Jonathan Hyman (AB ’20), a recent graduate of the Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST) Department at Grady College, has received high recognition in the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. His script for a feature film titled “Freaknik” has been named one of the festival’s three winners.
“To win a competition like this is just awesome for Jon,” said Matthew Evans, an assistant professor in EMST, who worked with Hyman to help develop the script. “To put it in perspective, the Atlanta Film Festival gets thousands of submissions—so it’s extremely competitive. It means that Jon beat out a lot of really good scripts.”
Hyman’s script takes readers to Atlanta’s Freaknik festival during spring break of 1993 and follows a tight-knit circle of friends that matures over a weekend full of parties, love and drama.
“Being one of the feature winners for this year’s Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Award feels a little surreal,” said Hyman. “For the most part, though, it feels like a challenge to keep pushing forward. There’s so much about the craft of writing itself and the entertainment business as a whole that I still have left to learn. I am very grateful and appreciative that the script was so well-received by the Atlanta Film Society, and my hope is that one day I’ll be able to share ‘Freaknik’ with audiences as a feature film.”
His whole life, Hyman explained, has been full of stories from family and friends about how exhilarating Freaknik was. That, along with a desire to center his writing around Atlanta-based stories, inspired Hyman to write his award-winning script.
“There were other ideas that I had (and still have) in mind, but Freaknik had yet to be explored in film, and I had a treasure trove of stories from my family to pull inspiration from, so it felt right,” said Hyman.
The origin story for Hyman’s “Freaknik” goes back to the fall of 2019, when he asked Evans to supervise an independent study. In early January of 2020, Hyman brought three feature film ideas to Evans, “Freaknik” being one of them. Over the following months, Hyman wrote a synopsis, then an outline, and then each subsequent act, piece-by-piece. Evans provided thoughtful feedback and honest critique each step of the way, Hyman explained.
“I think the best thing about Jon’s screenplay is that it’s authentic. It’s authentically funny. It’s authentically sweet. And it’s authentically fresh, in terms of its point of view,” said Evans. “But more important than the recognition is the industry support and mentorship that Jon will get as a winner.”
For his award-winning script, Hyman will receive a cash prize and accommodation at the festival, plus an all-access badge, invitation to the exclusive Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriters Retreat and an opportunity to take part in a staged reading of an excerpt of his winning screenplay during the Atlanta Film Festival, conducted by Atlanta SAG/SAG-Aftra actors.
“These are the connections that can help take Jon’s career to the next level, such as finding literary representation and getting ‘Freaknik’ read by producers,” Evans added. “Those are the first steps to getting this movie made. Anybody who wins a competition of this caliber will definitely be seen as a new writer to pay attention to, so lots of people are going to want to read this script. And ‘Freaknik’ is a spectacular calling card.”
April 9, 2023 Author:
Jackson Schroeder, Jackson.Schroeder@uga.edu