Feb. 22, 2019 – The Inn on Crescent Lake played host to the Missouri Stories Scriptwriting Fellowship Program this week where three screenwriters gained much-needed knowledge and mentorship from two Hollywood screenwriters.
Michael Tabb, who began writing scripts over 15 years ago said not only does those receiving the fellowship gain from the experience, but the mentors gain from the experience as well. He said the retreat always reminds him how much he loves writing.
“What good is money if you don’t have people to sit and talk about your life, what you do and how much you love what you do with,” he said.
Tabb, who helped develop projects for companies including Universal Studios and Disney Feature Animation and also for comic book giant Stan Lee joined Josef Sawyer who most recently worked on the CBS series “Seal Team” as the mentors in a three-day retreat.
Andrea Sporcic, film office specialist with the Missouri Film Office, said her office work with the Missouri Tourism Department and with the state’s economic development office to help recruit film and television productions to Missouri.
Writers can submit their scripts, which must be set in Missouri, to the fellowship. They gain feedback from industry professionals, she said, and the authors of the three highest scored win a place at the retreat.
Writers entered 45 scripts for consideration for this year’s fellowship with over 250 being entered over the past five years.
Industry professionals score each script based on criteria including formatting, characters, dialogue and relevance to the state.
Sporcic said the judges always try to be gentle with their feedback as the scripts represent part of the writer’s soul. They also, she said, want the feedback to be constructive so the projects can be completed and produced in Missouri.
Michael Doshier, Jeffrey Field and Laura Kirk received the three fellowships this year.
Doshier said he grew up in Conway, Arkansas, but moved to New York approximately 10 years ago. His script, “Branson” tells the story of a young gay prodigy performing his show in Branson. The death of his father forces the man to not only come to terms with his father’s death but decide whether he should continue his show or explore other options.
He said the fellowship excited him because he wanted to receive feedback on his script from new eyes and ears who could advise him on making his script the best it would be.
Field, originally from Kansas City and now living in Overland Park, Kansas said he loosely based his script on a news story he covered while studying journalism at the University of Missouri. “Don’t Go There” portrays a mass murderer who takes refuge in the home of an old woman during the hardest winter in 80 years.
He said concepts he learned in the retreat already helped him with his current project.
Kirk, a professor at the University of Kansas lives in Lawrence, Kansas. Her script, “Seekers” tells the story of a friendly, comical pastor who would like to retain her privacy. However, changes coming to town forces her to share more than she wished.
The fellowship makes her excited to continue work, Kirk said.
“I had no idea that I was going to get this much out of doing this,” she said. “I don’t think I was really clear on
how incredible this program is and so this will influence everything I work on from this point forward.”
She said she also looks forward to Tabb’s new book.
Tabb said his new book, “Prewriting Your Screenplay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Generating Stories” outlines the process he created from skills learned during his education and career. His process, he said, helps him avoid writer’s block. He said it also allowed him to gain another way to mentor the next generation of writers.
Sawyer said all writers need mentors to help navigate the minefield of the industry. One his mentors, in particular, he said, helped him through the many challenges he faces throughout his career. He said his mentor, being an African-American man, did not have many mentors as he began his career. This mentor made it his mission to not allow that to happen to the next generation of African-American writers, Sawyer said.
Sawyer stumbled upon this fellowship while looking for mentorship opportunities. A lifelong Chiefs’ fan, he said this opportunity also allowed him to take a trip to Arrowhead Stadium, which he did as soon as his plane landed in Kansas City.
For Tabb, he said he believes participation in the fellowship can also help the state. It can help foster Missouri writers to get in the business, he said. It can also help draw the money made in the entertainment industry, the nation’s biggest export, to Missouri.
“It can meet together and take part in the bigger financial benefits of the entertainment industry and hopefully, help people here do better,” he said.
For more information on the Missouri Stories Scriptwriting Fellowship Program or the Screenwriters 101 program, a one-day seminar that allows those wanting to learn how to begin the process of screenwriting, visit MOfilms.org.