know that I will eventually have to build a team though, it’s only realistic.

What advice would you give to a woman cinematographer that was just getting started? 

 Get out and tell the world your story! This is a male dominated field and predominantly white… So what are you waiting for, let’s own this shit!! (Can I cuss?)
What type of film would you love to work on that you haven’t worked on yet?

 I would like to work on a blockbuster film, something big, something special…

What’s next for you? 

Finishing up part 2 of sTelth and I have two other projects that I cannot discuss quite yet. 

How can we keep up with you? 


Interview with Film Producer: Sarah Hawkins

How did producing come about for you?
Out of necessity! I came to LA to pursue acting, but found it so much more exciting to produce my own projects. It was liberating to stop waiting for the perfect role, and put into action something tangible. I love that by creating opportunity, I could help level up other filmmakers in the process. 

Tell us, what does producing really consist of?

Producing tends to be a lot of little details. It’s seeing the big vision, and end-goals, while keeping a clear head about the day-to-day small stuff. I jokingly call it “cat herding,” but it’s so much more fun than that. I love building a team, and putting others strengths towards something bigger than themselves. It’s rewarding to look back and see how every little detail can build and feed into that larger vision. 
How do you handle disagreements you may have with studios, directors, etc.?

This is something I’m still learning how to tackle. I want to be compassionate and graceful, but firm and decisive. It’s so much more how you set the tone at the start of a relationship or project. Hear people out, keep the big vision in mind, empathize with frustrations but expect greatness, and always point to the bigger picture.

What criteria do you use to select a script, screenwriter, director, etc.?

Finding the right personality is everything! I look to work with people who are passionate, professional, and can push the project further along. A perfect example of this is my best friend, Myah Hollis, an extremely talented writer. We push each other and challenge one another to be better and work harder. Find “your person.” By finding the right personality, the right project will follow. 

What was the most important thing you have learned?

Don’t be afraid to stick to your guns at the risk of hurting others’ feelings. Many women (myself included) are at times fearful of what other women will think if they say “no” to something; at the risk of being labeled “bossy.” I have to constantly remind myself that this would never be the case if I were a man. Setting boundaries and expectations are crucial to creating an environment of productivity.
Did you have any specific influences growing up that lead you towards the film industry?

I’d have to say my dad, Bradley Hawkins. He first became an actor when I was very young. I always kind of rejected it as a possibility that I would ever pursue acting as a career, but in recent years, I of course, “caught the bug.” I packed up my car and had it shipped to LA and he and my mom were (and still are) my biggest cheerleaders. 

I’m well aware that it’s so incredibly rare to have parents that 1.) understand the industry and all the highs and lows it comes with, and 2.) are living it as well, and want to work with you. It’s definitely been a unique journey these past few years; auditioning together, producing a short film Roller Coaster together, and now in the beginning stages of forming a production company together. Father-daughter duo for the win!

What was your first movie making experience?

My first movie making experience was acting in a student film when I was a senior in college for a friend’s final project. I have this vivid memory of being in the snow and watching my friends running circles around me, huddled in jackets carrying umbrellas. They worked in effortlessly in sync, everyone having their specific area of expertise/interest, trusting each other completely. Since this first experience, there have been short films and now working a series, and although it’s the story and the final product that you are fighting for, there’s nothing quite like being on set and the unique work family that forms.  
One piece of advice to screenwriters just starting out?

Think about the end goal. Who does your story best serve? If your answer is “everyone will love this,” I would challenge you to be more specific. The more specific your niche audience is, the more a producer can help. 
What’s next for you?

For my full time gig, I work for Busted Buggy Entertainment, a female-driven production and distribution company founded by actor and producer, Courtney Daniels. The company has produced New York Times Critics’ Pick, The Girl in the Book, as well as the indie-kids’ film, Rescue Dogs, which directly resulted in the adoption of 150+ animals. We’re working on a few features for the end of the year, and are actively looking for more!
Outside of BBE, I’m producing a series about women in film, by women in film, entitled Or Die Trying. We successfully complete our Seed&Spark campaign early this summer, were featured on IndieWire, and are now heading into production this October! In addition to ODT, I’m producing a pitch pilot with my dad, entitled Filling In. That project is currently in post production, but I’m excited to get it out there. Lastly, I’m producing the 2nd annual Moonfaze Feminist Film Festival in Hollywood this December! A lot of spinning plates right now, but their all projects I’m deeply passionate about and excited to bring into fruition!