Screenwriting competition names WTOP’s Jason Fraley a finalist

Jason Fraley holds his script “Cinemagic,” a finalist in the Screencraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy Screenplay Competition. (Ashley Marie)

WTOP’s entertainment editor, film critic and screenwriter Jason Fraley has been named a finalist in a competition that is considered among Hollywood’s most prestigious of its kind.

Fraley was one of about 1,600 people who entered the ScreenCraft Sci-Fi and Fantasy Screenwriting Competition, and he has now secured a spot in the Top 50.

“I think it’s exciting, and congrats to all the 50 writers that have made it so far. Screenwriting is hard. Many people work at it for many years,” Fraley said.

The screenplay that got him there is called “Cinemagic.” Fraley wrote it in 2010, when he was a graduate student at American University.

He recently made some changes, adding in scenes he had previously taken out.

“I love movie history, and this was sort of my way to turn that into a script that celebrates it, but also weaves in some more fantasy elements,” Fraley said.

“Back when I wrote it, I was thinking of the first movie theater I ever went to, which was the Druid in Damascus, Maryland, because that’s where my grandparents lived — both sets of my grandparents — and it’s now a Rite Aid pharmacy.”

The story is set in 1946, where a soon-to-be father inherits a movie theater from his dad, who recently died. But, for financial reasons, the man and his pregnant wife decide to close the theater for good.

“The day that he’s about to shut it down,” said Fraley, “he goes into his office to turn out the lights one final time, and on his desk is a shiny, magical tin can of a movie reel and it says ‘The Godfather, 1972’. And he says, ‘Wait a minute, we’re in 1946. How is this movie from the 70s sitting on my desk?'”

So the man screens the movie, audiences are thrilled and even more films from the future mysteriously appear.

“It builds sort of to a cool twist, so we’re not going to spoil, but I just think it’s a good family movie. It really reminds me of ‘Field of Dreams’ or something. Instead of ‘if you build it, he will come’, it’s ‘if you screen it, they will come’,” said Fraley.

He previously entered “Cinemagic” in a different competition, where it also did well back in 2010.

“I submitted it to something called the Academy Nicholl Fellowships — the Academy Awards puts that on — and it made the top 10% of that.”

The Screencraft winners will be announced July 15, but Fraley hopes that just being a finalist earns “Cinemagic” more interest.

“Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Scorsese, if you’re out there (and) you want to make it — take it on — fine,” Fraley joked. “I’m hoping it gets made.”

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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