Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday, October 13: Walter Halsey Davis

Screenwriters Association
of Santa Barbara


Screenwriter & Playwright

Walter Halsey Davis

Thursday, October 13, 7 pm

*Come early to join in interactive discussion, get to know each other, and network with local talent. The speaker presentation will start around 7:30 pm

Brooks Ins
27 East Cota Street
Downtown Santa Barbara
(805) 617-4503

FREE and open to everyone!

After serving four years in the Navy, Walter Halsey Davis went to France with the notion of writing a novel. Just when he was about to run out of money, he was mysteriously cast in a small part in a movie filming in Paris. This early exposure to the movies didn't take, however, and he took off for Austria where he worked in a ski factory until sawdust and solitude drove his north into Germany where he worked as a television repairman while he attended the University of Mainz.

Davis returned to his native California. He attended UCSB where he took a Bachelor and Masters Degree in English literature, and went on to UCLA where he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theater Arts.

Davis' first play, The Tapioca Misanthropa (a verse drama cum cosmic vaudeville), was produced for ABC television in Santa Barbara and later broadcast in Los Angeles on the PBS station KCET. "Tapioca" won the Lucille Ball Comedy Writing Award and was published by Painted Cave Books in Santa Barbara.

Davis' second play, Panhandle, a chronicle of a Texas family's struggle through the Great Depression, was first produced at UCSB, then the Oxford Playhouse in Los Angeles, the Scott Theater in Fort Worth, North Texas State University, Texas Tech University, and in New York at the Walden Theater. Panhandle won the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, the Texas Bicentennial Playwriting Award, and the American College Theater Festival Playwriting Award (Region V). On the basis of Panhandle, Davis was selected to be a playwright in residence for one year at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Davis' third play, Tilden (written in collaboration with Pierre Delattre and Lew Catching), is based on the life of the tennis champion Big Bill Tilden. It has been produced in Minneapolis.

Davis sold his first screenplay, a science fiction piece called The Locus while he was still a graduate student at UCLA. Since then he has worked constantly as a screenwriter and has written feature films, television mini-series, and movies for television. In an effort to maintain a greater degree of control over his material, he has managed to become a producer on his more recent projects and is looking forward to directing.

He has won an Emmy, a Writers Guild of America Award and two Nominations, an Edgar Allan Poe Award, two Christopher Awards, the Lucille Ball Comedy Writing Award, the Goldwyn Writing Award, the Texas Bicentennial Playwriting Award, the Red Cross Prize at the Monaco International Television Festival, The Peabody Award, The Humanitas Prize, a Golden Globe nomination, and the American College Theater Festival Playwriting Award (Region V).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meeting minutes for Thursday, September 8, 2011

By Adrienne D. Wilson

Lisa Angle
, new President of the Screenwriters Association of Santa Barbara, opened the lecture at Brooks Institute by taking a few questions about the Association which began 35 years ago as an offshoot of a class at Santa Barbara City College. The group once had a “script library” but with the nature of screenplays being available online that had fallen by the wayside. There was interest in making the library available again.

Lisa mentioned resources available for writers in Santa Barbara, such as “The Table” at Max’s Restaurant every Wednesday at 6:30 pm where screenwriters gather and ta
lk film. Indiecoop is a directory for local independent producers and those working on independent film in this area.

Our speaker was Director, Writer, Producer John B. Macurdy, who has written over a dozen original feature film screenplays and is a 2008 Telly Award winner. Films he has worked on include The Pharaoh Project, A Murder of Crows, and the award-winning Nate and the Colonel.

Cool, calm and collected in a pea green shirt, the best thing Macurdy
gave the group was the idea that if thirty people wanted to make a film and all had their hearts in it, and all donated $1,000 each, it could be done! “You know why?” he asked. “They are going to want their names on the credits.”

In big Hollywood’s current focus on comic book heroes, franchises, remakes and so forth, “go independent,” he told the group. “We as writers need to stop putting obstacles in our way. I always wrote my screenplays because I wanted to see them.”

“Moviemaking is creative problem solving.”

Macurdy made the group laugh when he told us about Stonehenge. “Do you really need to go to England or can you use stock footage and then just have your actors posed against a rock as a backdrop?”

Need people in costume?

“Get Historic Reenactors.”

“They already have the costumes and they love what they do,” he said, chuckling.

Most important is a cinematographer you can rely on, because an experienced cameraman will let you know what shots you are missing. Macurdy gave the group his definition of a script: “A screenplay is a condensation of significant events arranged or organized for maximum dramatic effect.”

On directors, Macurdy spoke of the importance of a script analysis because that will give the sense of each character’s “dramatic spine.” Details in a script give the actor and director something to chew on, “but the actor might not do that” the way the writer wrote it. He told the group that screenwriting draws the picture, but it is in the collaboration that the magic occurs.

“One of the hallmarks of low budget films is white walls,” he laughed. “Get colors!”

“Get the best sound you can.”

Independent film is all about stories with a heart. “Take an acting class to understand how to be a director,” he said. This is to help learn about locations, set design, costumes and what the camera is going to do. Watch the film, My Dinner with AndrĂ© and you will understand what can be done with just two characters.

He left the audience with this thought: “If you have a story you want to tell, you can do it. You can make your movie.”

Making a film just might be sailing off to sea in a beautiful pea green boat if everyone’s collective heart is in it. Take a look at The Pharoah Project and see how you can be inspired!