Catching Up Preview

Check out the trailer for the short film “Catching Up”. It’s a film by an American University film student, Mary Ratliff.

I first encountered this script during a live reading at Arlington Independent Media. At the time, I thought part of it seemed unrealistic – a little girl in a prison? But it’s based on a real story. Truth is stranger than fiction.

The script for this film was a finalist in the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition, where I got to read it as a judge for the competition. Mary is just one of our talented finalists who have gone on to make movies and do other great things.

She’s also part of what I like to call the “AU mafia” of filmmakers, including Colin Foster, who just filmed Man with a Bolex Movie Camera. As an AU grad myself, I think this is awesome.


Official Trailer for Catching Up from Mary Ratliff on Vimeo.

Sneak Peek: Man with a Bolex Movie Camera

Check out my article on Man with a Bolex Movie Camera. This short film was recently accepted into the Cinekink Film Festival. It’s a local production, written and directed by students from American University’s MFA film program. I went to AU as an undergrad so I was glad to write about this production for the Pink Line Project, where I contribute articles about the DC filmmaking scene.

I first encountered Man with a Bolex Movie Camera when it was a script. It had been submitted to the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition. I was one of the judges and we selected the script as a finalist. Local actors performed this funny and sexy story in a theater in the round setting on a rainy night in October 2009.

While the script didn’t win the competition (Annie Coburn, another AU student did), writer Colin Foster benefited from the experience. Based upon hearing the response from the audience, he shortened the script and tightened it up a bit.

Continue reading “Sneak Peek: Man with a Bolex Movie Camera”

How to Win the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition

Man With A Bolex Movie Camera
DC Shorts finalist Colin Foster enjoys a table read of his screenplay, The Man with a Bolex Movie Camera.

The DC Shorts Screenplay Competition is a different kind of screenplay contest. What makes it unique is that the winner receives $2,000 toward turning their script into a film. The film is also automatically admitted into the following year’s DC Shorts Film Festival. Continue reading “How to Win the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition”

2010: My Year in the Arts

Several years ago, I was sitting in a bar with a bunch of coworkers. We went out a couple times a week for beer, always to the same place. They were fine people but, good lord, how many times can you hear the same old stories?

While we were rehashing the same old petty little workplace dramas, a group of staffers from the Portrait Gallery came in. They had more interesting things to say than me and my coworkers, for they were talking about art.

It was then that I vowed to get more involved in the creative scene in DC.

In 2010, I was fortunate to not only sample a lot of what the city has to offer, but also participate in it. Continue reading “2010: My Year in the Arts”

2010 DC Shorts Screenplay Competition: Alumni Report

It’s been a busy couple of months for the finalists of the 2010 DC Shorts Screenplay Competition. Since the live reading of short scripts we did in October, here’s what our writers have been up to:

Interview Date – this funny romantic comedy won the competition. Grant Lyon and Mike Lemcke are now raising money on IndieGoGo to fund production of their film. Check out their video to get a taste of what the movie will be like.

photo courtesy of ninehourfilms

Catching Up – local DC moviemaker Mary Ratliff has already finished filming! Her script was a finalist in the competition. Catching Up is a touching drama and received a lot of publicity in Pulaski, VA, where it was filmed. (I first heard this script at a reading. A little girl in a prison? But it’s a true story.)

Surreal Estate – this script by Lori Romero was a finalist in the competition. She and her husband Tom have been busy with Cyphers. Check out the webisodes of this online series about a mysterious conspiracy.

Break Up, Break In, Break Out – local filmmaker Kelli Herod is figuring out what to do next with her script about the funny side of breaking up.

The Dressing Room – writer Jackie Boor does more than just write screenplays. She has a really interesting book coming out. Inside the President’s Helicopter is the reflections of Lt. Col Boyer, a senior pilot during the LBJ, Nixon, and Ford administrations.

Now that’s a talented bunch of writers 🙂

Gift Ideas for Aspiring Filmmakers

Check out my Pink Line Project article on gift ideas for aspiring filmmakers, including membership in local organizations, such as Women in Film and Video and Arlington Independent Media. Making a short film doesn’t need to be expensive and DC is filled with filmmakers willing to help out.

One thing I’ve learned as a judge for DC Shorts over the years is that there are plenty of good technical people. They can get the sound right and light a scene correctly. And every city, it seems, contains talented actors who can make your script sing.

The hard part is getting the story right, in making sure that you have a script with a beginning, middle and an end. Something with an identifiable protagonist and stakes that really matter. My article concentrates on the storytelling part of filmmaking. It’s easy to pick up a camera but much harder to tell a good story.

DC Shorts Screenplay Competition Summary

screenplay reading
A table read at the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition.

The comedy Interview Date won the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition. This was a funny script, with some great lines highlighting the similarities between looking for a job and finding love. It was performed with five other scripts on October 16, part of the ScriptDC screenwriting weekend. The audience at the reading voted for their favorite and selected Interview Date, as a I wrote for the Pink Line Project.

I’m glad that they won. The writers, Grant Lyon and Mike Lemcke, are really nice guys from San Francisco. Grant is a stand-up comic, which was really evident from the script and how they performed it. Continue reading “DC Shorts Screenplay Competition Summary”

DC Shorts Mini-Review: Corner Plot

For anyone who lives in the sprawling metropolis of Washington, Corner Plot is a fascinating documentary.  Would you believe that someone owns a one-acre farm in the middle of Silver Spring? Charlie Koiner does. He’s 89-years-old and produces a cornucopia of produce from his tiny plot of land, just blocks from the Metro.

Corner Plot is a really effective short work because the filmmakers paid attention to the story of Koiner, showing how farming has kept him young and engaged with the community. More strident documentarians would’ve taken the occasion to lecture the audience on environmental themes but Ian Cook and Andrew Dahlman are smart enough to let their subject do most of the talking. They allow they audience to come to the conclusion that local farms are critical to community life, vital to people like Koiner and the people of Silver Spring.

Corner Plot won for Outstanding Local Film at the DC Shorts Film Festival. You can see it for free on September 23 at Little Miss Whiskey’s. Look for more screenings throughout the year.

DC Shorts Mini-Review: Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario (The Imaginary Friend Practical Manual)

Superhero movies have been done to death.

However, superhero imaginary friends – that’s not been explored before and is the subject of Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario (The Imaginary Friend Practical Manual). This Spanish film won the Audience Choice Award at the DC Shorts Film Festival.

I was at the DC premiere for this hilarious short film. From the opening scene, the audience was howling. The movie begins with a conference of imaginary friends, all of whom have been rejected by the children that once loved them. One man – Captain Kiloton – has managed to remain the imaginary friend of man for more than twenty years. He explains how he’s been successful to a motley assemblage of rejectees, a motivational speaker for the imaginary friend set.

Back in the real world, 27-year-old Fernando is being pulled away from Captain Kiloton by a new love interest. Can he grow up and keep Kiloton? This dilemma is neatly (and sweetly) wrapped up in this very funny mockumentary.

DC Shorts Mini-Review: Touch

A scene from Touch

Here’s another mini-review of one of the many great films that were a part of the DC Shorts Film Festival.

Despite our affluence, Americans suffer from record levels of depression. People feel disconnected from life, even in the midst of busy urban environments.

What’s missing? Jen McGowan examines this problem in her film, Touch. It’s a simple setup – two women on a train platform. Lily Knight’s performance in this short is amazing. The camera is close on her face for nearly the entire film and she communicates incredible suffering, nearly wordlessly.

We never learn why she is in pain. But, following a chance encounter with a stranger, we discover what she has come to the train platform to do.

In the Q&A session following the screening of Touch, director McGowan explained that finding her lead actor was the hardest part in making this movie. She looked for months until she saw Knight, who had a bit part in another film.

Touch is a beautiful short that demonstrates the power a simple act of kindness can have on someone’s life.