An Interview with 2023 TITAN Awards Winner Marni Sullivan

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 third year (2023), 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 your work personally
  • 3 x private virtual lunches with each TITAN individually
  • Our Senior Industry Judging Panel read your work personally
  • 12 months of IS career coaching via regular 7hr one-on-one sessions*
  • Script distribution to the IS industry roster
  • 12 month subscription to IMDBPro
  • 12 month subscription to RocketReach contacts database**
  • 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
  • Everything included in the category winners’ pack
  • $2,000.00 cash

GOLD Winner 🥇

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

  • All 3 Titans read your work personally
  • 3 x private virtual lunches with each TITAN individually
  • Our Senior Industry Judging Panel read your work personally
  • 12 months of IS career coaching via regular 7hr one-on-one sessions*
  • Script distribution to the IS industry roster
  • 12 month subscription to IMDBPro
  • 12 month subscription to RocketReach contacts database**
  • 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
  • Everything included in the category winners’ pack
  • $5,000.00 cash

BRONZE Winner 🥉

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

  • All 3 Titans read your work personally
  • 3 x private virtual lunches with each TITAN individually
  • Our Senior Industry Judging Panel read your work personally
  • 12 months of IS pro career coaching via regular 7hr one-on-one sessions*
  • Script distribution to the IS industry roster
  • 12 month subscription to IMDBPro
  • 12 month subscription to RocketReach contacts database**
  • 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
  • Everything included in the category winners’ pack
  • $1,000.00 cash

TITAN Awards Winner – Marni Sullivan

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 1st place Gold award, the overall winner of our 2023 TITAN Awards, was Marni Sullivan for her feature screenplay, CONFIDANT:

AKARI is brilliant, agoraphobic, avoids romantic relationships and basically lives for her job. Her dilemma is she is up for promotion to go from FBI consultant to a proper agent which requires a psych evaluation. She has given herself 10 days to figure out her issues or she is going to commit suicide. She returns to the cabin where it all started – the place where her father shot himself. When she barely gets through her first day there, she finds an online crisis website the promises complete anonymity for the user. She signs up and meets her confidant, NOELLE. Everything starts off great and Noelle talks her off the edge when she needs it, but Akari’s training tells her something is not quite right with her interactions. She is too invested in her. After Akari connects the website with some other missing person cases, she does a deep dive and discovers the website has been sending information of people who are suicide risks to a dark web sister site for serial killers. The information comes too late as Noelle has already discovered Akari’s whereabouts and is on the way to kill her. Akari must tap into her childhood hunting and trapping skills to even the playing field against a seasoned killer or become another victim.

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

Interview with TITAN Awards Winner Marni Sullivan

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

MARNI SULLIVAN:

I was born and raised in Southern California, living in various cities between Orange County and Los Angeles County. My first experience with the entertainment industry involved working for the musicians’ union and being a music journalist. However, I left the field for academia where I studied biological anthropology and neuroscience. I moved out of California for my graduate program for a few years.

Upon returning to California, I was brought in as a script consultant. Neuroscience had become a topic of interest in television, including shows such as FRINGE, BLACK BOX and PERCEPTION. Some of my prior entertainment contacts were interested in having me add some insights to their stories.

After my first few assignments, I decided to take some screenwriting courses to ensure my suggestions were not derailing the stories. The only way to really learn the craft is to write your own stories, so I jumped in and decided to submit to some competitions as a litmus test. My first script did very well in the competition circuit, so I continued to work on my own material after that.

How Long Have You Been Writing Seriously For?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“That would depend on the style of writing. I was journalist for 9 years, then an academic writer for 12 years. I started in screenwriting about 8 years ago.”

How Does it Feel to Have Won the TITAN?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“It feels amazing! It really means a lot since there are such prestigious judges involved in the scoring process.”

2024 TITAN Screenwriting Contest Judge - Shannon McIntosh (Oscar-Nominated Producer)

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

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“CONFIDANT is a contained psychological thriller that focuses on themes of mental illness, cultural alienation, the long-term effects of trauma and the complications of navigating those issues in the technological era. It focuses on a cat-and-mouse interaction online between the protagonist and antagonist where both parties are trying to discover the identity of the other.”

Where Did the Idea For This Project First Come From?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“The primary catalyst for the script came from the development of online services and mental health apps over the last few years. While they are great ways to improve access to much needed services, it also raises the question as to how well these platforms vet their participants. The contained nature of the story formed during the pandemic when the social distancing component became necessary in film production. Many of these restrictions are no longer required, but the themes of anonymity through technology gave the story an unusual dimension that holds extreme relevance in our current time. I was able to tap into my academic background to really get into the minds of antagonist and protagonist and the complexities of how we process information, especially traumatic events that can shape our perceptions for the rest of our lives.”

What Would You Say The Key Cinematic Touchstones Are, For It?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“Isolation is a key component as the main character is by herself in a remote cabin where her core trauma took place. The primary set piece for the story is the Confidant website itself. It features a chat with an anonymizer that allows people to speak to one another without hearing the other person’s true voice. It adds an air of mystery and adds to the isolation in a way as you are speaking through a machine.”

Ex Machina Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2015) - Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson Movie HD

What Scene in the Script Are You Most Fond of?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“The exchange that takes place between the protagonist and antagonist after the final battle scene. All anonymity has vanished and any reason for withholding information from one another has been rendered moot. When they compare notes on how they got to where they are in life, they acknowledge their similarities and learn something critical about themselves. The idea that they are complete opposites of one another is shattered at that moment.”

Why Did You Choose to Enter the TITAN and Whats Been Your Experience With Other Contests?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“I only became aware of the Titan Awards a couple of years ago, but this was the first year I entered. I made the decision to enter when I saw who was judging the competition. It added a level of credibility that I hadn’t seen in other competitions and ultimately, I wanted to test the strength of this story as I only completed the script at the beginning of this year.”

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

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“The hangout meetings with the Titan producers. I am really looking forward to hearing their insights on storytelling and the production process”.

2024 TITAN Screenwriting Contest Judge - Basil Iwanyk ($4bn+ box office producer)

What Are You Working on Next?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“I am working on a contained horror feature based on public domain I.P. It comes from a very short story, so the challenge is expanding it into a full length feature. The author is famous for not delving into the background of the characters, so there’s a big opportunity to create powerful backstories to explain their motivations and why they react the way they do when they find themselves in a terrifying situation.”

What do you consider your super-strengths to be as a writer, and your work-ons?

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“My strength seems to be getting deep into the mind of my characters and humanizing their inner struggles. My previous background has given me a lot of insight into how people interpret and react to situations based on their own life experiences, but I think my time in journalism also helped. I tend to profile my characters once I figure out what key events may take place in a story and that helps me determine the most likely reactions they would have throughout the story.

My work-on is avoiding overcomplicating a story as I tend to overthink the details. My first drafts always tend to be very complex and the rewrite process involves stripping away the excess layers and streamlining the action.”

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

MARNI SULLIVAN:

“My primary goal is to move beyond the shopping agreement / option phase and get something produced. I would like to be able to write full-time. If that happens, in the long term, I would love to have my own production company to collaborate with other creatives.”

The TITAN Screenwriting Contest banner

Quickfire Round:

Favourite Movie Made by the Judges:

“Toss up between JOHN WICK and ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Favourite TV show Made by the Judges:

THE CONTINENTAL

Your Top 10 Movies of All Time:

Your Top 10 TV Shows of All Time:

Official Trailer | Season 1 | LUCIFER

“Not sure, there are so many talented filmmakers out there. I admire Brit Marling a lot because she took the initiative to create her own stories after she found herself being typecasted as an actress. All her projects have depth and complex themes that keep you thinking long after you have seen them.”

Thanks Marni!

Learn more about The TITAN Screenwriting Contest.

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