The Baltimore Film Office at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) announces the winners of the 15th annual Baltimore Screenwriters Competition.

In the features category, Stephen Schuyler won first place for “Stealing Cars,” Evan Balkan won second place for “King of the Freaks” and Miceal O’Donnell won third place for “Wooden Nickels.”

In the shorts category, Stephen Schuyler also won first place for “Derby Night,” Chung-Wei Huang won second place for “Squeegee Boy” and Schuyler won third place for “Like You Think You Know Me.”

Winners will receive cash prizes and Movie Magic Screenwriter Six software.

The winners were selected by the competition judges, film industry professionals Ken LaZebink, Nina K. Noble, B.A. Parker and Annette Porter. The Baltimore Screenwriters Competition is a project of the Baltimore Film Office, in conjunction with film programs at Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University. Funding is provided by The Arts Insurance Program, a division of Maury Donnelly & Parr, Inc. Additional support is courtesy of the Maryland Film Festival, Enterprise Holdings, Write Brothers, and Visit Baltimore. Submitted scripts receive coverage from students in the Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University screenwriting programs and by local screenwriters and producers. The final screenplays are selected by the competition judges. 

The Baltimore Screenwriters Competition Winners Announcement has been adapted in response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) crisis. Winners of the competition are traditionally announced during the Maryland Film Festival, which has been canceled and was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2020.

Winner Biographies & Screenplay Summaries

Features Category

Stephen Schuyler – First Place

“Stealing Cars”

After his mother unexpectedly dies, Malik returns to Baltimore to stay with his previously abusive father.

Stephen Schuyler grew up in Baltimore City, where he worked on everything from no budget short films to multi-million-dollar studio productions. He completed his BFA in Creative Writing at Brooklyn College, where he was awarded the Goodman Short Story award, and went on to finish his MFA in Fiction at the University of Maryland. Most recently he was named as a 2020 Zaentz Film Fellow (SZIF) and Production Grant recipient through Johns Hopkins. He received a Katherine Anne Porter Fiction Prize for his short story “The Drought,” which was published in The Saint Ann’s Review. His short films have received grants from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Panavision, and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, among others, and have screened at festivals including Austin Film Festival and Sarasota Film Festival. He currently works as an adjunct professor at both American University and Howard Community College.

Evan Balkan – Second Place

“King of the Freaks”

Baltimorean Johnny Eck, born without the lower half of his body, is the center of attention not only for his disability, but for his charm and skill as a performer. 

Evan Balkan has published six books of nonfiction, including The Wrath of God (Univ. of New Mexico Press) as well as many essays and short stories. His novel Spitfire was published in Fall 2018 (Amphorae Publishing) and his novel Independence is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press. His screenplay Spitfire, adapted from his novel, won the 2016 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition and a Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund Fellowship, a Rocaberti scholarship, and was a semifinalist in the Screencraft Family Friendly Screenplay Competition and a finalist in the ISA Stowe Story Labs fellowship; his screenplay Children of Disobedience won the 2017 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition and his screenplay King of the Freaks won a 2020 Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund Fellowship. He is a co-writer for the television series Wayward Girls. He coordinates the English Department at the Community College of Baltimore County, where he runs the creative writing program, and is an adjunct faculty member in the Johns Hopkins University’s graduate Teaching Writing program.

Miceal O’Donnell – Third Place

“Wooden Nickels”

A detective collects evidence against his co-workers for their awful misdeeds, who in turn plot to make him disappear once they learn what he is up to.

Miceal O’Donnell was raised in Jersey City, NJ, and later received his Bachelor’s degree at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.  Post college, he worked as a baker, while pursuing music as a clarinet player in a hardcore punk band.  In 2000 he joined the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served as a Coxswain and a Federal Law Enforcement Agent, where he earned the USCG Achievement medal. After the military, he resided in New Orleans for ten years, where he made micro-budget features and short films, shot a short film in Berlin, Germany, and taught acting and screenwriting workshops. He moved to Baltimore, MD with his wife in 2011. His films have played at several festivals, including the New Orleans Film Festival, Nights on the Fringe, and the Baltimore International Black Film Festival. In 2015 he won first place in the Baltimore Screenwriters Competition in the feature length screenplay category, and in 2017 won second place in the same competition. In 2018, he was awarded a grant from the Baltimore Filmmakers Collective to make a web series, and was a finalist for the 2018 Baker Artist Award. In 2019 he was awarded the MSAC Individual Artist Award.

Shorts Category

Stephen Schuyler – First Place

“Derby Night”

Eli’s isolation takes a dark turn when Chenel joins the roller derby team at the local skate rink. 

Chung-Wei Huang – Second Place

“Squeegee Boy”

Coming of age story about Via, a gender-fluid black teenager who identifies as Vi. The film explores his troubled family dynamics, gender identity, social class and the theme of survival as well as a very specific circumstance that Baltimore faces.

Chung-Wei Huang is a Taiwanese writer-director based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her creative work focuses primarily on marginalized voices – either from the result of conflicts between race, gender, class, or nationality – with a particular interest in character-driven stories. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree in Film and Media Arts from Temple University. Her thesis film, Midnight Carnival (2018), premiered at the 41st Asian American International Film Festival in New York and has been selected by film festivals across the nation. She was a semifinalist for the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize in 2018 and selected as a finalist for the Baker Artist Awards in 2020. Currently, she teaches filmmaking at Towson University and Johns Hopkins.

Stephen Schuyler – Third Place

“Like You Think You Know Me”

A coming of age story set in South Baltimore. Melanie struggles to decide what kind of woman she will become, while trying to navigate the potential end of a new relationship. The only thing she knows for certain is she doesn’t want to be her mother.

Judges Biographies

Ken LaZebink

Ken LaZebink writes for television, film and the theatre.  He shares story credit with Garrison Keillor for the director Robert Altman’s last film: A Prairie Home Companion.  LaZebnik wrote the Lionsgate film Thomas Kinkaid’s Christmas Cottage, released in 2008, starring Peter O’Toole and Marcia Gay Harden. His television writing has ranged from over twenty scripts for Touched by An Angel, to writing for Army Wives, Providence, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the new series When Calls the Heart on the Hallmark Channel. He is Director of the LIU M.F.A. in Writing and Producing for Television – the TV Writers Studio.

Nina K. Noble

Nina Noble is a freelance producer, and producing partner of David Simon’s Blown Deadline Productions. With Simon, she has produced three long running series and three miniseries for HBO-The Wire, for which she won a DGA and Peabody award as well as a BAFTA nomination, the Peabody award winning Treme, and most recently The Deuce. Miniseries include The Corner, which won the 2000 Emmy for best miniseries, Generation Kill and Show me a Hero.  Her latest project is the HBO miniseries The Plot Against America, starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, Morgan Spector and John Turturro.  

B.A. Parker

B.A. Parker is a Brooklyn-based writer and audio producer. Her work has been produced for This American Life, NPR’s Invisibilia, Gimlet’s Heavyweight, and currently with WNYC’s Nancy. Parker is a recent recipient of the Third Coast Audio Residency at Ragdale. She earned a B.A. from Morgan State University, and is a graduate of the Columbia University M.F.A. Film Program.

Annette Porter
Annette is a Producer at Nylon Films, an independent film company based in Baltimore and Co-Director of the JHU MICA Film Centre.  She is also the Director of the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund at Johns Hopkins University, whose mission is to support new and emerging voices in filmmaking. Recognized for building and managing creative production teams internationally, Annette has directed and/or produced short and long form factual films on topics ranging from contemporary arts and culture to environmental and social issues for clients including: Avon, Campaign for Female Education, Rambert Dance Company, UNESCO, Victoria & Albert Museum, Warner Brothers, Women’s Aid, BBC, NBC, ITV, Discovery (Fr) and NHK (Japan).

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