An Interview with 2022 TITAN Awards Winner Brian Koukol

About The TITAN Awards

The TITAN Awards is a global, prestigious screenwriting contest whereby material competes against its own kind for as long as possible over the course of a contest cycle.

Horror feature vs Horror feature, Series Bible vs Series Bible, Sci-Fi vs Sci-Fi, 1 Page Pitch vs 1 Page Pitch etc.

In the contest’s second year (2022), the situation was ferociously competitive and there were a great many writers and projects that impressed.

The annual awards are rare in talent discovery terms in that they are judged by genuinely heavyweight industry figures, with appropriately high-level credits on major movies and TV shows.

The three winning writers received….

SILVER Winner 🥈

Our silver prize winner across all categories, decided by The Titans

  • All 3 Titans read their work personally
  • 3 x private virtual lunches with “The Titans”
  • 12 months of bespoke, daily script marketing via their own personal IS script marketer*
  • 12 months of IS career coaching via regular 7hr one-on-one sessions*
  • Script distribution to the IS industry roster
  • Headline mention in official IS winners press release
  • Lifetime access to all IS online courses
  • Unlimited 75% off IS script coverage services for 12 months
  • $2,000.00 cash

GOLD Winner 🥇

Our gold prize winner across all categories, decided by The Titans.

  • All 3 Titans read their work personally
  • 3 x private virtual lunches with “The Titans”
  • 12 months of bespoke, daily script marketing via their own personal IS script marketer*
  • 12 months of IS career coaching via regular 7hr one-on-one sessions*
  • Access to “The Writer’s Journey”, a 4-festival/lab series of events
  • Script distribution to the IS industry roster
  • Headline mention in official IS winners industry press release
  • Lifetime access to all IS online courses
  • Unlimited 75% off IS script coverage services for 12 months
  • $5,000.00 cash

BRONZE Winner 🥉

Our bronze prize winner across all categories, decided by The Titans

  • All 3 Titans read their work personally
  • 3 x private virtual lunches with “The Titans”
  • 12 months of bespoke, daily script marketing via their own personal IS script marketer*
  • 12 months of IS pro career coaching via regular 7hr one-on-one sessions*
  • Script distribution to the IS industry roster
  • Headline mention in official IS winners industry press release
  • Lifetime access to all IS online courses
  • Unlimited 75% off IS script coverage services for 12 months
  • $1,000.00 cash

TITAN Awards Winner – Brian Koukol

In an extremely close final vote, our three “titans” of industry – producers – all voted, independent of one another, for the contest’s Gold-Silver-Bronze order.

And winning the 3rd place Bronze award, the winner of our 2022 TITAN Awards, was Brian Koukol for his pilot screenplay, CRIPS:

A severely disabled man discovers his longtime girlfriend/caregiver has been cheating on him and must decide which aspect of their relationship is most worth saving. With the help of his free-spirited best friend, he seeks to carve a wheelchair-accessible path through the intimidating confluence of life, love, and progressive neuromuscular disease. 

So after Brian’s amazing victory, we sat down with him to ask him a few questions about how he feels after being crowned the TITAN Awards winner, his inspirations and his path to becoming a screenwriter.

Interview with TITAN Awards Winner Brian Koukol

Firstly, Tell us About You: Where Are You From, What’s Your Background in the Business?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“Like most Gen Xers, I was raised by movies and television, so you can probably say that my background in the business started at birth. My young brain took to the screen like one might take to a second language, soaking up its rhythms and rules until I spoke them even in my dreams.

Growing up in Southern California likely enhanced this connection, though I certainly took it for granted at the time. The Griffith Park Observatory wasn’t just some mythical Olympus in the shadow of the Hollywood sign where James Dean could emote and the Rocketeer could triumph and Arnie could kick Bill Paxton’s ass, but also a place for field trips and planetarium shows and hours absorbed by a Tesla coil.

Fast forward a few decades and my life is still inextricably linked to the screen, both big and small. Though I’ve migrated a few hours north of that precious Hollywood sign, I can’t shake it any more than I can shake my blood type.

The last few years have been incredibly kind to my TV pilot and feature scripts, catapulting them to the finals of several competitions and landing CRIPS the Bronze TITAN Award as well as a spot in the Yes, And… Laughter Lab competitive incubator.

While I’m still unrepped and have yet to see my words spoken on that magical screen, I’ve taken some great meetings with some incredible people and expanded my network to such a degree that I know it’s only a matter of time.”

How Long Have You Been Writing Seriously For?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“If you don’t count that unauthorized sequel to The Naked Gun I wrote five pages of when I was twelve years old, I’ve been writing seriously for about thirteen years, ever since my third midlife crisis at the age of thirty.

Logically for someone so infatuated with movies and TV, my first serious endeavor was a novel, followed by two more and ten years of short stories and poetry. After a decade of critical acclaim and low sales, I decided to try screenwriting.

For some reason, despite watching at least a movie a day for as long as I can remember, it took me that long to realize that I saw life through a camera lens instead of a printing press. Rather than a waste of time, I like to call those my preparation years.”

How Does it Feel to Have Won The TITAN?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“Incredible. We writers are quite susceptible to imposter syndrome, and I am no exception. It still boggles my mind that people read my work at all, let alone enjoy it, but I like to think humility is a gift. That said, this award has done wonders for my confidence in my work, which I’m sure will pay dividends in the future. Sometimes we just need to get out of our own way, you know?”

The TITAN Screenwriting Contest - Judge Basil Iwanyk ($3bn box office producer)

Can You Tell Us More About the Project You Won With?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“CRIPS is a half-hour scripted series that follows a severely disabled man who discovers that his longtime girlfriend/caregiver has been cheating on him and must decide which aspect of their relationship, if any, is most worth saving. With the help of his free-spirited disabled best friend, he seeks to carve a wheelchair-accessible path through the intimidating confluence of life, love, and progressive neuromuscular disease.

Being disabled myself, I’m acutely aware of just how wrong the industry gets disability stories. We’re typically relegated to props or metaphors or lazy plot devices by able-bodied writers who somehow can’t understand that disabled people have all the same flaws and virtues of those suffering from chronic good health.

In fact, I’d venture to say that disabled stories are far more interesting than stories of those with default ability because of the conflict inherent in the disabled experience. Brad Pitt crossing the street barely deserves a single action line. Brad Pitt crossing the street in a wheelchair is a riveting page-and-a-half, bristling with life-and-death stakes and simmering pathos.”

Where Did the Idea For This Project First Come From?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“Like all great ideas, it came to me on the toilet. There I was, innocently going about my business, when an entire sequence came to me full cloth, complete with characters and dialogue. I simply had to write it at that point. Eight drafts and a year later, I’m still writing it, but as we all know nothing is ever finished until it’s in the can.

Still, I’m proud of the way I’ve been able to represent the lives of people like me in a way that people not like me can understand.”

What Would You Say the Key Touchstones and Influences Are For It?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“I like to call it Special meets Insecure, with a sprinkling of that secret sauce that made Atlanta at once hyper-specific and universal in its interrogation of the banality of life as a second-class citizen.”

Special: Season 1 | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

What Scene in the Script Are You Most Fond Of?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“The scene that came to me while on the toilet, where two disabled characters waiting in a hospital where they aren’t patients face a micro-aggression from a physician, verbally eviscerate him, then smoke a joint through their ventilator hoses with the help of a security guard who works for free so as not to risk his government health benefits.

Those are the kind of disabled stories I want to tell.”

Why Did You Choose to Enter The TITAN and What’s Been Your Experience With Other Contests?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“The TITAN was a reputable contest with an absolutely bananas prize package, so forking out the entrance fee was a no-brainer for me.

In my experience, screenwriting contests are a bit hit-or-miss. Like many of us, in the past I’ve fallen into the trap of seeking validation through contest placement and spending money I didn’t have in that pursuit.

Nowadays, I’m much more selective in my contest entries, prioritizing those that might actually further my career, either through dynamite networking opportunities or indispensable script coverage. My list of potential contest entries is much shorter now than it once was, and The TITAN will remain near the top.”

In Terms of the Winners’ Benefits, Which Run Over the Whole Course of a Year, Which One Are You Most Excited About?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“No amount of script coverage is too much for a screenwriter, so the 75% discount on Industrial Scripts coverage is already paying dividends. Also, since I’m one of those writers who is terrible at self-promotion, the year of bespoke script marketing is going to be really nice.”

The TITAN Screenwriting Contest - Judge Shannon McIntosh (Oscar-Nominated Producer)

What Are You Working on Next?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“I just finished work on an elevated horror feature called INSATIABLE that has been described as Jack and the Beanstalk meets The Witch meets True Grit, which I’ll take any day of the week.

Right now, I’m breaking story on another TV pilot, this one about a surly disabled superhero whose newfound physical powers displace the intellectual acumen he has previously built his identity around. Also, despite being able to fly, he keeps his wheelchair because wheelchairs are gifts rather than curses.”

Where Do You Hope to Be in 5, and 10 Years?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want one of my scripts to have been bought, shot, and praised by critics and audiences alike, but mostly I just hope I still have my edge, my craft, and my humility.

Honestly, if my words make a single other human being feel seen or enlightened or touched, then my life will have been a success, whether my shelves sag under the weight of Emmys and Oscars or an endless stack of rejection letters.”

What Advice Would You Give to Writers Entering Competitions in Terms of Honing Their Screenplays?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“The same script that took bronze at The TITAN for me didn’t even make it through the first round at several other competitions.

You can’t control whether your script will resonate with an individual reader, but you can control whether it has a single typo or formatting error. White space, short paragraphs, sparse description – make your script easy to read and you’re likely to stand out right from the start.

Also, know your craft but don’t be hamstrung by it. Competitions celebrate innovation and risk in a way that the industry simply cannot, so let yourself stand out.”

The TITAN Screenwriting Contest banner

What’s the Biggest Thing You’ve Learnt in Your Career as a Writer So Far?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“The importance of finding joy in the writing process, whether it be in brainstorming, banging out a vomit draft, or turning ore into gold. You’re going to be spending a lot more time writing scripts than writing acceptance speeches, so you better find a way to enjoy the nuts and bolts of your profession because it will surely show in the finished product.”

What’s the Most Useful Piece of Advice You’ve Found From a Craft Perspective? Something That Was a Fundamental Shift in Your Writing Process Perhaps.

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“Structural conventions exist for a reason. As much as we writers like to think we can survive on vibes alone, meat without a skeleton will never go anywhere.

So write in acts or write in sequences, but write with a plan. You’re not going to die if your B-Story starts before your Break into Two any more than you will if your Catalyst starts a few pages later or earlier than expected. But your script should probably have all three in there somewhere if it ever wants to be produced.”

What Does Your Writing Routine Look Like?

BRIAN KOUKOL:

“I usually wake up late to a bit of daydreaming, whether directly linked to my WIP or just as a way of stretching my imagination before exercising it, I usually take a leisurely morning, leading up to a writer’s breakfast that is probably best described as lunch, then get to work.

I like to put in about five solid hours five days a week, though those hours often come in the form of pacing in front of the computer, occasionally stopping to write a line or a paragraph or, rarely, an entire scene, but just as often doing research or brainstorming or visualizing the script in my head (or, you know, procrastinating).

After my five hours, I usually have a snack, then watch a movie, then have a late dinner, then read scripts or plan on analyzing a TV show but instead become so engrossed that I forget to notice any of the act breaks. Then I go to bed.

My schedule might sound like paradise, but mostly it stems from the fact that I’ll still probably die if I get Covid and as such can count the amount of times I’ve left my nest over the last three years without resorting to toes.”

Quickfire Round:

Favourite Movie Made by the Judges:

“I’d call it a toss-up between Sicario and The Hateful Eight. Whether Roger Deakins’ photography or Denis Villeneuve’s directorial mastery and attention to detail, Sicario is an absolute visual treat to behold. Add in a ton of grit and an underrepresented protagonist and the whole thing becomes irresistible.

The Hateful Eight pulls off something of a miracle in making what is essentially a three-hour chamber piece sing through a winning combination of tension, violence, and delicious dialogue.”

Sicario (1/11) Movie CLIP - A Horrifying Discovery (2015) HD

Favourite TV Show made by the Judges:

Hannibal. A sumptuous feast for the eyes, brain, and tongue. How this dark, brooding, cinematic tour de force made it to network television is a miracle that must be spoken of in hushed tones amongst producer circles for the virtuosity it signifies. Like all the best things in life, it was gone too soon, but it’s better to burn out than fade away.”

Your Top 10 Movies of All Time:

1. Jaws – “Simply perfect. That damn mechanical shark may never have worked, but absolutely everything else did. Impeccable. The best horror movie of all time.”

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark – “Another Spielberg, another masterpiece. The best adventure movie of all time.”

3. Saving Private Ryan – “I promise this is the last Spielberg on the list. Immersive, visceral, and easily the best war movie of all time.”

4. The Wrestler – “A bit of a departure for Darren Aronofsky, but also arguably his best movie. Structurally perfect, with an exquisite character played to perfection by Mickey Rourke”

5. Die Hard – “As revolutionary as it is entertaining. John McTiernan is a directorial genius. The best action movie of all time.”

6. LA 92 – “A documentary as riveting and intense and important as any scripted feature.”

7. Le Trou – “Jacques Becker’s masterpiece of authenticity and immersion breaks through an actual concrete floor in pursuit of realism.”

8. Ronin – “Another of my favorites and an unassailable rebuttal to the idea that CGI car chases are anything but cartoons. I don’t care what David Mamet calls himself; I’ll watch anything he writes. It was between this and The Train for Frankenheimer. Do yourself a favor and watch both.”

9. The Last of the Mohicans – “Michael Mann could probably have five movies on this list, but this lean, rousing gem will have to stand in for all of them.”

10. Children of Men – “Another grounded exercise in immersion. Can you sense a trend here?”

“Bonus: Kills on Wheels – How can anyone only pick ten favorite movies? This memorable Hungarian film follows a trio of wheelchair-using assassins. Frankly, it had me at hello.”

Kills on Wheels – Official U.S. Trailer

Your Top 10 TV Shows of All Time:

1. Homicide: Life on the Street – “Though I was only 14 years old when it premiered, this was my introduction to what I consider prestige television, six years before The Sopranos.”

2. The Wire – “Like Steven Spielberg dominates my film list, David Simon is set to dominate this one. If you haven’t heard of The Wire, do you even watch TV?”

3. Hannibal – “Like Homicide, this is another network television miracle.”

4. Deadwood – “I like westerns and I like cussin’, so I like Deadwood.”

5. Breaking Bad – “I’m hesitant to be overly descriptive with these TV picks, because it’s like explaining what sunlight feels like. We all know.”

6. Mad Men – “Character is king in television today. Here’s a good reason why.”

7. Oz – “A prison soap opera. Yes, please.”

8. Ramy – “Muslim and disabled representation. A twofer.”

9. Band of Brothers – “The adventures of Easy Company were anything but easy.”

10. Atlanta – “An illustrated guide to the representation of marginalized identities on television.”

Atlanta | Official Legacy Trailer | FX

If You Could Emulate Anyone’s Career, Whose Would it Be?

“I like the Vince Gilligan approach. Write some scripts, submit to competitions, get noticed, get staffed, get some movies made, get your own show, direct a bit, get another show.”

Thanks Brian!

Learn more about The TITAN Screenwriting Contest.

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