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Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Lynne Ashe)

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

Lynne Ashe was born in Gainesville, Georgia, and currently lives in Atlanta. Currently a stage and film actress and make jewelry to sell on Etsy.

Where did you come up with the concept that just won the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now? [I am combining my answer to incorporate the next question as well]: From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

I originally wanted to write a stage play about twins. I’m a Gemini and have always been fascinated by twins. I kept asking my parents where was my twin sister until the age of 10. I honestly believed that I had a twin. When I decided to write the play (circa 2012), I had no particular story in mind. Going through the thought processes of character development and what were their goals and obstacles made things clearer.

Moreover, I also focused on what made them special. I delved into my childhood memories. Picking and eating scuppernongs on my grandfather’s farm. That was the inspiration for the setting and screenplay structure. For the next few months, I kept wondering who these twins were and that there must be something unique about their twinship.

And one day out of the blue (I wasn’t even writing at the moment), “it” (so as not to reveal spoilers – “it” meaning the major plot twist) just came to me. I began researching and found that similar events had actually occurred but it was a topic that few people knew or talked about. In eight months a badly written play came into existence. I liked the bones of the script outline, but I had no training in scriptwriting.

I’d won writing awards and had poems and essays published in my teens and twenties, but I’d abandoned writing for years to focus my energies on acting. I shelved the play for several years, and then in 2017-18, I decided to pick the story back up and write it into a screenplay. Again – writing blindly with no screenplay training. The first version took about a year. I submitted it for coverage and critiques -which took a lot of bravery, as this process can be painful and intimidating to a seasoned writer, much less to a novice who obviously didn’t know enough about writing screenplays.

Through critiques, I started paying attention, learned and adapted and rewrote and revised. I received several finalists and semi-finalist placements in screenwriting contests, and then I shelved the screenplay again. Then revisions and re-writings took place during Covid-19 months before I submitted it to the Portland Screenplay Awards. I am extremely grateful and honored that “Scuppernongs” was chosen as the Feature winner.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

I wanted to be both a writer and an actress from a very young age. I asked for a typewriter from Santa as well. It was surprising, but I received a working blue plastic Royal typewriter with an ink ribbon on a spool. It could be turned over and over again and be reused. I used that typewriter for years! When it came time to decide which (writing or performance) I wanted to pursue in college, I went with the one that offered the biggest scholarship: acting. As the result of a national essay win, I’d received a small scholarship offer from Columbia school of journalism, but my parents refused to allow me to study in NYC.

So I took a drama scholarship that paid for four years of undergrad and then an Assistantship in Theatre that paid for two years of grad school. Fast forward through a couple of decades of acting on the stage and then in 2012, I began adding film work. And then one day, I felt like I’d been punched in the head. Writing!! That was also necessary. And I had abandoned it! So I started writing again. An old dog with old dreams can learn and love new tricks.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

My biggest writing influences in general were from novels that I read during high school and my twenties. I was very drawn to Faulkner, Dickey, Margaret Atwood, Vonnegut, and John Irving. Both Faulkner and Dickey gave me my adoration for Southern Gothic style, which is used in “Scuppernongs.” As far as screenwriters go, there are far too many to mention, but a few standouts are Nora Ephron, Lawrence Kasdan, Steve Martin, James Gunn, The Cohen brothers, Wes Anderson. They each excel in their writing styles with a special extra “sparkle” uncommon in other screenplays of their genres. They have, to coin a hackneyed phrase, “a stroke of genius.” It’s difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

I am constantly obsessed with both movies and TV shows! Watched things over and over. I tend to binge-watch things such as “Handmaid’s Tale” plus many British series, usually involving mystery and crime-solving. Movies such as “Unconditional Love” written by Jocelyn Moorhouse and P.J. Hogan, “Grand Canyon” (Kasdan), and more recently, “The Martian” (Drew Goddard and Andy Weir).

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

Cheeky as it sounds, one of my favorite moments is in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Leia says to Han Solo “I love you.” and he responds “I know.” Supposedly, this wasn’t even a scripted line. I’ve heard that it was actually improvised but made it to the final cut of the film anyway. So it may be a poor example for me to use in an article about screenwriting! But the bottom line is that it was so real and organic and believable at the moment. It wasn’t an expected response. And it is the unexpected that I appreciate most. That’s where “real” happens.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. So over the top and down to earth/real – SIMULTANEOUSLY. That’s a tough one to pull off!

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Robin Williams. I would ask to just crawl around inside his head for fifteen minutes