Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Quinn McHugh Fluet & Rachel Hroncich)

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

Hi! My name is Quinn McHugh Fluet, I was born and raised in Westchester, New York, and I now live in Savannah, Georgia, where I studied in the best screenwriting schools for three years. Though writing and directing are hobbies in a sense, my more oddball ones would be car design sketching and homemade ice cream.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

The original idea for “Persephone” came from a prompt I gave myself in my freshman year of college: to write a short story I could film, which would take place in Savannah, and involve ghosts and science fiction. A Kings of Leon song (“On Call”) tied everything together and gave me the idea of the phone call that the protagonist receives from her daughter–from the afterlife. I played around with the script outline in my head for about a year, and as the little pieces fell in place I decided to write it in my Feature Development and Completion classes at school. I spent two-quarters of classes outlining, writing, and rewriting it and made some minor rewrites to make it ready for screenplay competitions.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

Most of my writing comes from music, and piecing together images and emotions I get from songs, until stories appear for me. The same happened with “Persephone”, and I continued to draw inspiration from childhood songs like Coldplay’s “42” and Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright’s “Set Fire to the Third Bar”. I outlined thoroughly and had to re-write and re-outline repeatedly, as my original draft was 160 pages. But with the help of my classmates, friends, and teachers, I was able to boil my script outline down and make it as concise as I could.

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

Genuinely as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to make movies, and around middle school, I realized if I wanted to tell big stories I’d have to learn how to write scripts well. I tried to teach myself as much as I could. Upon starting college, I chose to screenwrite over films, hoping that perfecting my writing would give me more leeway to film my stories, and just make me a better storyteller overall.

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

My biggest filmmaking influence is Denis Villeneuve. He’d be horrified to learn how much I admire him. I try to steal from him when I can, in how he blocks, paces, and most importantly, creates tension. His direction, character development, and handling of dialogue are beautiful. Poetic without ever losing touch with the earth and real life. I’m not proud to say I haven’t read too many screenplays, but I’ve taken a lot of writing inspiration from Brad Bird (I watched “Iron Giant” and “Incredibles” on a loop throughout childhood), and the creative team behind “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Legend of Korra”.

 I think both brilliantly use genre to tell very personably, and very intimate and truthful stories about people and cultures, and both are able to put very mature and dark themes into their stories without shrinking their audience or becoming nihilistic. Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan’s work on “The Dark Knight” and “Interstellar” especially have changed how I view genre and putting very realistic drama into very un-realistic circumstances.

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

I think about “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Legend of Korra” daily. Far too often. And there have been many times since I’ve discovered it, that I’ve been unable to stop watching “The Place Beyond the Pines” or “Man of Steel”, and listening to their scores non-stop.

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

The “Interstellar” video letters scene, where Cooper watches the videos his children have sent him over the years, always breaks my heart. Even thinking about it and typing I’m tearing up. It is such a perfect and ingenious use of science fiction to tell truth from human emotion, and it’s perfectly acted, written, directed, composed, and edited. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

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

Captain Blocker from “Hostiles”, played by Christian Bale. Firstly, he’s the only convincing character I’ve ever seen develop from racist to accepting and loving (and earn that development), and I love how he’s used by the film to deconstruct Westerns, American imperialism, and masculinity. I remember waking my roommates up crying repeatedly just because Blocker felt so real and interesting, and it was so hard to not attach to what he was going through and how he was hurting and growing. They let him be despicable, and that makes his growth into a hero so much more meaningful.

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

If I could spend a few days talking with Anthony Bourdain I think I would be content. I found so much wisdom in him as a kid, and still do, and I would love to talk with him about the fears he had in life, the beauty he’s seen in the world, and if there’s anything he would have done differently in his life.

Rachel Hroncich

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

My name is Rachel Hroncich (ron-sick) and I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, but now live in Los Angeles, after a 13-year stint in Albuquerque, NM. During the pandemic, I’ve found a new love for long walks with no exercise goals attached. And I’ve developed some mad coloring skills.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

ONCE IN A LIFETIME is based on the true story of my mother becoming an Allegheny County Deputy Sheriff in the mid-’80s, at the age of 36, as a mother of two. The dual lives she lived as a full-time homemaker and kickass cop is something I’d always wanted to explore. I wrote the first script outline during a two-week writing challenge ran by a friend in August of 2020, then rewrote it during a class offered by the Sundance Collab.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

I start with the character development of lead characters and decide what question they’re going to try to answer over the course of the series. That usually leads to some fretful free-writing about what big questions I’m personally trying to answer. Once that decision is made, I free-write about what obstacles will keep them from getting what they want. From there, I outline the pilot beats, and then on to the writing. And rewriting. And more rewriting. At some point, I’ll take a break from the pilot script to work on a series doc, which usually brings character and story revelations to light, and leads me to yet another rewrite.

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

I started as an actor, and then a stand-up comedian. But I eventually realized the part I loved most about stand-up wasn’t the performing, it was the writing. So I bought a few books, talked to a few writer friends, and wrote my first script. I knew then that everything I’d done in the arts was leading me to this.

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

Jason Katims. His ability to instantly convey relationship dynamics is *chef’s kiss*.

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

Friday Night Lights. I have zero interest in Texas high school football, and Katims was like, “I don’t care, you’re going to watch this.” I barely slept for a month while I binged the series after work. Also, Schitt’s Creek is one of the most beautiful family journeys ever explored on TV.

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

The reveal of Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank. I don’t know how you could ever top that.

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

Thelma & Louise. That’s the first movie I remember seeing with two female leads. Two friends. To watch them reclaim their narrative was and continues to be, breathtaking.

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

I’d want to ask Ludwig van Beethoven what inspired him to write the 9th Symphony.