After the Curtain Fell: Writer Interview with Audra Kerr Brown

Audra, pictured center, with her companions on Expecting Goodness’s Festival Night.

 

What sort of interactions and involvement did you have with the film adaptation of your story?

None, and it worked out well that way. Having been the director of my church’s drama department for many years, by nature I would’ve wanted to take control of the film adaptation, and, as they say, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. I don’t know for sure if the filmmakers (Andrew Ketchum and Jason D. Johnson) sensed this, but it was best for all parties involved that I relinquished my story to them as one handing their newborn baby into the loving arms of adoptive parents. All you can do is pray and hope for the best. And, as we all discovered, they were well able to develop the story into a beautiful, fleshed-out film version without any help from me.

How did you feel about “Good Night” overall? 

Delighted! Thrilled! Enamored! I watch it every day. The acting, wow! The script, the cinematography, the direction, the soundtrack, every bit of this film is absolutely perfect in my eyes. Initially, I was worried about the possibility of them not including the lupine aspect of the father character, but that quickly melted away as soon as I saw those little legs running through the field in the opening scene. At that point I became an audience member, not a writer. I didn’t really care anymore if they had stuck to my story or not;  I was engaged with their storytelling.   Plus, Andrew and Jason just nailed the tone. Absolutely nailed it.  I didn’t realize that would be so important but after watching the film for the first time, I understood how satisfying that was for me, as a writer–them getting the tone right. I had expressed a mood, a color, and pace that the filmmakers were able to pick up and convey.  Story is easy to adapt, tone, not so much. I think that reflects on just how good those guys are.  I can’t wait to see what else they do.

One scene that was preserved from story to film was the high-tension “Knife Scene” where, in the film, Mara toys with a knife and raises it above her father’s body. Was that scene as you imagined it? What made that scene in the film, in your opinion, powerful? 

That scene was better than I’d imagined. Better than what I’d written. I thought it clever to have Mara discover the pocketknife next to her father.  I had her grab it from the kitchen drying rack, so she knew from the start what she was going to do–kill him!  But the subtlety of the film creates a greater depth and emotional weight. More drama. That’s what makes it so powerful. It’s much better having her find the knife and then toying with it (and with the idea of what she could do with it).  There is a shift in Mara’s eyes (those eyes! Great actress, that Olivia Tummillo) coupled with the slight cock of her head that is just marvelous. And of course the undergirding soundtrack heightens the emotions. Wonderful scene.

One of the judges mentioned that there was a little bit of ambiguity as far as resolution goes in the film. Is this something you agree with? Disagree with? How would you describe the film’s resolution? 

I agree, there was ambiguity at the end of the movie, but  there is a bit of it in my story too.  I think it works well in both–not coming off as a cheat for the audience nor for the reader.  Andrew and Jason doled out enough bread crumbs for one to piece together an opinion about the ending as seen through the smudged lens of  their own, individual lives. Ambiguous endings may not work well in a lot of films, but it works here.  The hand-clasp between father and daughter says it all.

What was the most important message you took away from Expecting Goodness? What were the best experiences you gained taking part in the festival?

Making connections with other artists is important to me, and I’m glad to have done that through the festival; however, the biggest ‘take away’ for me is being revived as a writer after having reached what seemed to be a dead end in my craft. The festival came along at just the right time to give me that extra push and validation I needed to keep going, to forge ahead through writer’s block, rejections, hard work, more rejections, long hours, crappy first drafts, and even more rejections. This festival has made it all worthwhile and has encouraged me to keep writing.

 Any shout outs, closing comments, or aspirations you’re looking forward to in your writing career you’d like to share? 

 I’d like to thank Kari Jackson, Alicia Lee Farley, Stephen Long, Joshua Foster and all those involved in the Expecting Goodness Film Festival.  It was an amazing experience.  Thank you!

 

CELEBRATE

Congratulations to all of the writers and filmmakers who shared their incredible stories with us last night! Yes, there are awards at the end of it all (below), but it’s not about the competition or the title. This project is truly a celebration of stories, of creativity, of collaboration, of community.

SHE-WOLF//story by Michelle Fleming, film by Terry Miller

GRAMMY’S KEYS // story by Melinda S. Cotton, film by Durham Harrison

RESOLUTION // story “Denouement” by Matthew Fogarty, film by Tyrell Jemison & Kameron Union

IF YOU LOVED ME // story “Broken” by Vickie Dailey, film by Jeanette Li

REMEMBER, NO THINKING // story by David A. Wright, film by John Daniel Fisher (BEST EMERGING FILMMAKER)

PRETTY PITIFUL GOD // story by Deno Trakas, film by Jeffrey Driggers & Drew Baron

DONDE COME UNO, COMEN DOS // story “Sucker” by Lindy Keane Carter, film by Abe Duenas

THE CONFIRMATION // story “Delayed” by Joseph Bodie, film by Porter Blackman

REAGAN IN KABUL // story by John R. Saylor, film by Julie Sexeny (BEST FILM, BEST EDITING, BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY, AUDIENCE FAVORITE)

GRACE // story “Simon of the Desert” by Susan Levi Wallach, film by Adam Gordon (BEST ACTOR to Fred Knowles as Simon)

LIVING THE DREAM // story by Terresa Haskew, film by Ron Hagell & Shirley Ann Smith

GOOD NIGHT // story “Your Father, Frederick” by Audra Kerr Brown, film by Jason D. Johnson & Andrew Ketchum

 

Expecting the Memorable: The Festival Weekend

In just under two days, the moment we’ve been prepping for since our first call for writers last summer comes to its glorious fruition.

Collaborating together, the Hub City Writers Project and HUB-BUB partnered for the second year to create the Expecting Goodness project. We also welcomed new partners in the Chapman Cultural Center, South Carolina Film Commission, Paris MTN Scout, and many, many other contributors who helped to make this project a success.

There are too many supporters of Expecting Goodness to name in just one sentence– probably too many to name in one blog post (though you’ll find them all in the festival program). But this shows just how many different people and organizations had a hand in making our ambitious and unique festival a mainstay of our state.

It also shows we’re growing. For our second year, we expanded our author and filmmaker call to the entire state, and we upped the ante with seven emerging and seven experienced filmmakers, which doubled our size from last year. Our venue, the Chapman Cultural Center, also opened our festival doors to more than double the audience we had last year; and we’re thrilled to see our show sold out for our second showing.

We hosted film and writing workshops for the community, examined books or stories made into movies with our Story to Screen series at the Spartanburg Library, headed into our own Spartanburg High School and introduced students to the art of filmmaking, and shared our writer and filmmaker experiences and inspirations on our website.

Our trials and difficulties we can file under the “forgotten” category as we charge into our Expecting Goodness Reading and Reception on Friday and, finally, the inspiring festival itself on Saturday.

We’ve got a packed weekend ahead of us. Let’s take a look:

Friday, March 22nd, 7-9pm at The Showroom: Expecting Goodness Reading and Reception

At this event, our authors will be reading aloud their short stories that spawned the films we’re showcasing on Saturday. Free admission to the public. There will be bar service and related books on sale during the event.

Saturday, March 23rd, 3-5 pm at the Chapman Cultural Center: Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival, Part 1: Emerging Filmmakers.

For our first half of the festival, we invite everyone to see what our emerging filmmakers created. Each film will be introduced by the author of the story that inspired it. We’ll also hear from our Emcee, professor-poet Patrick Whitfill, and the individual who spawned the idea of Expecting Goodness, Josh Foster. You’ll also be introduced to our judges and hear their discussion with the filmmakers on their work.

5-7: Dinner Break. Enjoy the fine eats Spartanburg has to offer.

Call head to The Peddler of Spartanburg ( 864-583-5874 ) and reserve a seat for their meal inspired by one of our very own short stories.

“Enjoy a meal called Celebrate Yourself, inspired by Vickie Dailey’s story “Broken.” In the story, the woman struggles to tell herself she is beautiful, but the owners of The Peddler feel that she needs to know how much she is worth and deserves to be treated specially. The options for the Inspirational Meal are Salmon at 20.99 or the Filet Mignon at 25.99. This includes salad bar and choice of side, such as baked potato, sweet potato, Peddler fries, or sweet potato souffle. All of their dinner options can be found here: http://www.peddlerspartanburg.com.”

7-10pm at the Chapman Cultural Center: Expecting Goodness Part 2: Experienced Filmmakers.

The second half of Expecting Goodness will show you the works of our experienced filmmakers and the Spartanburg High School youth project– Dr. Edwin Epps’s creative writing class adapted John Lane’s poem “Sweet Tea” into a recitation short film. The second half also determines the winner of Audience Favorite with a theatre-wide vote after the last film is shown. Following that, Patrick Whitfill, Josh Foster, designer extraordinaire Stephen Long, and the fantastic, talented lady spearheading and driving this project’s success, Kari Jackson, will present the awards. This year, we’ve the following categories for awards:

  • Best Emerging Filmmaker Award (new this year!)
  • Best Film
  • Best Editing
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Actor/Actress
  • Audience Favorite

Who will win?

9:30-11: The After Party at Back Porch, across the street from Chapman Cultural Center:

To wind down from the festival, we invite the public to the after party at Back Porch (http://backporchspartanburg.com). Have a drink, meet the authors and filmmakers, and round out a fantastic evening with one of Spartanburg’s unique locales.

It’s an honor, getting to work on this project with all of the people passionately bringing it to life.

I can guarantee that those part of this event will walk away with all the memorable moments that are created when a large community gathers to lift the art of its own up in celebration.

Hope to see you there!

Alf the Intern

INSPIRATION

It’s here.

We hope you’re as excited as we are about the upcoming Expecting Goodness weekend, and we hope you’ll look at the just released line-up of films and events here.

We’ve built in a two-hour dinner break from 5-7pm for everyone to enjoy a meal at one of our fabulous Spartanburg restaurants.

We strongly encourage you to make dinner reservations in order to be back at the David Reid Theatre by 6:45 pm.

Our special restaurant sponsors invite you to dine with them on Saturday night:

BACK PORCH, 100 Wood Row (across the street from the theatre)
Call 864.804.6507 and tell them you’re with Expecting Goodness
Enjoy a New Orleans inspired meal in a beautiful, historic building. Discover their dinner menu here.

THE PEDDLER STEAK HOUSE, 464 E Main St (within walking distance)
Call 864.583.5874 and tell them you’re with Expecting Goodness
Enjoy a meal called Celebrate Yourself, inspired by Vickie Dailey’s story “Broken.” In the story, the woman struggles to tell herself she is beautiful, but the owners of The Peddler feel that she needs to know how much she is worth and deserves to be treated specially. The options for the Inspirational Meal are Salmon at 20.99 or the Filet Mignon at 25.99. This includes salad bar and choice of side, such as baked potato, sweet potato, Peddler fries, or sweet potato souffle. All of their dinner options can be found here.

Other downtown restaurants include Converse Deli, Cribbs Kitchen, Delaney’s Irish Pub, Lime Leaf, Mellow Mushroom, Miyako Sushi Group, Monsoon Noodle House, Two Samuels, Venus Pie Pizzeria, and Wild Wing Café.

Also happening all day on March 22 and 23 is the Hub City Hog Fest at the corner of W. Main St. and S. Daniel Morgan Ave, featuring 35 BBQ teams in competition. Info and tickets here.

Other Spartanburg restaurants can be found here.

We hope you’ll find an inspirational place to dine when you’re in Spartanburg!

9 Minutes 8 Seconds: Finding the Light

Jason D. Johnson is part of an experienced filmmaking team along with Andrew Ketchum adapting writer Audra Kerr Brown’s short story “Your Father, Frederick” into a film. Here’s Jason’s unique telling of his experience working on this project. 

Image courtesy of Jason D. Johnson

Finding the Light

by Jason D. Johnson

Morning rises over Dahlonega.  Barren trees let the light wander through their branches and fall to the mountainside.  A baby wriggles on a well-loved couch.  My wife stretches her eyes wide to get him to giggle.  Its mother laughs.  Lifetimes of relationships are swirling around in this room. 

We are two weeks removed from the submission of our latest project, Good Night, to the Expecting Goodness Film Festival.  In those two weeks, the film itself has settled for both Andrew (my filmmaking partner) and me.  The newness has worn off.  Every discussion about it now revolves around what we would do differently.  What piece of footage we didn’t get.  What we learned standing in a field, shooting from a hallway, and walking around in unused takes.

Experienced or emerging?  It was a truthful question for us a few months back when we were considering the festival.  Andrew and I began working together on shorts and commercials a year ago when I hired him onto my creative team at work.  On the experienced front, we have knowledge of cameras, editing, creation of parody-style shorts and commercials, but neither one of us ever ventured into the short form narrative realm.  I’d never adapted someone else’s work.  Andrew had never directed a fictional film.   And the talented people that we would use for a crew had never done anything like this before either.

Experienced with the medium, emerging with the form…that was us and so into the experienced category we rode.

Coming from a theatre background, making a fictional film has the feel of directing a play in an alternate universe.  In theatre, with all things being live and rehearsal constantly shifting the visuals of the story, you never truly come to a definite end. With this project, it’s been the opposite.  No rehearsed scenes.  No extensive takes.  It gets edited into a final form.  Andrew and I nod that this is the best way to tell this story.  It renders and then it comes to a definite end.

This film will live like this now.  The only change will occur as people interpret the relationships, the sequence of events and the lingering questions presented in nine minutes eight seconds.

Good Night is a story of relationships.  Lifetimes of relationships that play out in the towns, the fields, the hallways, and in neglected pictures and unused takes across this country every single day.

EGSFF Youth Project: Jada Williams

Jada is a seventeen year-old senior at Spartanburg High School. She is a member of the Symphony Orchestra, Student Council, and National Honor Society. Next year, she plans to attend the University of South Carolina Honors College, double majoring in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism. Jada is pictured second from the left. 

 

            For the Expecting Goodness Festival, what better way could we honor not only the drink of the south, but our hometown of Spartanburg as well than by paying homage to Spartanburg resident and Wofford Professor John Lane’s poem “Sweet Tea.” After many ideas to make the poem come to life, we decided to simply embody the poem’s grand message; one object is capable of unifying many different walks of life. Borrowing an idea from the recently released video from the Kennedy School of Government commemorating President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, we decided to recite the poem verbatim using images of local people. We initially thought that filming people throughout the community while they were reciting small lines would be simple (especially since none of us were iMovie experts). However, the task proved to be tougher than we thought. We encountered many problems such as background noise, missing lines, and a conflicting time schedule. While it was frustrating, the movie finally came together. For our first movie, it turned out well. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish and honored to be a part of the experience. 

Shirley Smith and the Magic of “Living the Dream”

Shirley, pictured far right, is part of a filmmaking duo with Ron Hagell and transformed the short story “Living the Dream” by writer Terresa Haskew. Check out the finished product on March 23rd–tickets are almost completely sold out! 

From left to right: Terresa Haskew (Story Writer), Ron Hagell (Director), Joe Sauvion (Cinematographer), Shirley Smith (Co-Producer)

On location Feb. 9 shooting Living the Dream.

Magical. That’s a word often associated with fairytales and pixie dust. But it’s also a good word to describe the production of Living the Dream. It started with wondering if Hub City project folks would allow two filmmakers to work as a team. Why yes they would! All we had to do was ask and presto-a team was born. Next came the reading of a heap of short stories to find The One– and knowing you found it because it had one of those phrases you can’t get out of your mind. “I didn’t think so much about it when I pedaled home in the inky darkness … and found my bicycle had gotten there ahead of me.”  As cyclists, Ron and I had a particular affinity with a good cycling story. Yet the author, Terresa Haskew, said it really wasn’t a cycling story. Hmmmm. This was the beginning of several things that happened during our production process that gave us pause and also assurance that we were on a magical, mystery tour of filmmaking.

A major challenge was finding the right crew and cast. Having worked with SCETV in past years, I knew some awesome talents. But they were all retired and busy with freelance work and other activities. Would they, could they be willing to work on a little art film for no pay? Why yes they would! They welcomed the opportunity to use their creative talents. And we bookended their decades of experience with a group of young people with the energy, willingness, and talent for art direction, make up, costumes, and acting. They all appeared for a casting call and lo and behold, they were the exact right people and magical combination for the job. We were on our way.

One of the major tasks on our list was to locate three look alike bikes to cover three time periods in the film. The art director found the first cruiser and now we needed two more almost exactly like the first. Word was sent out across the land to all of our cycling friends. No luck. We even contemplated buying them as a last, desperate resort. Then, during a still photo shoot with two of the actors, we casually mentioned the bike dilemma. Abracadabra! Turned out one of our actors had not one, but two bikes that looked just like our cruiser! And he gave the art director permission to do whatever was needed. Talk about coincidence. But was it?

A major location for our film was a house–but not just any house. It needed a screen door, steps to a porch, shrubbery next to porch. There were several hits and misses as we searched Columbia and the surrounding area. We thought we had one but then the owner backed out at last minute. As the shoot dates got closer and we got a bit more panicked, we took a second look at a house two houses up from me. Why yes! They would love to be part of our film! The owners gave the go ahead and the tenants, who had only moved in the week before, were on board and excited about participating.

So we didn’t think so much about it when other strange things started happening – the rains stopped just in time to make our shooting schedule work just right. The the landscaper found a baseball (one of our necessary props) buried under a bush at our fall-back location. AND, then on the day before our grave-side shoot someone threw-out two huge funeral live flower baskets on the street in front of my house. Each one of these usually costs about $150. Was it Luck or was it Magical? 

From the author who wrote such an incredible story and said yes let’s make a film to the generosity of all those that said yes, come use our location to make your film, to the actors that said, yes, we will work all kind of crazy hours and do whatever is needed to make your film, to the crew that said yes, we will find the equipment and whatever is needed to shoot your film, to the support provided by Hub City, the making of Living the Dream has been a wonderful, magical experience.

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.