At film festivals the flickering lights on screen get most of the attention, but film projects also almost universally begin with the written word — either a script or, for documentaries, a detailed synopsis. This essential document serves as both a road map to make the movie and a tool to hunt for necessary funding.
Entering and winning screenwriting competitions can help a film project find the backing needed to move from page to screen. Robert Pawloski ’92, visual arts, and adjunct faculty in visual arts, recently won an award at the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition for his script Bronze, co-written with Australian writer Kerri-Anne Weston. Bronze, which was the winner in the “Feature: Inspirational” category, is based on Kerri-Anne Weston’s life story: an athletic young woman loses the use of her legs but fights back to win five swimming medals at the 1984 Summer Paralympics in Stoke Mandeville, U.K.
Pawloski, who currently teaches screenwriting, film history and the history of animation, says he met Weston through his work as a story editor, initially helping her craft some early stories she hoped to turn into screenplays. After she worked with another editor to realize her inspirational story as a book, she returned to adapt the story into a screenplay.
Pawloski explains, “We worked together in a collaborative, back and forth fashion until we felt we had a worthy screenplay.” Asked about what happens next for the project, he says that after the festival win his agent at Zero Gravity Management sent the script to their production department for review. In addition to representing talent, the company is also a full-service production company capable of handling the development, finance, execution, and sale of projects.
Pawloski entered the Nashville Film Festival Competition for the first time in 2015 with Illuminate, a short film script that won Best Dramatic Short Screenplay. He says, “it’s a quirky but touching story of a woman who must find the lost table lamp where she’s convinced her father’s soul resides and honor his dying wishes.” He plans to produce and direct this 20-minute short himself and is preparing to fund-raise.
In addition to teaching, Pawloski is an award-winning screenwriter and story editor with 15 years of experience in Los Angeles before his return to Maryland in 2011. He is still actively writing, rewriting, and polishing screenplays and estimates that since 1996 he has evaluated over 2,000 screenplays for a wide range of clients that have included New Regency and Polygram Films studios, as well as established independent producers. In 2003, he started RP Story Consulting to provide development notes and consulting for writers, directors, and producers at all levels.
The Nashville Film Festival, which ran this year from April 14 to 23, is one of the oldest and largest film festivals in the United States and holds the important distinction of being an Academy Award qualifying festival. In 2016 the festival received over 6,000 entries over the three competitions they run in in film, web series and screenwriting, and 1,500 of those entries were in screenwriting.
Images: Portrait by Catherine Borg; Kerri-Anne Weston swimming, courtesy of Weston.