Campbell River’s own Emily Koopman pauses for a photo on the red carpet at the 2015 Las Vegas Film Festival before not being allowed into the awards party where she won first place in the screenplay category because she’s only 20.

Young Riverite wins Las Vegas screenplay competition

Campbell River product’s piece, Long Way Home, took top honours in the screenplay category

Emily Koopman has already received more accolades than most of us ever will, and she’s just getting started in her career in her chosen industry.

At last week’s Las Vegas Film Festival (LVFF), the Campbell River product’s piece, Long Way Home, took top honours in the screenplay category, and she couldn’t be more thrilled – or shocked.

“I had no idea what to expect,” she said. “All I really knew is that I was one of 12 finalists and that I’d been invited to come down for the awards.”

And after she made the trip all that way with her father, had seen a few films in the festival and some of the Vegas sites, she ended up being one of the last to find out she’d won top honours in screenplay writing at the competition.

“I actually wasn’t allowed into the party where they were giving out the awards,” the 20 year-old laughs. “I’m a few months short of being legal age down there,” so she went back the next day, gave them her name and the name of her screenplay, and was given the good news.

“They were, like, ‘This is maybe the worst way to tell you this, but you won,’” she laughs.

Koopman has had a long relationship with the entertainment industry, film, and the narrative form for someone so young, but that’s what happens when you start in on something early in life.

She says she wrote her first “novella” – a 30-page story based on her early experiences in Scotland – which she visited for a few weeks as a child – at the ripe old age of five.

“I’ve always loved writing,” she says, “and when my family was on a trip down in California, we were invited backstage at the taping of a Disney show, I was handed a script, and that was it for me,” she says.

“I just thought it would be so cool to be able to channel my creativity into something visual, having always been enthralled with film and television … it just really solidified it in me that this was something I wanted to pursue. This could be real.”

After graduating from Carhi in 2013, Koopman went on to attend the Vancouver Film School for an intensive one-year compressed program, where she wrote Long Way Home, as her final project, which she calls a Sci-Fi-Comedy.

Apparently, it was – and is – very good.

“I’ve submitted it to quite a few festivals,” she says, “and so far it has always been at least a finalist, which is really cool.”

For example, Long Way Home was also a shortlisted finalist at the 2015 California Women’s Film Festival and an official selection at the 2015 Fantasmagorical Film Festival, held at Fandom Fest in Louisville, KY earlier this month.

“Those are the only others that have made decisions, but I’ve entered about 15 different festivals with the same script.

“I think I’ve been on a lucky streak.”

Long Way Home is about a depressed 21 year-old who goes soul-searching in the Mojave Desert, Koopman says. “She meets some friends along the way and later discovers they’re not exactly from this planet, and gets swept up in a government-led man (or rather alien) hunt.”

So what’s next for Koopman?

While she says it would be great to have someone show interest in purchasing Long Way Home, and have it go into production, she’s more focused on continuing her writing. She hopes to continue to do well in various festivals and screenplay competitions, as that would make it easier to get a literary agent or manager – which would be the next big step in her career.

And she certainly is writing.

She has recently completed a sitcom pilot, she’s still working away on her blog, emilykoopman.com, where she interviews various people in music, film and television, talks about her various projects, and promotes things and people she likes.

She also runs the official website for actor Colin Ford (Under the Dome, Supernatural, We Bought a Zoo), and says she has “about five Sci-Fi scripts on the go at all times.”

She’s planning on heading down to Los Angeles to spend a month looking for work next March – since that’s where most of the writing gigs are – but for now, she’ll just chip away on her craft here in Campbell River, working at the Visitor’s Centre in between shifts at her writing desk, chipping away at possibly becoming the next big thing behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.