Hollywood Mentors Focus on Missouri Stories

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A 1950s turf battle along the Mississippi River, a church conspiracy and outlaw Jesse James played prominent roles in the winning entries for the inaugural Missouri Stories Scriptwriting Fellowship.

The winning scripts truly connected with the spirit of our competition, which was to tell Missouri-focused stories.

Sponsored by the Missouri Film Office, Missouri Division of Tourism and Missouri Motion Media Association, the competition yielded more than 50 entries from writers around the U.S.

“We were overwhelmed by the response to our inaugural competition,” said Missouri Film Office Specialist Andrea Sporcic-Klund. “The winning scripts truly connected with the spirit of our competition, which was to tell Missouri-focused stories.”

Thirty readers from around Missouri were involved in the initial round of judging. Each of 52 submissions was read by two different judges, who scored each script. From that initial round of judging, 11 finalists were selected.

Two additional judges were asked to read the finalists’ scripts and select the winning entries. The winning scripts were:

  • "City of the Blues" by Peter Mayer. Set in 1958 St. Louis, "City of the Blues" focuses on a blues club owner who finds himself in the middle of a war for control of the Mississippi riverfront.
  • "Cloister" by Peter Hanrahan. In "Cloister," a private detective investigates the murder of a Carmelite nun and uncovers a conspiracy that leads to the Archdiocese.
  • "Searching for Jesse" by Steven Clark. In "Searching for Jesse," a sailor’s search for a notorious ancestor takes a turn when he gets involved in a librarian’s bittersweet life.

After their scripts were selected, Mayer, Hanrahan and Clark attended an intensive, four-day fellowship session with mentors from the film industry. Those mentors were Bob Gale, Kathleen McGhee Anderson and Philip LaZebnik.

Gale, who was born in University City, is best known for co-writing films in the “Back to the Future” trilogy. He’s currently working on a stage musical adaptation of “Back to the Future,” expected to be released sometime this year.

Anderson, who has worked extensively with the UMKC theater program, is noted for a variety of television credits including ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights,” on which she served as executive producer and show runner. LaZebnik, who grew up in Columbia, has written a variety of screenplays, including those for “Prince of Egypt” and “Mulan.”

During the fellowship, writers worked closely with the mentors to fine tune their scripts and develop ideas that could lead to television and/or big-screen productions. Additionally, the fellowship experience provided time for the winners to explore Missouri, while accompanied by the Missouri Film Office and the mentors.

The winners agreed the fellowship was an unforgettable experience.

“The entire fellowship really charged me up,” said Clark. “It gives writers encouragement, a chance to have their work critically evaluated, and help them to think of a good Missouri locale for their scripts and to incorporate it in future projects.”

“It was an excellent experience from top to bottom,” added Hanrahan. “A combination workshop/master class in the Sundance mold that really was invaluable, and I hope to see the program continue to grow and thrive.”

After the fellowship, Gale lauded the program and the opportunity it provides.

“This program shows that Missouri takes such an interest in aspiring writers that it has a program to nurture them and make them better,” he said.

The Missouri Stories program will continue in 2015, with the contest period set to open in August. Learn more about the next fellowship at MoFilm.org/MoStories.

“It was a really exciting, creative experience,” Sporcic-Klund said. “To give talented writers an opportunity to connect with such accomplished and respected industry professionals … I’m not sure you can put a value on that.”

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