EGSFF Youth Project: Laura Blackerby

Laura Blackerby is an 18-year-old high school senior at Spartanburg High School. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper, Norse News, and is also president of the Literary Club. During her spare time, she enjoys watching Friends, writing poetry and nonfiction essays, and teaching the violin and amateur photography. She is undecided on where she will attend college in the fall, but intends to major in Communications and International Studies. Laura is pictured second from the left. 


As a second-time student in Dr. Epps’s semester creative writing class, the opportunity to film a movie based on one of our favorite poems came as a pleasant surprise. The class that I had known as a peaceful meditation on my thoughts and expression has transformed into a hands-on adventure in which our small class of six has been able to reach out into the community and involve them in a project that is bigger than anything a single person can produce.

At the heart of “Sweet Tea” is the theme of community. Sweet tea is something that all southerners share, and this film has become something for us to share with our school, our district and our city. My favorite part of this poem is that it reminds me of Spartanburg:  downtown, Wade’s, the multitude of churches.

And just like I have seen, loved and known this town for 18 years, I have also had a deep connection with John Lane’s poem. We have reviewed clips so many times that we have voices and lines memorized. Our brains are probably “brown like suntans” from thinking about tea so much.

Today, we are putting the final touches on our project before we kiss it off and say goodbye until the film festival. With the paper, I have become well accustomed to deadlines and the fear that they instill. I always feel relieved to have a project finished, but also conscious of what still could be done to reach perfection. With time constraints and limited resources, I feel satisfied with the film that we have brewed together. I look forward to the festival and letting the filmmakers who advised us see our great feat. This is a project that I am proud to have helped with along with my friends and classmates. I hope that the final product quenches everyone’s curiosity. 

Sneak Peek..

Abe Duenas offers a sneak peek of his film “Donde Come Uno, Comen Dos.” Come see it March 23rd! 

We are exactly two weeks away from the grand premier of the festival!

We’ve got a fantastic line-up and a great group of talent. Don’t miss this opportunity to see some of South Carolina’s finest visionaries and the unique fruits of their labor. You won’t get to see films like these anywhere else! 

Tickets are still on sale, but they are going fast! Don’t wait–get them now through our website! 

Interview With the Writer: Melinda Cotton

Melinda Cotton is the author of the short story “Grammy’s Keys,” the inspiration for Durham Harrison’s upcoming short film. See this story on the big screen on March 23rd. 

What were your hopes for your short story when you submitted it to Expecting Goodness?

Because I am from Columbia and the festival is based in Spartanburg, I had no idea about the submission process or even about the project itself. I was contacted by Kari Jackson and asked to submit “Grammy’s Keys” for consideration. I’ll never forget the surreal feeling that engulfed me at the moment I read her email (my son’s ears are probably still ringing!). Come to find out, Sandlapper magazine suggested Kari contact me because my story won the 2011 SC Fiction Writers Project and was published in their magazine. Being asked to participate in the selection process was an incredible honor in itself. I never dared dream my story would be chosen. In October 2012, my husband and I sat on the couch with our laptop and watched the webcast announcement of the winners. I must admit it was very late in the program before I learned “Grammy’s Keys” was the first choice selection by Durham Harrison. (Now my husband’s ears are also ringing!)

How did you envision your short story as a short film? Was there a persistent image or a persistent set of scenes? Was there a particular actor or actress that appeared?

Because my story was written from personal experience, I had the images of my grandmother and her house in my mind. When Durham first told me where he wanted to shoot the film, I thought “really?”, but once I was able to remove my own images from my head, I quickly realized Durham found the perfect location for the film. Many thanks to Marguarite Haines for her incredible generosity in opening up her home and property.   

If you’ve had a chance to visit Durham and the set, what was it like? Was it as you imagined?

My filmmaker is the best! He included me in every step of the process. He told me from the beginning he wanted to keep the film as true to my story as possible, and he did! Early on, he sent me copies of the screenplay and asked for my comments. When he interviewed potential cast members and recruited them to the studio to read for parts, he invited me to attend and asked for my opinion. When the day of the shoot finally arrived, he called to make sure I would be there. I was on the set the entire day from the beginning to the very last scene. To walk into a room and hear actors saying your words and to watch them bring your story to life, well, the emotion left this writer without words. I’ll never be able to thank the wonderful cast, crew, and other folks on the scene who gave up their entire day to transform my story into a short film. I have met and made friends with a great group of actors and musicians who are dedicated to their art. Thanks, guys, for being a special part of helping my story transition into film. You have my heart. Without a doubt, Durham went out of his way to make sure I was part of the process, and I am indebted to him for including me in his dream. This has been the most amazing ride of my life!

I’ve heard that this story’s transformation into a film is portraying a powerful message. Could you tell us about that?

When I wrote “Grammy’s Keys,” I never envisioned the story as delivering a powerful message. I wrote the story based on personal experiences with my grandmother and efforts to keep her from driving. Now I realize the story is about an issue faced by nearly every family sooner or later – when to take the keys from an elderly driver. Because of that phenomenon, I believe the audience will be able to relate to the story and the film. 

What scene, in your opinion, will have the most impact on the audience?

Although the story is written with humor, there is a touching moment that is beautifully created and expertly acted between my characters Jeremiah and Grammy when Jeremiah tries to explain why he wants her keys. 

Finally, what are your personal aspirations from this project and what do you hope the audience will take away from your story?

 I hope the audience, whether they’ve experienced the situation yet or not, will understand the difficult dilemma of taking away the keys from a loved one. It is not an easy decision to make or to enforce. But the strong love and family commitment portrayed in the film is ultimately a story of loving and caring for our elderly family members.

I am grateful to everyone who’s been a part of this incredible festival. The folks behind this project have worked tirelessly to create and organize an event that will raise awareness and appreciation of the arts in our local communities. I suspect this festival will become an annual event to showcase the many talented writers and filmmakers we have in South Carolina.    

“There’s a Need For a Story Like This”: Writer Entry By Vickie Dailey

Vickie Dailey is the author of the short story “Broken,” which was selected by emerging filmmaker Jeanette Li to serve as the basis for her short film. Come see this powerful duo and the product of their creative drives on March 23rd and Expect Empowerment. 


      “Broken” lay beaten and buried in a corner of my mind along with the rest of my memoir.  The story came out to haunt me on occasions when something would trigger those dark days of my past.  Yet, it was a story that begged to be told and the more I started to tell it, the more I needed to tell.  I realized that perhaps I could make a difference by sharing this story with others.  If I told what happened to me, would I make people aware of this travesty that’s all too often ignored by so many?  Could I break the bonds of silence that so many victims of abuse are forced to endure? 

Could I be their voice? 

            Something within me said yes.  So I answered that call and sent “Broken” in to the Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival.  It was my way of saying to the world and to the abuser of my past: “Look what you did to me, and look at how I’m going to do something good with it.”  I was elated when it was chosen.

            Jeanette Li, my director, shared in my belief to tell this story honestly and with integrity.  Re-entitling it “If You Loved Me” and putting her unique touches to the story, she gave it the gravity and depth required to take it to the next level while maintaining its essence and beauty.  I truly believe when this story is seen on the big screen it will touch people, and they will take a piece of it home in their hearts.  Maybe it will start a ripple effect and empower others to help victims of domestic violence.  If by telling my story and, through the help of Jeanette bringing it to life, we make only one change in just one person’s life, then it’s all worth the telling.

            Thus, “Empowerment” is the perfect word for our film and I give great big kudos to Jeanette for thinking of it.  In her determination to empower women, she cast the perfect actors for the roles.  Michael Kimmel and Marilyn Chung were excellent choices.  Marilyn has an adorable quality and an innocent demeanor that I feel will make a difference with the audience as they will have more compassion for her.   She embodied the role of a broken woman skillfully.  Michael is a handsome young man who told me that he read the book, Why Does He Do That? to better prepare for the role and get in the mindset of his character.  I talked with him about the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde traits that abusers often exhibit, relating how my abuser would grovel and beg for my forgiveness afterwards.  I can’t wait to see how he pulls off the role, since I was not there for the filming of the violent scenes.

            I did take part in the filming of the domestic violence center and enjoyed it immensely.   What was supposed to be just a quick author cameo turned into my comforting two of the actors playing domestic violence center victims.  Michelle Hlass and Shawn Collins gave solid and powerful performances that were honest and believable.  Mark Meekings, the gentleman cast as the crooked police officer, even slightly resembled the police officer from my past who offered me special protection if I’d be his girlfriend.

           Statistics tell us there’s a need for a story like this. states that “one in three women have experienced or will experience domestic violence in her lifetime,” and “that every nine seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten” ( Additionally, “domestic violence is one of the most chronically underreported crimes.  Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, NCADV).  And states that “approximately 75% of women who are killed by their batterers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left an abusive relationship”.

            For both Jeanette and I, our goal is to give the abused woman a voice and to bring awareness to a subject that is all too often ignored and shoved under the rug.  Instead of hiding it, we are showing the world the devastating effects of abuse and hoping to empower women.  


For more information, use the links below:


Drew Baron Sheds More Light on “Pretty Pitiful God”

Photo courtesy of Drew Baron’s Facebook page. 

Deno Trakas’ short story, Pretty Pitiful God, revolves around two teenagers’ chance meeting of famed beat writer, Jack Kerouac, in 1969. Wayne, the teenage lead, finds his idol Jack Kerouac, deep in his downward spiral, to be far different than his expectations. This is a feeling, of actuality not living up to expectations, is one I can relate to filmmaking. Watching movies with an untrained eye, people do not recognize the depth of skill, knowledge, and manpower that goes into a movie production. When I first dreamed of being a filmmaker, I had little concept of how many positions were needed on a set. Every member of the cast and crew function as cogs to a well-oiled machine.

While making a movie can be a difficult and stressful process, it is all overshadowed by the excitement and enduring euphoria of the experience. This is thanks, in part, to our vital and skilled cast and crew of 24 dedicated individuals. Everyone knew their role and respected each other, allowing the production to run like clock work. Respect and synchronization are key to running a successful production. You have to trust the people that work with you and value their input. After all, we are all working for the same goal: to make a great movie. In particular, shooting a period piece requires its own set of complications. We were very lucky to have a dedicated and knowledgeable art and makeup department to guide the production in the right direction. It also helped having five sets of extra eyes to point out the high definition flat screen in the shot.

Now, I am not saying that having a good crew is going to make your production run with no challenges; we ran into our share of mishaps (including someone being locked in the bathroom for 40 minutes). But every member lends their time and energy into making your vision into something tangible, and it is important to remind them how appreciative you are. I am so grateful for everyone’s aid in creating this movie and all the wonderful memories.

Author Michelle Fleming Divulges a Little Secret

Photo courtesy of Michelle Fleming’s Facebook page and Adventure Photography & Creative Arts. 

I think all writers are crazy.  We create characters and have them running around in our heads—real and breathing, talking and interacting with us—whether anybody else can see them or not. 

My short-story, She-Wolf, was written as part of a workshop with author Peter Selgin while I was getting my BFA at Converse College.  By the end of the workshop, my main character Caroline felt real enough to me that I wished we could have been friends.  When the call for submissions for Expecting Goodness went out, I submitted She-Wolf, wondering if Caroline would seem as real to anyone else as she did to me. 

When my story was selected and I met my film maker Terry Miller at the launch party, it was a fantastic moment.  There I was surrounded by dozens of people who have extensive careers in bringing the imaginary to life in print and on the screen. 

After months of Caroline existing only in my head or on paper, I was discussing the details of her life with Terry—down to what would be on the walls in her room—and meeting the actors for the film.  Seeing the little girl who would be Caroline was completely surreal; sure, she had existed for me for months, but seeing her sitting across from me, munching on pizza and chatting with her brother, was a completely different feeling.  This transition between mediums has been the coolest part of the film festival. 

I didn’t watch any of the filming of She-Wolf (the dates conflicted with the two other, awesome films I’ve been working through the festival, I think I’ve got the bug) and I’m kind of glad.  I can’t wait to see the finished product, when I get to watch Caroline come alive in the way that Terry and his crew envision her. 

So yes, writers may be crazy, but thank goodness we’re not the only ones.


Michelle Fleming

Author, “She-Wolf”

February 2013

EGSFF Youth Project: Harrison Kennedy

Harrison Kennedy is  an 18-year-old senior at Spartanburg High School. He plays for the lacrosse team and is a member of Interact, Outdoors, and Tippers Clubs. Outside school he is a Wyldlife leader and loves just hanging out with his friends. “Education wise,” he says, “I am more of a math student and am going to Wofford College intending on majoring in finance and/or accounting. Recently I have discovered that I like to write poetry a lot during class and read educational articles about the environment.”

               This project has benefited our class beyond what we thought we could realize in the filming world. Throughout this project, many people have come to show us the how to, what to, when to, and so on to create the greatest film known to man– or, at least, known to Spartan High. We would like to thank everyone for the help. And trust me when I say that the help we have gotten will benefit the film from shot to shot.

            As of now in our project, we have been filming and are soon to upload our videos to the computer. This will make up most of our week, and we have a plan for how we will put all of our pieces together. Hopefully it will work as intended, and we will show how much we have been helped and prove the point that high school kids are capable of hanging with the best in the business.

            For our film “Sweet Tea,” based on John Lane’s poem of the same name, we have been shooting people of many ethnicities, different voices, unique faces, and anything else that might strike viewers of our short film. We are designing this to highlight multiple aspects of and places in Spartanburg to get a good reaction from the Hub City and Hub-Bub audience. Many shots of people have been filmed, and we are getting John Lane, the author of the poem, to read out parts of the poem him, a feature which we thought would convey how this poem actually describes the reality of the South.

            To finish off, we will continue our hard work with anything and everything given to us. We could not feel any more honored to have this project and to have such major people in the business help us out. Dr. Epps will make sure, along with my very prestigious classmates, that we will not let anyone down!

EGSFF Youth Project: Jamie Means

Jamie Means, pictured far left, is a Junior at Spartanburg High School, where she is a member of the Orchestra, the Colorguard, Beta Club, and the Basketball Cheerleaders. She also performs jazz and modern dance, which she smiles broadly about when asked. When she graduates from SHS, she hopes to attend Hampton University in Virginia.

               Doing this project has given me a much different look at the film industry. It is much more than famous actors and actresses and upscale outfits. There is a complex process behind all of the factors that go into making films. There are different rules such as the 30 degree rule and the 180 degree rule. There are also important things to remember like getting enough coverage for the editing process and making sure that you correctly format your shot list, story board, and script. There is also remembering to make the music and your shots flow together. All of these tips add quality to whatever you are making.

                Aside from the hard work part, there is the fun part. After talking to some experts such as Ron Hagell, Shirley Smith, and Kari Jackson, just to name a few, I find filmmaking to be a fun thing to get into. You are able to express your creative side. You are also able to tell a story of your choice. You get to make your artwork, film, as fun as you might want it; it can be made to show off your interests. However a producer might conduct his or her film, he or she is engaging in a world of its own, a language of its own that will speak in many volumes. Aside from the technical things, this has been a great learning experience, and I look forward to the showcasing event in March.

EGSFF Youth Project: Brent Tyler

Brent Tyler of Dr. Epps’s creative writing class loves to read, write, play video games, and swim. When Dr. Epps asked him what his favorite movie was, he said “To be honest, I do not have a favorite movie.” He’s an albino and is something of an advocate for those like himself; he’s very good at informing others about albinism. He’s currently a senior at Spartanburg High and is looking forward to going to college next year. In this entry, Brent shares with us his experience working on the EGSFF Youth Project. 

            Well, I have done many things in my life, but I would say working on this film would have to be one of the more interesting things I have done. I grew up in a place where we never got chances to do things like this and have fun with them. Working on this project has exposed me to events that I had no idea existed.

            The poem we are using reflects the way I grew up and the way my parents tried to raise me (at least for a little while). Another cool thing is that in the editing we might be using computer software I used to only wish to use and the MacBook Pro which I have never seen in person. I am so excited to see how this will turn out.

            Some of the film producers came to see us; it was so enlightening and beneficial. I learned so much from them. This opportunity has helped fuel my motto of how anything can be accomplished; just follow your dreams to achieve what you will in life. I’ve gone through many hardships, but that is just an aspect of life. Seeing how these people make their films and how we will make ours has renewed my spirit. I will continue to help with our film and help to make sure it is a success. Who knows—we might be famous.

            I will end with this: I will learn from this and take it with me for the rest of my life. To be honest, this is something I think most people should do in their lifetimes; it gives people a sense of accomplishment so to speak. I will carry this with me. I am glad to be a part pf it.