Persephone Vandegrift is a multi-award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker, playwright, and author from Central Oregon. Inspired by the human condition, she finds herself drawn to write stories showcasing journeys of self-discovery, love, overcoming adversity, and believes it is vital to have these stories reflected back to us on screen, in books, and on the stage. In 2009, Persephone officially launched her writing career with her first full-length play, Revenge and Sorrow in Thebes, a reformulation of The Bacchae of Euripides, which was nominated as one of the top six most memorable theatre events in Seattle for that year. Since then, her plays, poetry, and short fiction have been produced and published, both nationally and internationally. In 2011, keen to break into screenwriting, she wrote and co-produced her first short film, All Things Hidden, which explores the ramifications of growing up with domestic violence. She followed that up with other shorts The Last Light and The Clown,and is currently working on several feature and TV projects. Besides screenwriting, she is also the author of Rosehip: A Very Curious Fairy, available on Amazon. She can be reached onTwitter, LinkedIn, or her Website.
NY Elite: Congratulations on being an ISC finalist. What does it mean for your work to be selected at the International Screenwriting Competition in New York?
Persephone Vandegrift: Thank you for that.I am originally from upstate New York, and having my screenplay recognized in my home state for the first time is fantastic! The support that ISC has given us screenwriters with interviews and media shout outs has been incredible.
NY Elite: Can you tell us about the work that you participated with at ISC? What is the story about?
Persephone Vandegrift: The feature screenplay I entered is called THE BRIDGE and is a supernatural horror that takes place in a small town about a vengeful entity that haunts a local swimming hole. We learn the story behind the entity, and how a grief-stricken woman, whose brother was a victim of the entity’s wrath, is forced to find a way to stop it from killing again.
NY Elite: Can you tell us about yourself and your artistic talents?
Persephone Vandegrift: I grew up in a small town that thankfully had a well-established theatre. Once I landed my first role at the age of 9, I fell madly in love with the stage.It gave me the confidence and passion to stay on the creative path. After graduating from college with a B.A in Theatre and History, I took time off from acting to pursue writing. I tried my hand at everything: poetry, fiction, plays, and then screenplays. Once I realized I had found my true voice in writing I never looked back! When I’m not writing, I am an avid rock-hounder and teach creative writing workshops.
NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far?
Persephone Vandegrift: I have historical biopics on Agrippina the Elder and Boudicca, a WW2 female-led limited TV series, a dramatic comedy TV series, a YA fantasy/adventure trilogy, a romantic comedy set in Scotland, as well as several short scripts in the fantasy, drama, and romantic comedy genres. I also have a couple of documentaries.
NY Elite: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?
Persephone Vandegrift: Besides my short films, my three favorites scripts are my biopic on Agrippina the Elder, Death Of A Mortal Woman, my romantic comedy set in Scotland, The Water King, and my fantasy adventure script, The Secret Of Banrion Wood.
NY Elite: What type of scripts do you want to write in your career?
Persephone Vandegrift: My goal is to write stories that an audience will want to emotionally invest in, ones that empower them, pique their curiosity, make them feel something. I am a history and mythology geek, so I am immediately drawn to finding and bringing stories of fascinating little-known historical characters to light or finding a new way to tell an old ‘tale’. Ideally, I want to write stories that people want to see on the screen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fantasy, comedy, or drama as long as it involves someone overcoming adversity or doing something they never thought they could do – that’s what I love to write. Above all, I want to write stories that will entertain, engage, and give people something to talk about when it’s over!
NY Elite: As a writer, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
Persephone Vandegrift: I feel that once you’ve got the journey you want your character(s) to go on, it’s really important to listen to them. Ask them what they want, what they don’t want, what are their weaknesses, strengths. Will they tell you? Do they prefer to hide the truth? What do they love, hate, fear? Make them relatable. Find ways to torment them, challenge them, and help them discover their purpose. Observe their reactions to the challenges. Just be true to them, and they will be true to you. They might put up a fight at times, but that’s the joy of building a character!
NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?
Persephone Vandegrift: Most recently I’ve been working on new drama/folktale idea and plugging away on an early civilization inspired novella. Besides that, I’m going through each script, making some rewrites if need be, and getting them into contests.
NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Persephone Vandegrift: During the covid quarantine, I was determined to be a better baker because I love baked sweets, but discovered I am absolutely terrible at it! It’s rather embarrassing. So I stick to cooking and trying out recipes from around the world. I also make jewelry, fairy houses, and just getting into gardening.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking/writing?
Persephone Vandegrift: What I have learned over the past decade is to surround yourself with the people who are inclusive, passionate, and who want to bring out the best in you, as you would do the same for them. Network as much as you can, but be polite and generous when doing so. Understand that not everyone will want to read your work and you just have to keep going until you find someone who does. Watch films, read scripts. There are great videos on You Tube now from so many esteemed screenwriting and filmmaking professionals giving such amazing helpful advice. It took me a while to find my own footing. I had a lot of fails because I was naive, and then some successes. Being in the creative industry is a roller coaster. Hold on tight, keep your wits about you, and believe in yourself.