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  • Writer's pictureAfter Hour Film Festival

Joseph Leone's Screenplay Coop Wins Contest and Hearts

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

Coop is a heart wrenching story of friendship and unconditional love between a boy and his dog. The very first time we read it, it pulled our heartstrings and we knew we needed to know more about Coop and its writer, Mr. Joesph Leone. So, we got in touch with him for a candid chat and he responded warmly.

After Hour : Tell us a bit about who or what inspired you to be a writer.

Joseph Leone : I've always had a keen interest in the essential aspect of storytelling, and in particular character development. Without interesting characters, that have no emotional connection to the audience, the story will go nowhere. Love them or hate them, cheer for them or boo them, an audience must react to your characters. Some of my Screenwriting influences are: William Goldman, Lawrence Kasdan, John Hughes, David Mamet, Paul Schrader, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Zemeckis, Ethan & Joel Cohen, Christopher McQuarrie, Christopher Nolan, and many others. 

After Hour : You mentioned that your award winning screenplay Coop is very close to your heart, what is the inspiration behind writing Coop?

Joseph Leone : The Electronic Press Kit highlights some of the inspiration behind the story, which is indeed very personal to me. I had a Golden Retriever named Cooper, who suddenly passed away at the young age of 8 years old. We were inseparable. Also, much of the story in relation to the animal rescue shelter is based from a group in the State of Florida, known as Joshua's House. As of late, the Owner of the Shelter has rescued countless numbers of dogs, many from the Korean Slaughterhouse. I would love to incorporate a fundraiser for Joshua's House, when the film is hopefully produced. My goal is to have a portion of the proceeds, go directly to Joshua's House, which currently operates on a shoestring budget. Additionally, the Owner is currently battling cancer. She is worried that the shelter may close in her absence, if her cancer were to take a turn for the worst. This organization is more than deserved of financial assistance. Anything that I can do, would be my pleasure.

After Hour : You have earned a lot of praise for Coop, how do you handle criticism and feedback (both positive and negative) ?

Joseph Leone : I try to take it all in stride. Even negative criticism can have some potential value in later story development. I will however note, that it is easy to simply react (positively or negatively) to feedback. However, I find it best, to try and take a moment and understand from the perspective of the reader, what they liked or didn't like about a scene, a character, a plot point, etc.. This is your audience, after all.  

After Hour : What according to you makes a good screenplay?

Joseph Leone : As stated earlier, first and foremost - character development is #1 for me. I want to know - How do they talk? Do they favor certain words or phrases? What is the sound of their voice? Is there an accent, a stutter? Are they comfortable in group settings or do they shy away from the spotlight? Do they have a limp or a nervous tick? What is their personal, family history? Where do they come from? Were they an orphan? What did the character's mother or father do for a living? What early events shaped their personality? Do they have siblings? Are they close to the family? Was the family loving, abusive or dysfunctional? What influenced the character's career decisions, romantic or love choices? What do they look like? What do they act like? Split personality? Extrovert? Introvert? What motivates your character? What are their passions, if any? Do they have long term or short term goals? Do they feel accomplished or defeated in life? Any defects (physical or mental)? Are they lazy, competitive, aggressive, carefree, reserved? Last, but not least, what is a character thinking? Does their inner voice become an exterior voice? Do they worry? Are they compulsive? Are they strict and compliant? Without character, there is no worthwhile story. What happens in the story is meaningless without an audience connection to character.

After Hour : Do you have any word of advice for budding writers?

Joseph leone : Just keep writing and reading. Also, don't be afraid to put the words down on paper. You can't edit a blank page. Many writers try to write the perfect draft, the first time out. There is no such thing as perfection. In the past, I would write a few pages, then edit, and edit some more...only to hit a wall. Now, I spend the proper time on developing the logline, the pitch, the treatment, well before I start on the screenplay. This is your blueprint, after all. Every builder must have a blueprint. Also, when an idea comes, write it down. Many a great scene, captivating dialogue, etc. came from scribble on a napkin or a small notepad.

After Hour : Tell us a bit about your other works.

Joseph Leone : TRUE DESTINY (FEATURE FILM SCREENPLAY) - Genre: Political/Sci-Fi/Thriller. Logline: Aided by a mysterious shadow organization, a dynamic woman, predestined to make an impact on the world, is mere days away from an upset victory in the 2024 US Presidential General Election. However, all is not well, as this same organization is conspiring with the VP candidate to take her out, and overthrow the country. TRUE DESTINY has been officially selected in a total of (50) Film Festival / Screenplay Competitions in (5) Countries over the past (13) months. An Award Winner in (12) of the (50) Competitions to date. It Ranks #14 out of 1,028 Screenplays currently listed on DIRE CONSEQUENCES (SHORT SCREENPLAY) - Genre: Drama/Action/Thriller. Tagline: Actions and reactions have consequences...some, have dire consequences. Logline: The demanding, insensitive actions of a mid-level manager toward his former employee, cause a catastrophic chain of events to occur. DIRE CONSEQUENCES has been officially selected in (15) Film Festival/Screenplay Competitions in multiple Countries over the past (6) months. (2) Award Winners and Finalist in (5) other Competitions.

After Hour : How was your experience with After Hour Film Festival?

Joseph Leone : The experience with After Hour Film Festival has been wonderful. I look forward to submitting additional material in the future and sharing the festival with others in the writing and filmmaking community. I am also very honored that Feature Film Screenplay (COOP) has been acknowledged, and received so well by your organization, and abroad. As noted above, the story is very personal to me.

After Hour's Note : Mr. Joseph Leone and his fiance Ms. Laura Evans have donated entire prize money received from After Hour to Joshua's House, the shelter which he talked about in this interview. We laud Mr. Leone's and Ms. Evans' gesture, who we hear and understand, are very kind people. While these are the heroes this world needs, let us also remember Cooper for his warmth, kindness and bravery.

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