Interview - Screenwriter Jamee Decio

Jamee Decio took the top spot in the Breaking Walls Thriller screenplay contest with her spec script, MOCK TRIAL, a story about an ex-prosecutor turned high school teacher who is lured back into the courtroom, where he must face his fears in order to defend one of students who has been wrongfully charged with murder.

After the big win, we spoke to Jamee about MOCK TRIAL and her background as a screenwriter.

1) Your story is very well structured and shows a good grasp of the craft. How did you first become interested in screenwriting?
I never considered writing creatively until I was studying law in London. I was enjoying a theatrical play, and at intermission, I told my friends what I thought would happen next. When I nailed the second act, someone suggested I write. When I returned to law school that fall, I began writing plays and eventually I transitioned to screenwriting.

2) You've written a very strong legal thriller that definitely conveys a strong knowledge of the subject matter. Is this based on research or your own professional background?
Since I usually write comedy, I wrote "Mock Trial" to challenge myself. I did not want to write a script loaded with courtroom scenes. By giving the high school a Mock Trial team, and forcing our protagonist to coach them, the audience learns about our hero in an unusual setting, and one that makes him uncomfortable. After I graduated from law school, I served as a prosecutor for three years in a small town, so I have personal knowledge of the system, such as seasoned lawyers dislike an idealist young lawyer as he/she reminds them who they once were, and sadly, who they've become. Our hero experiences the same with Hal Perry. The story is pure fiction.

3) Who or what would you consider your greatest inspiration as a writer?
I have thousands of books, so literature is my greatest inspiration. My love of reading was inherited from my mother who gave me National Velvet by Enid Bagnold at age nine. This book still resonates with me today. (I didn't see the movie until years later.) I read this book for a year. The story is simple: Velvet rides Pie, her horse, in the Grand National and wins. When it's revealed she's a girl, she's disqualified. I was more upset than Velvet. I kept rereading the book, hoping for a different ending, until one day I realized that they could take Velvet's trophy away, but they couldn't change the fact that she won. Velvet doesn't need a trophy to prove she won the race because she knows she won. Lewis doesn't need the truth revealed at the end of "Mock Trial" because he knows the truth.

4) What movies or filmmakers would you consider your greatest influences?
While I grew up watching all the classic films from the '30s, '40s and '50s, I spent more time reading, so no one filmmaker or movie has influenced me more than the others.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters who are working their first script?
Finish your draft, put it in a drawer, and start writing your second script. Write a story you're passionate about and in your own voice.

A big thanks to Jamee for her time and congratulations again on the win!

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