Meet Annie O’Connell and Reem Edan. They are comedians, screenwriters, and the overall winners of Filmmatic’s 2019 Comedy Screenplay Awards. Annie and Reem won for their hilarious comedic pilot aptly entitled “The Degenerates”. Their project follows the crazy beautiful lives of five freshmen girls living on the same dormitory floor at the University of Miami. It’s a new school, a fresh start, and wonderful opportunity for everyone to mess up as they go. The pilot pays homage to the best four years of “education” we all vaguely remember. We sent these talented ladies a few questions after their win, and they were nice enough to respond: 1) How long have you both been writing? Annie: I’ve been screenwriting for about five years now. Reem: I’ve been writing for about 3 years. I started off as a standup comedian and naturally evolved into a screenwriter.
2) What screenwriting training have you received? Annie: I went to University of Miami for undergrad. After changing majors a solid five times, I decided to go with my gut and pursue a screenwriting degree junior year. Reem: I taught myself how to write by studying and taking notes on my favorite show scripts. I’ve been weary of receiving any formal training as I stick to the rules too much when I learn something the “right way.”
3) How long have you been writing together as a team? Is this your only co-authored work?
Annie: Degenerates is our first project together. I actually wrote this pilot my senior year of college and met an actor and producer interested in the script who introduced me to Reem. After checking out her comedic work and seeing she had more experience than me, as I was only 22 at the time, I thought she was the perfect fit to clean things up and amp up the comedy. I really hope to write more with her in the future, she is a riot!
Reem: We started writing together on this project, so it’s been well over a year now! But it’s been pretty seamless. Annie came up with the idea/original script and I came in to help format/punch up. It’s been a true collaboration!
4) What writing habits work for each of you? Do you write in short or long shifts, binge writing or scheduled sessions?
Annie: My writing habits definitely vary. I do feel like I tend to accomplish more when I binge write. It usually takes me an hour or two to actually get in the right mindset and get in the zone. Once I break that barrier I just write until I get tired, which can honestly be five hours later depending on the day. Right now I’m working on a project with a British co-writer, so being that he is eight hours ahead, I’m on a morning writing schedule for three to four hours Monday through Friday.
Reem: I wish I had a more ironed-out approach to it. On personal projects, I like posting up in a coffee shop and binge writing (or better yet, on planes with no interruption or distraction). For this project, Annie and I wrote while on different sides of the country. We would work through a draft by leaving comments in FDX and address them together over a Skype session. But as always, deadlines are key.
5) What genres do you lean towards? Are all of your works comedy?
Annie: When people ask what genre I write I always say, “my writing samples describe how indecisive I am as a person.” I write EVERYTHING, can’t seem to stick to a genre – comedy, action, sci-fi, thriller, etc. I do feel like comedy comes more naturally as I write very situational scenes with quick witty and sarcastic banter. The situations I create are always loosely based on actual scenarios that have happened. I’m definitely someone that tends to find herself in sticky situations not exactly ideal in the moment, but six months later I can look back and laugh. “Why does this only happen to you,” is a question I hear more often than not.
Reem: Comedy, comedy, comedy. I’m a standup comedian, so it’s my cereal-and-milk.
6) Our judges loved “The Degenerates”, how would you describe the pilot to our readers?
Annie: Animal House meets The Hangover written in a 2019 female’s perspective. Following the crazy beautiful lives of five fresh-woman days after moving to the same dorm floor, Degenerates pays homage to the best four years of “education” we all vaguely remember. Women can obviously relate and guys, well they have a “fly in the wall” viewpoint as to what happens during the morning-after struggle and what we really talk about behind closed doors.
Reem: A hilariously real look at the interwoven lives of college fresh-women dealing with the ups and downs of this life chapter.
7) “The Degenerates” seems like a viable project. Any 3rd party interest thus far? Where/how are you shopping it?
Annie: I actually signed Degenerates with a third party in a very loose shopping agreement right out of college. Still hoping something will come out of it!
Reem: We haven’t taken it out just yet, but that’s the next step! Especially with the wind this puts behind our sails!
8) What are you working on now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Annie: I just finished a supernatural-drama pilot with an English co-writer. Realizing we write well together, we’ve moved onto a psychological thriller we’re hoping to produce as an Indie within the next year. Who knows what genre will be next after! It may be a history piece I’ve been sitting on for the last year or maybe it’s time for a new sitcom.
Reem: I’ve personally been working on my standup hour. I’m also writing a comedy feature and working on my next writing sample to use for staffing.
9) Any advice for those about to write their first TV pilot or feature? Annie: Biggest advice is just write and write. When you want to give up, write even more. I find for myself if I get stuck in a procrastination state it usually is because I have a subconscious worry that it may not turn out as originally planned. What I’ve learned through the years is the end product is NEVER exactly how I envisioned it… it’s always 10x better. Reem: Just do it. I taught myself by reading scripts I loved and mimicking that, and have progressed a lot since then! Get friends to help with edits and write from what you know. Congratulations once again to both Annie and Reem, the 2019 Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay Awards Winners. All contact requests will be forwarded to their attention.