Jason Petrovitch is a passionate screenwriter, who also happened to win the Comedy category of Season 2 of the Filmmatic Screenplay Awards for his amazing screenplay “The Bold Testament”. We asked Jason if would do a quick Q&A for our readers, thankfully he agreed…
1) How long have you been writing?
Petrovitch: About four years. I script the animated shorts that I make. Scripting a live-action feature, though, was new to me. I did spend a lot of years writing song lyrics prior to screenwriting, and I think that really helped me from a comedy standpoint, since a lot of dialogue in comedy relies on cadence and timing.
2) What screenwriting training have you received, are you self-taught?
Petrovitch: I am self-taught. I read a few books and started paying closer attention to the writing of the shows and films I watch.
3) What writing habits work for you? Do you write in short or long shifts, in the mornings mainly, late at night…?
Petrovitch: I have to feel inspired to write. If I’m lucky, this amounts to a few short bursts a day. When it starts to feel like a grind, I step away and clear my head by watching an episode of something on Hulu or Netflix. I usually go for something light, like Adult Swim. The stories are completely outlandish, and most episodes are 11 minutes long, a good length for a break.
4) What genres do you lean towards?
Petrovitch: Comedy is all I’ve written up to this point. I love a good drama, but I feel that comedy plays to my strengths. I like that with comedies it’s possible to inject social commentary into your story without it coming across as too preachy.
5) What is your screenplay, “The Bold Testament”, about?
Petrovitch: God wants to publish his own account of the events in the Old Testament, but publishers aren’t biting. He resorts to self-publishing, wiping out his savings and getting suckered into taking out a reverse mortgage on Heaven in the process.
After God’s publishing venture fails and his reverse mortgage bottoms out, he gets ejected from Heaven. A real estate development company chaired by Satan steps in and buys Heaven. Through a series of earthly misunderstandings, God ends up on the lam and hiding in Hell.
God’s fall from grace leaves him spiraling into depression. Jesus, a 24 year old screw-up, must get his act together and find a way to reclaim Heaven for his father.
6) How did you get the idea for “The Bold Testament”?
Petrovitch: I was watching a reverse mortgage commercial years ago and thought it would be funny if God took out a reverse mortgage on Heaven. The idea sat in the back of my mind until about a year ago, when I decided I wanted to try writing a live-action feature. The rest of the script took shape around that idea.
7) What are you working on now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Petrovitch: I am finishing up a 24-page short written as an instructional guide for kids with lemonade stands who want to improve their business by incorporating the tactics of white-collar crime. It works as either a live-action or animated short.
I’m also adapting “The Bold Testament” for the stage. I think the back-and-forth dialogue would work well in front of a live audience.
I’m also working on an animated pilot about a group of newsies in New York City during the depression. It has a ton of great characters, including Tesla, Edison, Hearst, even Albert Fish, who ate children because he thought it gave him special powers. I may give Fish those special powers, or I may have him accidentally undercook the children and get diarrhea.
8) Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?
Petrovitch: Make sure your story has a spine. You may have to write a good portion until you figure out what the spine is, but until you have one, your story will lack the heart it needs to keep the reader invested. As far as story building goes, I’m a big proponent of the technique used by Trey Parker, which says that your story beats should be broken down into “This happens, but this happens, therefore this happens, but this happens, etc.” I would also recommend not getting too hung up on the ending before you start. Writing toward a pre-determined end restricts a story’s potential. The story will most likely morph into something you weren’t expecting, and that element of surprise gives the story energy.
Congrats once again to Jason, and many thanks for the time he spent answering our questions. Filmmatic will forward any and all producer requests for Mr. Petrovitch’s “The Bold Testament”, or for any other Filmmatic contestant’s script for which there is interest 😉