Off to the Judges!

by Ruth Witteried

Ruth Witteried, Film Coordinator

Ruth Witteried, Film Coordinator

Last week four short scripts were forwarded to our celebrity judges for evaluation in the final round of FiLMLaB’s Script-to-Screen competition. In two short weeks we will have a winner and pre-production will begin.

What will that look like? Pre-production is everything that has to take place before the cameras begin rolling: assembling a crew, scouting locations to shoot interior and exterior scenes; building a set, if necessary; working with set designers and costumers to come up with thematic elements like color palette, wardrobe and furnishings for the set. It involves making decisions about lighting, sound and technical equipment; auditions, casting, hair and make-up. Hundreds of decisions have to be made before the director ever calls, “Action!”, and in Hollywood most of those decisions are made without the writer.

Not so in FiLMLaB.

Our finalists had opportunities last week to talk with director, Christopher Alley, who called to notify them of their status Sunday afternoon and give them script notes. Finalist Barbara Thomas wrote me, “I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Christopher Alley about the script—that alone was worth the entry fee.” Indeed, most writing contests are not interactive, and I don’t know of any that allow a group of finalists to meet with a director and rewrite their script for final judging (many thanks to professional screenwriter Randall Jahnson for making himself available to our finalists during the rewrite process!). That is unique to FiLMLaB.

Unfortunately, for three of our finalists, this unique adventure will end when a winner is selected at the end of the month. Our winner, however, has an opportunity to remain involved in the pre-production and production process. They will no longer be in the driver’s seat, but they will have a seat. Their opinion may not be sought on every decision, but it will on some; and they will see how decisions are made on a film set and get an education in the creation of their short film. Another tool for their toolbox.

We will have lots to talk about as that process gets underway, and I hope you will share this blog with your screenwriting friends and check in regularly to see how production is going. We look forward to having posts from the winning screenwriter, director and principals involved in production to give you a glimpse behind the scenes, and encourage questions and comments. The brilliant Jenny Schrader is at work revamping the website so we have a dedicated FILM presence for contest and conference news, specific to our screenwriting population.

In the meantime, keep dreaming, keep writing.

Ruth Witteried took home the Columbine Award at the 2009 Moondance International Film Festival for her feature length script, A More Perfect Union, detailing the 1919 Centralia Massacre. She teaches screenwriting at Clark College, in Vancouver, WA. In 2012 she Executive Produced the winning FiLMLaB short, Alis Volat Propriis, and is a first round judge in the 2013 contest. This is her third year as Film Coordinator for the Writers Conference.




Ruth Witteried

As Visual Media Director, Ruth Witteried works with all programs based in the visual arts, including screenwriting and film production. As Executive Director of the FiLMLaB competition and project, she produced the 2012 FiLMLaB short, Alis Volat Propriis, winner of the 2013 OIFF Best Comedic Short; 2013′s Coffee.Table.Book.; 2014's Unwelcome Guests, and in 2015, The Return of Bug Eyed Bill. She acted as Film Coordinator for the Willamette Writers Conference from 2011-2013 and occasionally teaches screenwriting at Clark College. She currently is Executive Director of Willamette Writers' FiLMLaB. You can follow her on Twitter @sityourassdown1 or Facebook at FiLMLaB. Contact her. (