Dr. George Johnson may have completed his screenplay, Peace Pledge, years ago, but as any writer knows, there’s rarely such thing as a final edit.
His efforts to polish and perfect his screenplay, however, were given a boost last month, after it won Toronto’s WILDsound Film Festival Screenplay Competition. Peace Pledge was recently accepted as an online event featured for the UN International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.
Part of the prize for winning the WILDsound festival included a staged reading of the entire script by professional actors. Johnson, a TRU professor in English and Modern Languages, encourages people to view and comment on the script, as he finds the constructive feedback valuable. He also hopes the reading draws the attention of film industry insiders.
“I’ve read it aloud to myself, but I found having that feedback from the reading, and hearing different people read the parts, has been really helpful. The script is still very much an ongoing process.”
Peace Pledge, which also received Honorable Mention in the 2015 Euroscript Screenwriting Competition, is based on the true story of Canon Dick Sheppard and the Peace Pledge Union of the 1930s, the strongest pacifist movement in history. Johnson began writing the script in 2012 after he was captivated by the story while conducting research for an academic book on First World War literature.
“Because the Peace Pledge movement wasn’t successful in an outward sense, the story was buried,” he said, adding that the script carries a number of lessons that are especially relevant today.
“The story has powerful themes about love, loyalty and freedom, and it is so current for today. People were anxious in the 1930s about another war happening, but the pacifist movement was too late to be effective in stopping dictators like Mussolini and Hitler. If they’d started earlier they might have had a chance.
“I hope this makes people think about the dangers of letting leaders get into power who are war mongers, and who aren’t afraid to provoke other countries. There are lots of parallels, and it really shows us how much we haven’t learned from our past.”
George Johnson has written about a dozen stage-plays, including the award-winning Still Life With Nudes, which won the National Playwriting Award, and The Wonder, a finalist in the British Independent Film Festival and very recently a finalist in the Contest of Contest Winners Competition in L.A.. He has also written several children’s stories, one of which, Marissa and the Mountains, will be published by Simply Read in 2019.