The Screenwriters Workshop’s 2008 Annual Membership Meeting was held October 11 at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. This year’s meeting featured a conversation with Minnesota screenwriter Jeff Forester (“Horses”, “Flashpoint” and “A Lifetime in Heat”) interviewed by Screenwriters Workshop President Chris Gegax, and the announcement of 2008’s Screenlabs Challenge winners.
Forester said his abrupt career transition from journalism to screenwriting owed more to happenstance than careful planning. “My experience with screenwriting is unusual, involving a lot of good luck,” he told Gegax.
Forester’s “lucky” break into screenwriting came at a time when freelance journalism, his bread and butter, was downsizing, the market favoring shorter, less costly articles. “I was wondering how I was going to support my family,” said Forester, who clearly remembers going out for a drive and spotting a stranded motorist on the side of the road. He pulled over and offered a ride to the driver who turned out to be an old friend from college, and a practicing screenwriter, Jim Berg. Berg listened to Forester’s worries about the freelance business, then pronounced: “Jeff, you’ve got to write for Hollywood. That’s where the money’s at.”
That first coincidental meeting led to Forester and Berg co-scripting “Horses,” a screenplay that went on to win several competitions, and an invitation to attend a 4-day workshop at CineStory in Palm Springs. CineStory gave Forester an opportunity to pitch his second project with Berg, “Flashpoint,” an action adventure about a renegade wild fire tearing across Northern Minnesota, to producers. He also met Egg Pictures’ president Meg LeFauve, whose husband Joe Forte offered to co-script “Flashpoint” with Forester and Berg.
“Flashpoint” attracted the attention of several Hollywood producers. Forester and Berg had finally hit the big time, and naturally they didn’t want to mess it up. “We were getting ready to go to pitch sessions in LA, and I was thinking, What kind of clothes do you wear to these things? Do you wear a suit or what?” Forester recalled. “Then Jim called me and said, ‘I’ve got an outfit.’ I said, ‘Yeah? What did you get?’ ‘I bought my whole outfit at Fleet Farm.'”
Forester and Berg ultimately sold their idea to Producer Lorenzo DiBoniventura (“Transformers”, “Constantine”) and were hired to write “Flashpoint” for Paramount.” In 2007 Forester sold “A Lifetime in Heat” to production company Shampoo 160. Both films are currently in development.
The annual meeting concluded with announcement of the 2008 ScreenLabs Challenge winners. The jury awarded the top prize of Best Film and $1000 to “Life Cycle,” by Minneapolis Writer-Director David CC Erickson. “Life Cycle” is a glimpse of the future – where the few survivors of a nuclear holocaust are cloned from one man and video phone messages retrieved from the past contain the only reminders of what was human passion.
“Winning ScreenLabs Challenge 2008 has given me the pleasure of being able to fulfill my revenue participation agreement with creative collaborator Shari Goldberg by paying her for her significant contribution,” said Erickson. “It has also provided a positive benchmark for my future work and creative vision.” The jury also awarded “Life Cycle” the Best Screenplay prize of $250.
Second Place and $500 went to Writer-Director Julie Meyer for “Good Love Rises,” about a nursing home orderly who witnesses the power of enduring love between a woman and her husband with Alzheimer’s. “To win against some good films was a nice surprise,” said Meyer, who wrote the script for last year’s ScreenLabs Challenge winner, “Forgotten.” “Winning awards two years in a row affirms me in my writing,” said Meyer, “and underscores the fact that, while directing can make or break a film, having a story that connects with people emotionally is critically important.”
The Audience award, conducted via online viewing and voting, and $250 went to high-school student David Buchanan for “Cool Minnesota,” wherein brothers spend the day together celebrating a birthday only to find that, in the end, it doesn’t matter.
All submitted films are available for viewing here.
The 2008 Screenlabs Challenge asked screenwriters to write and produce a short film with the theme “Agony and bliss: Unrequited love,” and required “Witch’s Hat” water tower in Prospect Park, Minneapolis, be used as one of the locations. Minnesota film professionals making up the jury included Filmmaker and Senior Program Officer for Film/Media at the Jerome Foundation, Robert Byrd, Writer/Director Juan Antonio del Rosario (“Chasing Windmills”), Editor and Arts Producer for Minneapolis Public Radio, Euan Kerr, and Film Curator at the Walker Art Center, Sheryl Mousley. ScreenLabs is a filmmaking development program of Screenwriters Workshop.