2 items from 2017
Guest Post by Denise Meyers
I am the antithesis of what a successful screenwriter looks like: I am 57, female, and live in the fly-over zone.
I am also a great one for beating the odds, because on May 18, 2017, the short film I wrote, “The Dark of Night,” directed by Robin Wright and starring Leslie Bibb and Sam Rockwell, will make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, opening for the Cannes Classics film block and the digitally remastered version of 1980 Palme d’Or winner “All That Jazz.”
So how in the hell did a dame from North Carolina get an A-list actress like Robin Wright to direct a 10-minute film without an agent or a manager, but with an outstanding cast and 80 crew members from “House of Cards?”
That’s a good question.
I started my career in the film industry in 1982 as an assistant to Jody Scott-Fox, a motion picture literary agent. After 12 years I managed to work my way to the middle as an assistant to a producer, then became a story analyst for several independent film companies.
With the dream of a career in film always just out of reach, I finally gave up, packed my bags and moved to Utah where I became the top-selling gourd artist in the nation. Odd transition, I know, but where I failed miserably in the film industry, I killed in the art business. My work sold for between $500 and $25,000, and I was in top galleries and magazines and on TV.
Then the economy crashed and so did my business. That’s when “the dream that wouldn’t die” reared its head again and I started writing with a vengeance.
“Ride the Wind,” a script I wrote about Jamaican-American motorcycle legend Bessie Stringfield, was selected as an Athena List winner in 2016, and “Lucky 13,” my script about the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, was an Athena Finalist. The Athena List was founded by Melissa Silverstein and Kathryn Kolbert as the answer to The Black List — the predominately male online script service — to give writers like myself the same chance men have to get their work in front of the people who can help get it made.
Scriptd founder Denise Hewett, a force of nature in her own right, gave “Lucky 13” to Beau Gordon, who used to work for Kevin Spacey. Beau passed it along to Nini Le Huynh, Robin Wright’s assistant, and an amazing actress in her own right.
I sent Nini “The Dark of Night,” a short script I’d written that won Table Read My Screenplay Austin in 2015, as a project for Nini to star in. Not long after, she called to ask if I would mind having a small crew from “House of Cards” produce the film. Sure, I thought. And pinch me while you are at it.
Then it got better. A lot better. Robin Wright read the script and wanted to direct it.
Before we knew it, 80 crew members signed onto the project: Dave Dunlap, the Director of Photography, Jessica Wenger McPhail, the costume designer, Alphonso Carrion, the editor, Todd Halvern, the assistant Ad, Sharif Salama, the Upm, Cassandra McCarthy, Kara Tabor, Eric Goserud, and dozens of others.
We shot last December in Baltimore on the same set Barry Levinson used for the classic film “Diner.” The production design department did an outstanding job of turning an iconic restaurant into a 1930s film noir dream, and we shot the film in black and white. John Garfield and Lana Turner should have had it so good.
Nothing in life prepares you to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, just like nothing prepares you to have Robin Wright direct a film you wrote as an exercise in getting out of your own head.
I still live in fly-over zone, and I don’t have an agent, but it’s okay. Because for the rest of my life, I will know I defied the odds and accomplished the impossible.
Not too bad for a 57-year-old screenwriter from North Carolina, wouldn’t you say?
In February 2017 Denise Meyers was named the winner of the Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay competition. In February 2016 she was an Athena List winner at the Athena Film Festival in New York. She is the only writer in the six-year history of the Athena Film to have two screenplays make it to the finals, “Ride the Wind: The Bessie Stringfield Story,” and “Lucky 13.” “Lucky 13” was a Nashville Film Festival finalist and placed in the top 15 percent of scripts submitted to the Nicholl fellowships. Meyers is a finalist for the Seriesfest Female Initiative for a limited series TV pilot about the all-girl bands of WWII. She recently completed “Truth Against the World,” a pilot based on the “The Dark of Night.”
Guest Post: How a Short I Wrote Ended Up Being Directed by Robin Wright and Premiering at Cannes was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Women and Hollywood
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2 items from 2017
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