Two weeks ago, we named the three finalists of the UCLA Extension Television Competition. This week, we bring you the names of the top three finalists of this year’s Screenplay Competition. They are (in alphabetical order), Robert Dorian, Ana Maria Montoya, and Greg Sullivan.

Having made it through several grueling rounds of judging, the writers now have the opportunity to rewrite their work under the guidance of a seasoned Writers’ Program instructor. Then, in September, the final judging by an all-industry panel will take place, and the lst, 2nd, and 3rd place winners will be announced. All three winners receive cash prizes and publicity in the Hollywood Reporter, and their loglines and contact information will be sent to more than 1,000 Hollywood execs! How’s that for exposure?

Below, our top three finalists talk about their projects and how it feels to place in the top three of this year’s competition.

Name: Robert Dorian
Project: Dead of Winter
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Logline: Distraught after the brutal murder of his girlfriend, a college-bound athlete is haunted by the possibility that her spirit is trying to warn him of impending danger.

Name: Ana Maria Montoya
Project: Hanging Moon
Genre: Drama
Logline: An orphaned teenage boy and his baby sister join a carnival traveling through the deep South in the summer of 1940.

Name: Greg Sullivan
Project: Erin’s Voice
Genre: Drama
Log Line: A deaf man’s marriage starts to crumble when he forms a connection with a young woman whose voice he can inexplicably hear.

Writers’ Program: How does it feel to have placed in the top three?

Robert Dorian: It was particularly gratifying to wind up as one of the top three with this particular script – the one I’ve always been most partial to though others may have found it a bit obscure. I was thrilled it even placed in the Top Ten and was in total disbelief that it wound up as one of the Top Three. I am most thankful to all who read it.

Ana Maria Montoya: How does it feel? Like spying a helicopter overhead as you’re lost in the wilderness. Like hope. When I heard the news, I was overcome with gratitude–not a high-five feeling of “go, me.” Pure gratitude, which is a humbling thing.

Greg Sullivan: I was elated to learn I’d made it into the top three. Erin’s Voice was a challenging story to tell and it’s incredibly gratifying to have it receive such a positive response. Having to do a rewrite in eight weeks while my wife is in her last trimester with our first child has caused a little stress, but those are the kinds of problems you can only wish for more of.

WP: Who is your mentor for the competition and how’s that working out?

RD: Chrysanthy Balis is my mentor, and she quickly supplied me with pages of notes for the rewrite. They were carefully prepared and will only help in making this piece as strong and effective as possible. The next month and a half holds great promise, and I can’t wait to get to work.

AMM: My mentor, John Schimmel, is a big deal in the industry, but he’s the salt of the earth–generous, insightful, completely without ego. John made himself available to me on day one, and gave me notes that let me know we’re on the same team. That alone makes me feel like I’m living the most delicious dream.

GS: I’ve been partnered with Steve Mazur, which has been great. He wrote his notes directly on the script. When he finished, it was hard to say which of us had the most ink on each page. He was able to look past the flaws in my first draft to the story I was really trying to tell and then set me on the right path.

WP: Are there any particular Writers’ Program instructors or courses that have had a notable influence on you?

RD: Without any doubt, it’s Tom Lazarus. I’ve taken the Master Class with him twice in addition to numerous other classes, and he cuts through all the crap to get directly to the heart of what the writer wants to communicate. There is no pampering in his class; it’s as close to the “real world” as you’ll get. And while you have the option to use his thoughts or reject them, they must be considered and evaluated… and it may take several days, but you’ll eventually realize he’s right.

AMM: Chrysanthy Balis has been invaluable in developing this script–from the first flicker of an idea, to a solid treatment, to a completed draft. She helped me believe in this story, and along the way, asked tough questions and doled out no-bullshit feedback. She’s a rare jewel.

GS: It’d be hard to single out one class but if you twisted my arm I’d have to say Billy Mernit‘s class on Creating the Character Driven Screenplay. His laser focus on character has really elevated my game. I wrote the current draft of Erin’s Voice before taking Billy’s class, so I’m really looking forward to bringing the lessons I learned there into the rewrite.

Congratulations to our top three talented writers! We are hopeful that this experience will lead them to bigger and more high profile projects in the entertainment industry.

Chae Ko is the Program Representative for onsite and online screenwriting courses. Contact him at

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