Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wonder Drug: The Power of Words

On Tuesday evening I had the privilege of attending Caitlin McCarthy's staged reading of select scenes from her feature screenplay in development Wonder Drug.  As much as I would like to be out there attending festivals, staged readings, and other networking opportunities for screenwriters, I don't always get that opportunity, so it was a thrill to be in the audience for Wonder Drug.

Caitlin's screenplay Wonder Drug is a scientific drama about DES (diethylstilbestrol), the world's first drug disaster. Before I get into talking about the reading I have to mention that this screenplay has nominations in over 20 international film festival screenwriting competion and labs, most notably: Action on Film International Film Festival Winner, "Most Likely To Be Produced" Screenplay Award; the Hamptons Screenwriters Lab Participant; Woods Hole Film Festival Winner, Best Science Screenplay; and Illinois International Film Festival Screenplay Competition Winner. You can check out the full list of screenplay honors at: www.facebook.com/wonderdrugthemovie.

Before attending this screening I was not familiar with DES (diethylstilbestrol), a toxic and carcenogenic synthetic estrogen that was prescribed to millions of women from 1938 until 1971 in the United States; and until the mid-1980s in parts of Latin America, Europe, Australia, and the Third World. The currently proven effects of exposure include a rare vaginal cancer in DES daughters; greater risk of breast cancer in DES mothers; abnormal reproductive organs; infertility; and high risk pregnancies.

How could something like this happen in the United States? Those questions were answered for me at the staged reading and in the Q&A that followed. The selected scenes that Caitlin presented weave together three stories of a Big Pharma executive, a feminist doctor, and thirthysomething newlywed who were impacted by DES over three decades. Under the direction of Tom Gilroy, Spring Forward, the cast does a phenominal job of illustrating the distastrous effects that DES had in their lives.

Caitlin's script Wonder Drug is inspired by true stories, she brings her personal connection as a DES daughter to the script. This isn't just another story, it's her story along with countless other women who have been exposed to DES since 1938.

Wonder Drug is currently in development. I look forward to when Caitlin and her producers get this story to the big screen because it is a story that needs to be told. We need to question pharmaceuticals companies that test drugs like DES and the FDA who goes on to approve them. What happened with the Wonder Drug DES is still happening today. Just think back to when Viox was recalled. This story needs to be told and shared with the world.

In closing, I want you all to know that not one drug company has ever apologized or accepted responsibility for the DES tragedy. Nevertheless, they have paid out millions in out-of-court settlements. Caitlin, thanks for sharing your work with me and others, it is not lost.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finding My Focus

Have I found my focus? No, but I am getting closer to it. Last night, I was supposed to buckle down and get to my treatments for Finding Patience and Ego Tripping. Instead, I ended up watching the latest episode of True Blood. I must say it was a great episode, but I realize I probably should have not watched it. Howevery, it was so much easier for me to break fasting with an episode of True Blood, rather than dig deep to find the writer in me. I know, I've got to get my priorities together.

It wasn't a complete lost, at around 10 p.m. guilt began to set in and I decided to at least grow through my file folders of scripts, script notes, and articles on screenwriting. As I was reading through some of the papers I came across coverage for Finding Patience. The coverage was of the first 20 pages of my script. The contest I submitted to wanted to see your first 20 pages and if the story pulled them in then they would look at the full script. I did not make the cut. Ironically they also had a checklist of 20 things your script should have to make their cut. I only had four out of the 20. On first glance I was sort of depressed by this, but then I picked up the screenplay and began to read it. I would stop and look at the check marks I didn't have and then go back to the script. I stopped on page 10 and realized I had missed the mark in the setup of my screenplay.

It was around 10:30 and I realized that it was time for me to go to bed. I would have to be up in a few hours to eat an breakfast before the sunrise. I didn't want to go to bed, but if I was going to function tomorrow I needed to. I put the script down, realizing that I had a small break through. I saw the flaws in my writing. I have to revise it because it can be better. My job is to make it better.

I wish it didn't take me all night to come to that conclusion, but at least I did get to it. I My train has left the station, but the speed is very slow at the moment. I have faith it is going to pick up, but for now I've got to pace myself and not lose track of my goals.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Coming Down from a Festival High and Getting Back to Work

Last week, I was in a celebratory mood. I was still getting a lot of kudos from colleagues, friends, and family for my recent screenwriting awards at the 2010 Action on Film Festival. Since my return I've been slowly coming down from the accolades and trying to get back my focus. It hasn't been easy. The shift from promoting and networking to getting back to the core of my writing is hard.

I know the hubby would tell me I need to stop putting so much on my plate. For once I won't argue with him, cause he's right. I need to do a better job at prioritizing my work.

I've had a lot of time to think about where I want my screenwriting to go. Am I really going to try and make this my career? The answer is yes, With that said, I need to exert a deeper dedication to the written word. At the end of the day it is about the writing. Writers write. I realize I have to do a lot more writing and I don't just mean my blogging either. I have to put in long hours to cultivate the characters and stories that are in my head.

I have a tall agenda to achieve if I am to stay on track. The journey will not be easy, but despite all the other things I have going on in my life, writing has to be and stay my focal point. If it doesn't, the only one I can blame for my lack of writing is myself. The pressure is on.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The 2010 Action on Film (AOF) Fest: My Top 10 Highlights

Although I've been back in Connecticut for two days, I'm still trying to adjust to the jet lag while also jumping back into the thick of things I left a little over a week ago. The adjustment is tough, but I'm hanging in there. 

I'm really excited about this blog entry. Part of this feeling is because I have yet to come down from my high of taking home two honors at the AOF Writer's Award Dinner. The 2010 Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival was a great experience for the screenwriter and filmmaker in me. I'm not just saying that because I won an award either. Instead of going on about how wonderful the festival was, I've decided to condense my memorable moments into a top ten list. To be more specific, I'm going to give you my top 10 highlights for this year's phenomenal AOF Festival. 

My Top Ten: 
10. Getting to AOF and receiving a warm welcome from the staff, Del, and Josh. The AOF team knows how to make you feel at home. "You may be independent, but at the AOF you're never alone."

9. It's nice to get to a festival and see familiar faces. AOF is festival where you connect with old friends and have an opportunity to network with a plethora of directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors from across the globe. Shout out to, Ron, Bob, Matt, Michelle, Steve, Caitlin, Laura, Dominic, Stan, Kely, Pascal, Michael G., and Raymond. All of you made my second year at AOF a memorable one.

8. I love getting a goodie bag. The AOF goodie bag included an official program, AOF t-shirt, perfume samples, other promotional items as well as screening postcards for most of the films screening at the festival. 

7. Attending the Free Sunday Brunch Symposium and Speakers Series on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at El Portal Restaurant from 11am to 1pm.  The fantastic seminar had a panel of incredible filmmakers and industry leaders who are making a difference in the field of film, video, and technology. Speakers included, Mike Flannagan of Video Symphony; Raymond Forchion, award-winning actor, writer and producer; Matt Sconce, director and 2010 AOF nominee for 'Best Horror;' Kely McClung, veteran actor, writer, producer and director; Matt Furman, screenwriter and co-founder of Triskelion Films, a production company with the goal to make CG Movies affordable to any filmmaker; and last but not least, Stan Harrington, a multi-award winning producer, writer, and director; he manages the World Famous Stella Adler Theater.

6. Attending the screening of Confessions of a Thug, a Hip-Hop musical that follows the life of a drug dealer. The film was produced by Raymond Forchion and starred writer/director Daron Fordham. I really enjoyed the Q&A with Raymond and Daron. 

5. Meeting Mark Ruffalo after the screening of Stan Harrington's film Small Days, written by Tim Mc'Neil. Mark was sitting in front of me at the screening and I didn't even realize it until after the film. Mark hung out with the cast of with his colleague's from Small Days and even made an appearance at the after party.

4. Attending the screening of my short film After the Headlines. While my audience was small, it was full of heart and made up of fellow screenwriters and filmmakers who gave me their word that they would come check on the film. Thank you for a fabulous Q&A after the screening. Shout out to, Ron, Pascal, Bob, and Claire.

3. Getting nominated for 'Best Produced Screenplay and attending the 2010 AOF Film Awards Dinner. Although I didn't win I was honored to be in the company of extraordinary screenwriters, filmmakers, producers, and actors. It was a great way to spend my last night in Pasadena.

2. Attending the Writers Dinner for a second year in a row. The fact that I was once again nominated was big kudos for me. Events like this one are one of the few acknowlegements I get as a writer so it means the world to me.

1. My number one highlight from this year's AOF Festival is winning the Hollywood Scriptwriter 2010 Written Word Award and also being first runner-up for Best Short. Throughout the year I get my share of rejections, so to come home with two awards illustrates that I continue to make progress as a screenwriter.

As you can see, I did a lot in the week. It was a real privilege to return for a second year. I'm looking forward to the AOF in 2011. I guess that means I've got my work cut out for me. Back to the writing. Thanks for reading.