Alumni in Action: Frankie Campisano ’16 recognized for recent screenplay

Their script “DROP DEAD” placed in four major film festivals.

Frankie Campisano ’16 won best screenplay and best dark comedy teleplay at two different film festivals for the script “DROP DEAD” — just two of the many accolades their work has received in the last year. Their script “DROP DEAD” is about a struggling stand-up comic and her journey to recovery after self-destructing in an onstage bender.

First outlined as a pilot during Campisano’s senior year, “DROP DEAD” has existed in a couple of different forms through the years. The live-action screenplay touched on their own experiences with mental health and “the general absurdity of real life.”

2016 represented the cusp of change for Campisano, as they recognized that mental health was not receiving the attention in mainstream comedy that it deserved.

“Some really dark comedies that focus on mental health have a toxic character at their center,” Campisano said. “I don’t think that’s a universal experience. Folks who are struggling with mental health do not show it as a big billboard kind of thing. You cannot necessarily tell what someone is going through from the outside.”

Campisano wanted to portray the reality of mental health struggles in a way that everyone could understand. While the world in “DROP DEAD” was a heightened reality, the characters were dealing with serious problems.

Their goal is to get “DROP DEAD” out to the world as a script, and they are not jumping into production anytime soon. Currently, Campisano is working on a comic book, an animated project and a few different shorts.

Campisano majored in cinema arts and television with a focus in screenwriting but also enjoyed taking the occasional English and creative writing course. Not only did they enjoy having a “foot in each world,” they found that the writing in both departments informed each other in style and technique.

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They jumped at the opportunity to get involved with student media organizations, writing the humor column for The Pendulum, hosting a weekly radio show on WSOE and working as director of development for ESTV. Campisano also wrote satirical reviews for Elon’s lifestyle magazine, The Edge, and worked at local restaurant Tangent Eat + Bar.

“It was a big part of what drew me to Elon originally, the opportunity to hit the ground running from day one,” Campisano said. “I still find myself trying to take on as much as I can in the postgrad world to get back to the joy of juggling a million things.”

Naeemah Clark, professor of cinema and television arts, knew Campisano throughout their time at Elon and is not surprised with what they are accomplishing today.

“As a first-year student, it was clear that Frankie was a dedicated filmmaker,” Clark said. “His creativity, sense of humor, and willingness to try new things with storytelling has served him well.”

Campisano hopes to use “DROP DEAD” as a starting point for a career learning from field experts and will continue to take their project to contests and festivals. They view the recent recognition as momentum into their creative career and the push to keep working on the craft that they first developed as a student at Elon.

“I can’t speak highly enough about both the School of Communications and the English department for the career and personal opportunities coming out of Elon,” Campisano said. “I met my wife in a poetry class. Elon has shaped my post-grad experience in ways that I never expected it to.”

Full List of Accolades for “DROP DEAD”

  • First Place Winner – Best Screenplay – Feel the Reel International Film Festival (Aug 2022)
  • Award Winner – Best Dark Comedy Teleplay, Georgia Comedy Film Festival (2022)
  • Finalist – Great American Script Contest (2022)
  • Finalist – Peachtree Village International Film Festival (2022)
  • Finalist – Best Dark Comedy Screenplay, Houston Comedy Film Festival (2022)
  • Semi-Finalist – Emerging Screenwriters Comedy Screenplay Competition (2022)
  • Semi-Finalist – Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards (Summer 2022)
  • Quarter-Finalist – Stage32 New Voices in Animation Screenwriting Contest (2022)
  • Quarter-Finalist – Vail Film Festival Screenplay Competition (2022)
  • Quarter-Finalist – Creative Screenwriting TV Pilot Screenplay Competition (2022)
  • Quarter-Finalist – New York Metropolitan Screenwriting Competition (2022)
  • Quarter-Finalist – Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay Awards (Season 7)
  • Quarter-Finalist – Filmmatic TV Pilot Awards (Season 7)
  • Official Selection – Script Summit Screenplay Contest (2022)
  • Official Selection – Atlanta Comedy Film Festival (2022)
  • Official Selection – Yucca Valley Film Festival (2022)
  • Official Selection – Women’s Comedy Film Festival in Atlanta (2023)