Wendy Wasserstrom, a 16-year-old student at Bexley High School, won first place in the Film Columbus Teen Screenwriting Competition and Workshop for her screenplay, “The Goodbye.” Winners were announced in June.
The competition, geared toward Central Ohio teenagers ages 13 to 18, began with a series of Zoom sessions led by the Columbus College of Art & Design, culminating in all participants submitting a three- to five-page screenplay for judging. The top three submissions were rounded out by Luna Atkins-Hanshaw’s “Chamomile Dreams” and Alina Baer’s “Lockdown.”
Wasserstrom, who lives in Bexley with her parents, Eric and Jennifer, and attends Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, said she had just gotten home from school and was having a snack when she found out she’d won.
“I have an iPhone, so I just put my face over my phone to unlock it because I heard a notification and I saw it and was like, ‘Oh my God,’” she told the Columbus Jewish News June 18. “I was yelling, ‘I won, I won.’ I told my mom that I won and we started jumping up and down. My dad came up from the basement, because he was on a work call, and we all just started screaming. It was really exciting.”
“The Goodbye” is based on a personal loss in Wasserstrom’s life, centered upon coming to terms that she needs to let go of a friend that died and that she needs to move on because that friend is in a better place.
“Four years ago, I lost a close friend of mine to an accident,” she said. “She was my best friend growing up, and I feel like the friendship just kind of drifted away because we started going to different schools. We kind of always did that, drift away and then reconnect and become best friends again. But we never got to do that this time. So, I wanted to do something for her and ended up writing the screenplay for her.”
While Wasserstrom said she doesn’t know why she was selected for first place, she said she took the advice of past winners to inform her work.
“The winners from last year were telling us to use a personal experience so you can feel connected to the storytelling,” Wasserstrom said. “And that ended up going well.”
Though she has always been interested in writing and is an avid movie lover herself, Wasserstrom said the workshop series and competition taught her a lot about the art of story-building and screenwriting.
“It taught me to take some time that you’re not going to get the idea right away,” she said. “It’s going to take some time and that I need to look back on the life I’ve had so far. I’m only 16 but (her death) altered my life. And I just wanted to incorporate that idea in some way. So, I want to continue that.”
She also began to understand how much organization went into creating a cohesive story.
“Even before this workshop I did writing on my own, but now I have a white board in my room, just like always storyboarding things,” Wasserstrom said. “What I’ll be writing is just in my brain, but my thoughts get jumbled together. So, I like writing things out and making it organized.”
With plans after high school to pursue a screenwriting or entertainment program, Wasserstrom said her biggest takeaway was that it takes time to make something you’re proud of.
“Everything takes time, and that no matter what, do your best, and even if I didn’t win, I knew that I was going to be proud of what I did because I did it for my friend,” she said. “This is what I wanted to do, and I can’t wait to do more.”