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An interview with Terry Luke Podnar, writer of "The Red Zone"

What is striking about The Red Zone was Terry Luke Podnar's ability to seamlessly intertwine the world of professional sports with the mind-bending elements of science fiction. The football games came alive on the page, with every bone-crushing tackle and strategic play vividly portrayed. The intensity was palpable, and I found myself fully immersed in the electrifying moments on the field.

Filmtage : What sparked your interest in becoming an independent screenwriter, and how has your journey been navigating the world of screenwriting outside of traditional studio systems?

Terry L. Podnar : Initially, I started rudimentary screenwriting in my teens when I began making short movies. It did not take long before I became fascinated by the screenwriting aspect of conveying a story from many different angles. I realized the movie was only going to be as good as the script - through the view of the plot, by manipulating scenes by the use of dialogue, action, characters, etc.. Of course, there is no end to learning the craft of screenwriting and every new screenplay has its own set of challenges. That is what makes screenwriting exciting.

Since I have only been writing feature screenplays for a little over a year, I have not experienced the non-traditional ways of navigating the world of screenwriting. I have read a bevy of books on the subject matter and have clearly kept in mind what to expect in the movie industry. I have fashioned my pathway with that in mind. I am not a rule breaker because I do not know enough. I subscribe to the “write it and they will come” philosophy. That is, I write as many quality screenplays, short or features, and worry about the business side when it is either an opportune time or when I feel I am ready to pursue. I also have entered a multitude of festivals to show my work and get my name out there.

Filmtage : As an independent screenwriter, you have the freedom to explore unique and daring narratives. How do you approach the creative process to craft compelling stories that stand out in a saturated market?

Terry L. Podnar : The use of your imagination is the beauty of screenwriting, but you have to do it with a proviso. A writer can be as creative and wild and daring with ideas as he/she wants; however, a writer must always keep in mind that an expensive story prohibits its chances of being sold. With an off-the-wall script like this, you have a much better chance selling it in an indie market. I have the luxury to be able to write spec screenplays based on stories that interest or fascinate me. It can start as a germ of an idea that grows exponentially into something somewhat different than you originally imagined. But I never forget: will someone buy my screenplay that might cost 100 to 200 million dollars to make? The best route is to write scripts designed for the indie market and do not attempt Marvel-type screenplays because your slim chances to sell your script become slimmer.

Filmtage : Independent screenwriters often face challenges in getting their scripts noticed by producers and filmmakers. How do you go about networking and connecting with potential collaborators to bring your scripts to life?

Terry L. Podnar : My first screenplay was co-written with Ed Learner, we worked on film projects for years. We worked well together as sounding boards; however, he did not want to continue to devote the time involved in new projects. As a result, I wrote by myself. After some painful reviews/results from festivals, I realized that I needed more input from the outside. Now, I have worked a system that seems to work for me. I initially write the first ten drafts until I am satisfied, then I use well-known, quality consulting services to evaluate my work. Most of the time, it is difficult to read or hear the criticisms. After reading or hearing it through, I put the script down for a few days or weeks until I have this burning desire to make the corrections and revise the screenplay. The process starts all over. My biggest mistake was to circulate a script into the market that was not ready for the market

Filmtage : The Red Zone has been praised for its originality and depth of characters. Can you share some insights into the development process, and how you ensure your characters resonate with audiences?

Terry L. Podnar : The Red Zone started with one character in mind, the superhuman football player. I knew exactly what I wanted from him - a cold, distant, mysterious person hiding something, which is the crux of the screenplay. The other important character is an assertive female who is a beat sports reporter. I incorporated her character to complement the main character and help develop the story. So her character had to break through and be entrusted into the player’s world. In order to do this, she tries to remove his facade because of the quality of her character: she wants to be a respected woman and a journalist who is unafraid of anyone not named her mother. Her kindness and understanding brings him out of his shell and they eventually develop a relationship. In order for their relationship to work, it has to be intregal to the story, like the perfect storm - he is a reluctant and helpless guinea pig and she is an active investigator. Their characters ultimately want to ascertain the same things: answers to his past, his transformation and the reason behind what is transpiring.

Filmtage : Independent filmmaking often allows for more artistic expression, but it can also mean limited budgets. How do you strike a balance between creative vision and practicality when writing scripts for independent productions?

Terry L. Podnar : Above, I have already mentioned this restriction. Screenwriters are also problem-solvers. The writer can circumvent an astronomical budget by focusing on the dramatic issues and only show a representative sampling of special effects in the screenplay. I would have to say almost all my feature screenplays would be much more expensive if I did not keep this in mind. I have written two science fiction screenplays and I deliberately leave most of the special effects out of the script. Leave the action to the studios, producers, the filmmakers. The writer must tell a compelling story that might lead to adding more special effects.

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