Hollywood, Schmollywood

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A year ago I was frantically shopping for clothes to make my first appearance on the red carpet in Cannes with Robin Wright, Nini Le Huynh and Alfonso Carrion for THE DARK OF NIGHT. Anyone who knows me well knows I am anything but a fashion plate.  I needed…everything…Spanx, bras, shoes, an evening gown, underpants.  I hadn’t had a manicure or pedicure in years, Diana Ferguson sent me a gorgeous pair of earrings she’d made because I didn’t have any jewelry worth mentioning,  plus I spent a fortune getting what good clothes I had dry cleaned,  crammed everything in a suitcase you could have transported a body in and headed to the airport.

The Cannes Film Festival put us up at the Hotel Martinez, which was the host hotel for the event, so I had a front row seat to everything that happened, from celebrity departures opening night, to the scores of paparazzi surrounding the hotel every day waiting to photograph every move anyone made, to breakfast with Robin and Nini each morning of our stay, to the anniversary dinner honoring the 70th edition of the film festival with everyone from Monica Belluci to Julianne Moore in attendance.

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Before I left I had nightmares I would return to the job I had at the time, fixing toilets in RV’s with my husband, Michael, instead of a career in film we had both worked so hard for. Despite having gotten into a number of other films festivals, having our film selected by the LA Femme International Film Festival as Best Short, and recently winning a Gold Award from the L.A. Neo Noir Film Festival, it was back to the RV business with a vengeance.

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I told myself when I got back there were five screenwriting competitions or fellowships I would submit to last year and if I got into any one of them, I would know I was on the right track. I won a coveted fellowship with the New York Stage and Filmmakers Workshop at Vassar, but I didn’t make the cut for any of the five competitions I’d set for myself as a yardstick, and it was through the New York Stage and Filmmakers Workshop that I did begin meeting people who HAD succeeded where I had failed, including Academy Award winning producers, actors, TV executives and directors.

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Despite having had major success at the box office, and sometimes an Oscar to show for it, they are no better off, or farther along than I am.

And that’s when the reality of the business I am hit me like a ton of bricks.

Hollywood is worst business model on the planet. And a huge part of why the business model is so successful, is the way in which it encourages massive insecurity and complete lack of access all while lamenting the inability to find and foster qualified talent.  No other business would a market a product that made investors millions and then refuse to make any other product like it because the last one was an  “anomaly,” and yet that is the way Hollywood works and does business on a daily basis.

I wrote a script called RIDE THE WIND, about motorcycle legend, Bessie Stringfield four years ago. The script is under option with Jay Ellis, who stars in INSECURE and he told me not long ago that while every executive who’s read it, loves it, they just can’t imagine a market for a period piece about a black woman. HIDDEN FIGURES made $252 million domestically on a $25 million dollar budget, but NO ONE CAN FIGURE OUT HOW A MOVIE WITH A BLACK FEMALE LEAD COULD POSSIBLY MAKE A DIME, so there the script sits, with no one attached to direct or star even though an article in the New York Times came out a few weeks ago about Bessie Stringfield that everyone read and everyone forwarded to me, and I swear to God, I can hear at least a dozen people frantically writing scripts about her as I type this, because the story is that good and 20 MILLION people on Facebook watched a Timeline video about her, and if that’s not enough to convince you there is a market for this then I don’t know what is. But no one in Hollywood can even begin to imagine how a script about a black woman with a remarkable, unsung life, could POSSIBLY make any money at the box office.

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Someone will make this movie someday, and I fear it won’t be me, and that, in some kind of nutshell, is what this business is all about. I belong to a group of women writers who are so close to that goddamned brass ring it has all but smacked them in the face, and many are at the point where they have started to wonder what THEY are doing wrong and what THEY can do to change a system that has its own ever-changing set of rules.  Other businesses make sense. Why the hell doesn’t this one?

I think it’s because there are people who get handed the Golden Ticket to the Show early in life, and never look back. That doesn’t mean everything else in their lives comes as easily, but it leaves the rest of us thinking, what did they do that I didn’t, and how I can do that same thing, and for me, after nearly three months of the worst depression I have ever encountered in my entire life, I finally decided that the idea that you have to give 150% just to get passed over, doesn’t work for me anymore.

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I will be 59 years old this year. I don’t have the time or the patience to spend countless years of my life chasing after something I don’t understand, that seems as random as getting cancer, or winning the lottery, or being chosen as a Nicholls Fellow. I set out to become the best writer I could be, and after winning several script competitions and advancing, twice now, to the second round of Sundance writing labs, walking the red carpet at Cannes, and working to hone my craft, I have come to the conclusion that if Hollywood wants me, they are going to have to come to me. I want to work on my house, and take the trips I’ve been holding off on thinking someday the career I’d always dreamed of would be a reality and I would have the resources I needed to do the things I want to. I have started painting again, and when I start to write again, I will write what fills my soul, and if I ever make it to Cannes again, it will be with Michael, either on the red carpet, or not.

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And here’s the thing…

For the first time in my life, a literary agency reached out to me, just last week, asking to represent me. They are a boutique agency based out of Montreal with connections to the European market where the kinds of independent films and TV series I write are coveted. This could finally be my time, and, it could not.

But either way I have made peace with the idea that this is either meant to happen, or it’s not. My job is to be an amazing writer. The rest is out of my hands.

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Writing About Writing When You Are Getting Nowhere Fast is like Shopping When You Are Hungry. You Probably Shouldn’t, but Who’s Going to Stop You?

There’s this post on Facebook today. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything that matters, like the March for Life, or gun control, or the Mueller investigation. It has to do with reaching for your dreams even when your dreams seem hellbent on defeating you. walk

This picture was posted on a screenwriting page as a way of encouraging screenwriters not to give up on their dreams.  One young man said, in response,  “what if it isn’t going at all? Can’t find an agent. No one will read anything. Can’t even get a return email rejecting me. It’s unprofessional garbage. New writers are locked out.”

That’s because, MOST writers are locked out.  Actually, most people in the film business, no matter where they land on the food chain, are part of  a system unlike any other business on the planet that is designed to lock you out.  Because now matter how successful you are, no matter how much money your film has made, or how many Academy Awards it has been nominated for, it never gets any easier.

Last year I met the producers of not one, but THREE Academy Award nominated films, one of which won an Academy Award for  Best Picture.  She said the film took seven years from concept to execution and even though the film won an Oscar,  she is back at square one developing material and taking meetings like she is new to the business and has never won $2 on a scratch-off ticket must less the most coveted trophy in all of Hollywood.  I went to an event last summer where female filmmakers listed their (rather considerable) accomplishments before admitting that they either had a feature film that went nowhere, or that they’d won several screenwriting competitions or workshops/fellowships that ALSO went nowhere, and were wondering what they were doing wrong when everything about their experience said that under normal circumstances, the career path ahead should be smooth sailing.  After all, if you land a major account at a law firm, the chances of becoming partner grow exponentially even if it takes awhile.   I’ve heard it said that even if The Black Panther makes a billion dollars at the box office, white Hollywood will still think its an anomaly and not rush to make any movie with a black lead because they aren’t sure there is an audience for movies about black people.  That’s like Coca Cola saying, “that last beverage thing we did made ten times what Coke does, but we aren’t going to try it again because there probably isn’t a market for it.”

For the past thirty years, all I have heard – all any screenwriter has heard – is that the path to success is a good writing.  Write a good screenplay, and the road to a successful future will be lined with gold.

Last summer I won a coveted spot with a writers workshop where nine amazing writers gathered to have their work torn to shreds by mentors who would blow your mind.  The torn to shreds part is good.  Because these people were directors, actors, producers, executives, film festival programmers, with the sort of experience and connections and box office triumphs that would blow your mind, and their insights were designed to make our work so amazing no one could ever turn us down again.  I went into this experience the oldest writer by far, with the idea that if I could just win – or even be a finalist – in one of the top five writing contests on my bucket list, I was IN. As a writer,  in my mind at least, I would never had anything to worry about again.

And this workshop was an astounding place to start.

But several writers on our group HAD won the screenwriting competitions I thought would pave the way and they are only inches ahead of me.  One was an Writers List winner. One was a semi-finalist for the Nicholl Awards.  And ALL of us went back to our day jobs after discovering that winning an Oscar, or turning a $25 million dollar investment in a film that made $252 million domestically (HIDDEN FIGURES) is no guarantee of a career in film.

Just because George Clooney’s aunt was Rosemary Clooney, or Jason Momoa married Lisa Bonet, doesn’t mean that Denise Meyers, who lives in Mars Hill, North Carolina, who started in the film business with Bryan Lourd, and Mike DeLuca and Mark Ordesky and Josh Donen, who had a film directed by Robin Wright, or who exchanges emails with Sam Rockwell and Jay Ellis, will ever be anything more than the woman who co-owns an RV repair business and fixes toilets to help pay the bills even after being named one of the Top 25 screenwriters to watch in 2018 by the International Screenwriters Association.

This is Hollywood.

And there are worse things that happen in the world than a screenwriter who wonders, if great writing isn’t enough, then, what is?

The Ugly Truth…

For the past twenty five years I have been obsessed with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots. A lot of people have tried getting a story about these pioneering women made into a film or TV series; Kathleen Kennedy, Stacey Sherr, Bo Derek, Michael Sugar. A script I wrote about the WASP, LUCKY 13, has been through at least a hundred drafts and at least as many screenwriting competitions as more information about the story and the remarkable girls who trained at the only all female airbase in American history became available.

Along the way, I began to collect WASP memorabilia. It’s harder than hell to find anything original because less than 1100 WASP made it through the program. I have two pairs of wings, an original Fifinella pin, original badges, some paper dolls and a zoot suit.

Three years ago, I found a treasure trove of handwritten letters on ebay written by a WASP, some on WASP stationary, and spent a small fortune buying the letters with the help of an incredibly generous friend. And then, I spent months putting them together in chronological order.

The story that unfolded was amazing. What was even more amazing, is that I took a novel writing class through the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA to figure out what to do with them, and on the first night of class, one of the other participants said her great aunt was a WASP.

At the break, I asked what her great aunt’s name was.

I know this sounds crazy, but her great aunt wrote the letters I’d bought on ebay.

It sent a chill through the room, and did, for weeks afterward. The coincidence was just too great for anyone to wrap their heads around.

I started researching the story in earnest, and posting what I’d learned on a blog about the letters and the people in them. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about the woman and her fiancee until my husband said to me at one point “I know you are excited about this, but can you talk about ANYTHING else? At least for a while?”

Six months later, I flew across country to meet the daughter of this WASP. We had plans to sort through her mother’s things, to match my letters with photographs,keepsakes and scrapbooks to tell the story of her mother’s life she’d never heard before and had no knowledge of.

It felt strange, telling this woman about her mother’s life as a WASP. The likelihood of buying those letters, walking into a class where a relative of the woman who wrote them just so happened to be, then meeting her daughter and finding everything this WASP ever wrote about in neat stacks on a dining room table was mind blowing.

And then it all went to hell.

The daughter’s new fiancee told her I had to go, or he was ending their engagement. He didn’t like me, and he sure as hell didn’t like the fact that I might be opening her world up when he’d managed to contain it so neatly, even to the point of cutting her off from her own daughter.

So she threw me out in the middle of the night.

I cried for weeks afterward, and I didn’t look at the letters again for years.

I got a text from the daughter out of nowhere a few months ago, demanding copies of the letters. When I told her no, she wrote back and forbade me from using anything in the letters to write about her mother. She has no right to do that. Her mother is a public figure, so in accordance with copyright laws, I can write anything about her mother that I want to.

According to those same copyright laws, she actually holds the copyright on the letters I own. I can write about her mother, but I can’t use the contents of the letters to tell her mother’s story.

And then I found out that a woman who has been trying to get a story made about the WASP almost as long as I have, found the blogs I wrote about this WASP and contacted the daughter for an interview. Now she owns the rights to a story no one would have never known anything about if it hadn’t been for me.

I am currently investigating my options with respect to protecting my research and copyright on the blogs. But in the end, my take away from this is that serendipity continues to be my guide with with respect to learning why the daughter reached out, what a backstabbing snake the woman is who is pursuing her own story about the WASP at my expense, and that everything having to do with what should have been epic and inspiring true story has destroyed something in me that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I still write about the WASP. In fact, I am halfway through yet another rewrite on the script that has been my passion for close to half my life. I am writing the script I always wanted to write, before everyone said it couldn’t be done, that no one would ever make a movie about pilots in war time who never flew in combat. This one is for me. And for all the WASPS I have grown to know and love over the past few years.

Maybe I will be the one to see my story made, and maybe I won’t. All I care about in the end is that someone celebrates the lives of these women, whether its me or not.

I only hope they do it without ripping my heart to shreds again.

The red carpet, the Cannes Film Festival and coming home to my day job.

Two weeks ago, I discovered that the short film I wrote, the one that is already remarkable for the fact that one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood, Robin Wright directed it, the crew from the Emmy award-winning House of Cards volunteered their time and resources to breathe life into it, and Sam Rockwell, Leslie Bibb, Callie Thorne, Michael Godere and Nini Le Huynh agreed to star in it, would make its red carpet debut during the 70th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.

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No matter how many times you may have rehearsed your Academy Awards acceptance speech in your pajamas, nothing prepares you for a moment like this. I spent my formative years in Hollywood, so red carpet premieres in and of themselves are not a big deal bearing in mind I’ve been the one who made sure celebrities like Michel LeGrand and Jerry Weintraub made it to the festival venue, the green room, and the after party. Michel LeGrand still owes me for the bow tie he wore to the Palm Springs Film Festival, not that anyone is asking, and Jerry Weintraub may never have found his way to the men’s room at the Palm Springs Museum of Art if it weren’t for me.

The truth is, I was on the fence about going. The ticket from Asheville to Nice was $1700, and frankly, I am at the point in my “career” where I have spent more money pursuing the dream of becoming a writer than I have actually ever made AS a writer. I’ve had exactly one paying writing assignment for low-budget indie producer, Larry Levinson, and that was years ago. But my husband knew, even if I didn’t at the time, that this was an experience I would regret not having taken part in, so he bought the ticket, and I had the panic attack.

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I haven’t gone clothes shopping in years and I needed everything. I found an evening gown on Rent The Runway, then had a panic attack about getting it back to the US before the deadline. They charge $50 a day for every day its late, not including the additional daily rental charge. So I found the dress I wanted on ebay, a floor length Badgely Mischka that might cover up the fact that I no longer have much of a waistline to speak of, a pair of spanx that ran from my neck to my thighs, and a pair of flat sparkly shoes so if I fell off them I wouldn’t have far to go.

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I made arrangements to stay at an Airbnb a “bus ride away” from the Croisette, bought my first set of grown up luggage, installed a global plan on my phone, and boarded a plane for Charlotte, destination, Nice, France.

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When I got to Heathrow Airport, I received a text from Nini Le Huynh; The Festival de Cannes was putting us up at the Grand Hyatt Martinez from Tuesday to Friday, so I let my Airbnb host know and headed to the Martinez, which, as it turns out, was the host hotel for the festival. Everybody stayed there; Jessica Chastain, Will Smith, Elle Fanning, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Pedro Aldomovar, Fan Bingbing, Victoria Abril, Sara Sampio, Monica Bellucci and Robin Wright. I had a front row seat to all the insanity, from the crowd of paparazzi and fans gathered behind barricades outside the front door, to the entrances and exits the stars made, to sitting down to breakfast with Robin like it was an every day occurrence.

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Wednesday afternoon, I got another text from Nini. We had been invited to attend the seventieth anniversary dinner for the festival in the Grand Ballroom of the Martinez. The stars sat together at a long table in the middle of the room; the other tables fanned out from there. The room was cavernous, and it was hard to hear anything, but the experience of being there was unforgettable. Especially after Robin introduced me to Harvey Weinstein, who was kind enough to engage me in conversation for a few minutes.

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The next morning, I accompanied Robin and Nini to the Variety/Kering Women in Motion interview at the Hotel Majestic where the main focus of the conversation was the upcoming season of House of Cards and Wonder Woman. When she was asked about our film, she introduced both Nini and myself to the room, then made sure to mention all the people from House of Cards who volunteered their time to work on the movie. We ended up having over 125 crew members involved in the film, not the least of which was a young editor named Alfonso Carrion, who spent hours and hours making sure the film was perfect.

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We left for the Palais at 6:15 and were delivered directly to the red carpet. Two lines of people with invitations to the opening night film feed into the red carpet from either side, and risers packed with reporters in tuxedos line either side of the red carpet. Behind us, more reporters on step ladders, to get the best possible vantage point, and more security than you could shake a stick at.

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Robin was announced, and all four of us (Robin, Nini, Alfonso and myself) stepped onto the red carpet. Everyone started screaming her name. We made three stops on the red carpet, since its not very long, and there are reporters on both sides. We turned to face one set of photographers, then on a signal from a man in a tuxedo on the carpet itself, we turned and faced the other set of photographers. We repeated that move two additional times, them made our way up the steps of the Palais where we were greeted by Thierry Fremaux, the head of the festival, who ushered us upstairs to a private cocktail lounge where we drank champagne and waited for the film to begin.

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A short time later, we took our seats in the Salle Bunuel Theater where Thierry introduced each of us before inviting Robin on stage to talk about the film. She was so complimentary about the film and gave Nini, Alfonso and I credit for the roles we played in making the film possible.

And then it was showtime.

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The film looked marvelous on-screen. People reacted the way we had hoped they would in all the right places, and when the final scene cut to black, the woman beside me, an agent from CAA, said to herself,  “God that was GREAT’.

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We went to dinner afterward, just the six of us at a little seaside restaurant. It was lovely, just sitting around a table, watching the sunset over the ocean and sharing a bottle of wine. It was definitely a night for the record book.

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I am back in North Carolina now, back to my day job, trying to make sense of the events of the past week, and how to move forward. The film was accepted into the Palm Springs Short Film Festival in June, which is an Academy qualifying film festival with a short film market (the only one of its kind in the nation). I’ve been invited to an event hosted by the Athena Film Festival, who arranged pitch meetings for Athena List winners with Amazon  as well, and hope to set up some meetings with agents and managers while I am there.

In the meantime, I am working with a TV producer for a series based on the short film, and a new project about an award-winning screenwriter who returns from a red carpet event and goes back to work fixing toilets and refrigerators in the RV repair business she owns with her husband.  Because there’s nothing like hearing the sound of God’s laughter after telling him your plans.

How My Short Film Made it to the Cannes Film Festival

The Dark of NightI found out four days ago that the short film I wrote, THE DARK OF NIGHT (directed by Robin Wright and starring Leslie Bibb, Sam Rockwell, Callie Thorne, Michael Godere and Nini Le Huynh) will be opening the Cannes Classics film block on the seventieth anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. We premiere on May 18, just prior to the digitally restored version of “All That Jazz”, which won the Palme d’Or in 1980, and the director of the festival, Thierry Fremaux will introduce us.

How in the hell do you wrap your head around that? How do you buy a dress, and some shoes, iron clothes you haven’t worn in years, pack a bag (you just bought by the way, because the last time you went to Europe, you wore a backpack and stayed in youth hostels), then fly off to Cannes to spend two days with the woman who directed your film, a woman who is still one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood, a woman you have admired since the first time you saw her on screen, and act like its all no big deal?

I’ll tell you how.

You launch yourself at this adventure like you have nothing to lose, because at the end of the day, you don’t. And how many times in my life am I ever going to get to say I had this kind of experience? I am 57 years old and I work hard. Harder than most people I have ever meet in my life. I don’t give up and I don’t take no for an answer. I didn’t get here by myself, but I sure as hell didn’t wait around for someone to hand it to me either.

And now here I am, on the precipice of an adventure most people can only dream of. 80 people from the TV series, House of Cards, volunteered their time, their resources and their shared love of film to breath life into THE DARK OF NIGHT. I can’t believe that a goal I set for myself when I was fresh out of college turned into a ten minute film with this kind of pedigree. The director of photography, Dave Dunlap,the costume designer, Jessica Wenger McPhail, the editor, Alphonso Carrion, the set decorators, the sound guys, the stand ins, the production assistants, the first AD (Todd Halvern), the UPM (Sharif Salama), and the caterers – everything about this production was beyond anything I could have ever comprehended.

And what’s crazy is that every single person who worked on this film took the time to thank me, and the man who really made it happen, Michael Witt (an executive producer on the film as well), for the chance to work on this movie. I feel like I didn’t do anything, that I wrote as few words on a page, and a bunch of really talented people swooped in and made MY dream a reality.

I owe every one of them a debt of gratitude. Movies are a collaborative medium and too often you hear horror stories about prima donas on a film set, but the crew from House of Cards, the amazing cast and most of all, Nini Le Huynh and Robin Wright, turned the dream I’d waited so long for, into the most remarkable experience of my life.

And now I get to take in the spectacle that is Cannes. The funny thing is? I feel like I was born for this moment. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Women’s History Month and the Myth of the Female Writer

arrayI was inspired by a campaign launched this month by director Ava du Vernay regarding Women’s History Month and #ArrayToday, #ArrayNow and @ArrayToday and @ArrayNow to share my thoughts on how the history of the accomplishments of women have impacted my life and “career” as a female screenwriter.

I grew up in a family that felt marriage and motherhood were what every young woman should aspire to.   I didn’t know that women could be race car drivers, pilots, firefighters, doctors, or inventors.  I didn’t know that a woman in her fifties became one of the most respected criminologists of all time during the 1930’s, or that a black woman born and raised in the South moved to Paris to become a  pilot in the 1920’s.  I didn’t know about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or the only known female stagecoach robber in American history, or the all girl bands in World War Two.  I didn’t know about Elizabeth Blackwell,  Hedy Lamar, Bessie Stringfield,  Jackie Cochran or countless other women  who forged a path through a male dominated world because they wanted the chance to live the life they chose.  Not the one they were expected to live because they were girls.

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For the past thirty years, I have researched and written about the lives of remarkable women because I persist in believing that if young women today knew about the accomplishments of the women before them, they would start their lives with the same building blocks men take for granted.  Instead of being asked “Who are you wearing”, they should be asked, “What mountain have you climbed lately, what new app are you developing,” or “When is your new movie going to be out?”

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When people say there aren’t enough female writers or enough good roles for women. I want to cry.  Actually, sometimes I do.  I’ve been told the reason I still don’t have an agent or manager, why I have never sold a script, or why I haven’t been a writer for hire, is because I write about women.    Yet, in the past three years, I have been selected as an Athena List winner AND Finalist (in the same year), I won the screenwriting competition for the Atlanta Film Festival (2017), I was a finalist in both the Nashville Film Festival (2016) and Diverse Voices (2016), I placed ninth in the Emerging Screenwriters Contest (2016), was a semi-finalist for the American Zoetrope contest (2015), have placed in the top fifteen percent of the Nicholl Fellowships twice, won the Grand Prize (Shorts) for Table Read My Screenplay Austin (2015), was a Second Rounder for the Austin Film Festival (2015) and am currently a finalist for the Female Initiative sponsored by Seriesfest and Rose McGowan.

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The last Table Read My Screenplay winner was nominated for an Academy Award and is now directing his first film.

I still work in the RV business to put food on the table.

I hate the fact that its 2017 and we are still trying to convince Hollywood that we are here and we are not going away.    I am not going to stop writing about amazing women.  And  continue to hope that someday, when someone says, there are so many great women writers out there with such fascinating stories to tell, one of those female writers they will be talking about, is me.

So here’s an idea, Hollywood. Stop talking about the problem and start hiring women.  You can start right here.

 

 

You’re No One in Hollywood…

Show business legend, Bernie Brillstein titled his autobiography, “Where Did I Go Right: You’re No One In Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead”.  I am beginning to chart the level of progress in this business based on those sage words, since it seems I am doing a fine job of pissing people off lately.   brillstein

Don’t get me wrong, I am not doing it on purpose.  I am just not giving them what they want, which makes me the bad guy, and I am okay with that.   It means I am growing a backbone when it comes to standing up for myself, something I never would have done when I was younger.  It was something I DIDN’T do when I was younger.  If I had, my career might have had a different outcome all those years ago.  Of course, I might not have learned the lessons I needed to if I came equipped with a spine of steel, and the one great advantage of getting older is recognizing that if things don’t work out the way you want them to, the world will not come to an end.

Hollywood is a small community and operates more than you might imagine on cooperation and people who are easy to work with.  There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, this is an industry of people who work together to achieve their goals.  Having said that, it is also a place where opportunities to advance are limited, and there are only so many big breaks to go around.  People can be vindictive, petty, and vengeful, and in the past year I have had more than my fair share of run-ins with folks who wanted something I had and when they didn’t get it….well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

So I must be doing something right.

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A few days ago I learned the screenplay I wrote about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, called LUCKY 13, was chosen as one of three winners of the Atlanta Film Festival competition.  Lucky 13 is based on the amazing true story about the young women who were recruited by famed aviatrix, Jackie Cochran, to replace male ferry pilots in the United States so desperately needed combat pilots could battle the air wars in Europe and the Pacific.  She established the only all female airbase in American history in Sweetwater, Texas, and for two years trained women pilots the Army Air Force way.  Thirteen women were hand selected to attend B26 Marauder school in Dodge City, Kansas as sacrificial lambs.  The B26 Marauder was the only airplane during World War Two to go directly from blueprints to production.  With the modifications the Army made, the plane quickly became known as the Widowmaker.  Because the B26 was central to the push on Monte Cassino in advance of the Normandy invasion, the military needed to find out how to get the plane airborne without killing pilots, or scrap the D-Day advance entirely.  The girls learned to fly the planes, taught male pilots (who quit when they found out they were going to have to train with “girls”) and their reward?  Congress disbanded the WASP in favor of male civilian pilots hoping to avoid the draft, because “girls can’t fly”.

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RIDE THE WIND; The Bessie Stringfield Story, is based on the life of African American motorcycle legend, Bessie Stringfield, who was the first woman to ride a motorcycle cross country, the only woman to serve as a motorcycle dispatch rider in World War Two, and who was celebrated in a “Heroes of Harley” exhibit shortly before her death.  A Timeline video on Bessie’s life was published in December 2016, and has received 16,000,000 hits, 300,000 shares and 5,000 comments regarding why a movie about Bessie’s life hasn’t been made yet.  The script is currently in submission to an A list actress, and with the outstanding (and not at all surprising) success of HIDDEN FIGURES, this is clearly  a story whose time has come.

I was also interviewed recently for a podcast with the amazing Laura Powers that says even more about why I am inspired to write about women, and I found out yesterday that a TV pilot I wrote about the all girl bands in World War Two was selected for inclusion in the Scriptapalooza TV writing competition, with 12 winners to be announced tomorrow in four categories.  I am currently re-writing the script for submission to the HBO Access program, which is open for four days at the beginning of March.

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I am often told I am tenacious in the pursuit of what I want.  The actress who is reading the script about Bessie Stringfield is the actress I wrote the part for, and three years ago, when this project first launched, everyone told me I would never get anywhere near her.  She may not agree to do the film, but I kept at it until I got it in front of her (with a LOT of help, I might add).  Another project I just finished is on its way to another major league actor (again with a lot of help), and no one seems to understand how I am doing this from an RV park in Florida, and a house in Mars Hill, North Carolina, with no agent or manager, and I think its because I finally know myself and how to protect the only real asset I have; myself.

So I’d like to think Bernie Brillstein would be proud of me.   It turns out, pissing people off isn’t the worst thing in the world.  And I am a natural…..