A program to turn an emerging screenwriter's work into a short film has awarded its top prize to David Haas, a retired lawyer who owes his writing career to anger in the courtroom and a penchant for winning competitions.
Haas, 77, had never written a screenplay before. But when COVID-19 put a crimp in his playwriting, he turned his attention to the Alberta Screenwriter Accelerator Program, created by the Edmonton Short Film Festival.
Of the 67 scripts that were submitted, Haas's Stage-Door Johnny won the $20,000 prize, which covers everything from script editing to shooting to post-production and mentorship from writer Neil Chase and director Gilbert Allan. The film will premiere at the festival on Oct. 15.
"I was delighted to win this competition," Haas told Taproot. "At root, I consider myself a yarn spinner, a creator of stories. Screenplays and stage plays are just different ways of getting the story out."
Haas first got the writing bug in 1978 when something in the courtroom set him off.
"When they read the charges to people, they had this legal document that was babble to most people. They didn't know what it was, and they would be asked to make choices that were fairly important," he said.
He needed an outlet for his frustration. And an unusual one emerged.
"I spotted an advertisement in the Edmonton Journal for a one-act play contest," he said. "At this point, I had taken in a number of plays. I read one. I was kind of excited about that."