Alum places in major screenwriting contest

By: Sylvia A. Bolls, Contributing Writer

A Towson University alum won second place in the 2014 ScreenCraft.org action and thriller script contest in Los Angeles for his historical fiction piece, “The Narrows.”

Aaron Steven, who graduated from Towson in 2009, received $200, a phone consultation with an industry professional, a screenwriting software package and a page of development notes for his win.

“I’m just happy ‘The Narrows’ is out there,” Steven said. “The cash is great, but any screenwriter should value a contest on the possible connections you can make out of it and the doors it can open.”

“The Narrows” is set during World War II and focuses on an American soldier recruited into Lucky Luciano’s crime family. Taking part in Operation Underworld, there is a covert alliance between U.S. Naval Intelligence and the mafia to protect the New York harbor from a Nazi invasion.

Six months after receiving his bachelor’s degree in electronic media and film, Steven moved to California from his home in Rockville and began work in the movie industry.

Steven had been exposed to this environment at a young age, because his father was both a novelist and a cinephile. During his freshman year at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Steven worked at the local movie theater as a projectionist and slowly got into the art of studying movies.

“In my mind, it’s kind of like outer space,” Steven said. “It’s something that you can never learn everything about. You can see all of the movies you can possibly see in a lifetime, but there are so many things that you will never be able to explore or figure out and that’s what drew me to filmmaking as a whole.”

Steven said he learned that writing was a career he wanted to pursue after he began taking writing courses at Towson.

“Writing became the purest form of expression to me,” Steven said. “Writing became something that I loved to do and ultimately, that’s when I learned I wanted to tell stories.”

Since graduating, Steven has had the chance to work on other projects in the Los Angeles area and begun networking in the field.

He was recently hired to write “El Norte,” a futuristic western that tackles every issue from immigration law to climate change. He also finished co-writing a scientific fictional adventure called “Gemini.”

“When I choose what my next idea is going to be, it’s a huge process to think about because I have to think of the beginning, the plot and what the main problem is,” Steven said.

ScreenCraft caters to screenwriters and filmmakers, who can enter individual contests throughout the year and have the chance to meet producers, agents and managers who are always looking for the next big film.

“The best part about ScreenCraft is that they have separate contests based on genres, which is unique to other screenwriting contests,” Steven said. “With a low entry fee, they have judges read each script who are into that specific genre looking for the next big action thriller film, instead of a reader looking for the next romance comedy.”

ScreenCraft’s individual contests are divided into seven types of genres: short screenplay, comedy, horror, pilot launch TV, action and thriller, screenwriting fellowship and a family screenplay.

This year’s action and thriller contest had more than 750 submissions with 11 judges made up of executive directors, film producers and screenwriters working in major studios like 20th Century Fox, 3 Arts Entertainment, Paramount and Warner Brothers.

“It’s hard to be in this type of industry because you need a lot of support and have to take it serious like having a job,” Steven said. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”

Towson Professor Michael Angelella, who taught Steven in the school’s electronic media and film major, said Steven was always focused and serious about his work.

“If you’re not doing it just because you want to do it, then go do something else because it’s just going to break your back,” Angelella said. “He knew he wanted to do this and give this his very best shot.”

According to Angelella, mainstream movie producers and agents are rarely looking for historical pieces. Angelella said the movie industry has the perception that people will not go to the theater to watch a film about American history.

“’The Narrows’ was really risky,” Angelella said. “Though it was well done and accomplished because Steven wanted to take that chance.”

Despite the long distance and time apart, the mentoring relationship between Steven and Angelella is ongoing.

“I’m thrilled to have that relationship with him because he’s expressing his own gratitude back to me,” Angelella said.

 “I’m just starting out and seeing where this all takes me,” Steven said. “I’m not at the end of the road just yet.”

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