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Q&A: Tualatin teenager wins best screenplay at Future of Cinema Film Festival

November 21, 2013


Nov. 21--A Tualatin teenager won best screenplay for a short film about girls in World War II Germany at a film festival for young filmmakers.

Abigail Magsarili, 16, took home the award at the Future of Cinema Film Festival, held by the Interlochen Center for the Arts, a fine arts boarding school in Michigan.

The winning script "Shadow Puppets," at nine pages, told a story about two sisters comforting themselves during air raids with a shadow puppet adventure on their bedroom wall. It reads as a silent short film.

"Abigail's screenplay has a great sense of image on the page, completely without the aid of dialogue," said Michael Mittelstaedt, a judge and director of the Motion Picture Arts program at Interlochen, in a press release.

The award comes with a $300 Apple gift card and $2,000 scholarship to the academy's camp. Magsarili is writing a third draft of "Shadow Puppets" based on suggestions she received at the festival. She hopes to eventually see it on screen, but money, especially for historical films, presents a challenge.

[READ: Shadow Puppets (pdf) in full]

The Oregonian talked with Magsarili, who is homeschooled, about her love for screenwriting. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity:

What made you interested in screenwriting?

I've been writing stories since I was eight or nine, and my mom suggested exploring screenwriting. I did a lot of research at the Tualatin Library, and read how-to books on screenwriting. The first one I finished when I was 11 was a short called "Pirates in the Suburbs," which my neighbors and I made over the course of two weeks and was screened at the Tualatin Heritage Center.

How did you think of the idea for Shadow Puppets?

I was watching interviews for Your Highness, and two of the actors talked about a game they played in film school where they started with title and came up with an idea for it. So I would write down phrases and try to imagine the stories behind them. When I wrote down shadow puppets, my mind automatically went to literal shadow puppets. The story I wrote was what I immediately thought of.

What are your favorite movies?

I love drama, adventure and historical fiction, pretty everything except horror and romance. My favorites include Lord of the Rings, A Beautiful Mind and Empire of the Sun. The winning screenplay was inspired by pretty much all the World War II films, especially Life is Beautiful.

Who are your favorite screenwriters?

A lot of my favorite screenwriters are also the directors, like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I don't follow screenwriters as much because they do lots of different things, but I stick to following genres. I also like Steven Moffat, although he does more television like Dr. Who and Sherlock.

What else do you write?

I have novels in the works, but I don't write short stories as much. I write fantasy fiction, historical fiction and slightly dystopian work. I also blog fairly regularly.

What kind of writing do you like best?

I actually like writing screenplays best. With novels, it depends on how you present the sentence whereas with screenplays its fairly artless. You say exactly what you want to shoot or see on the screen. There's no finesse or floweriness.

--Fenit Nirappil: 503-294-4029;


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