January 11, 1998 in Features

Area Writer’s Script Wins Slamdance Screenplay Contest

By The Spokesman-Review

If you’ve read the main entertainment piece in this section (see page 3), you know that Sherman Alexie is one of the featured screenwriters at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

But he isn’t the only writer with Spokane connections who will receive attention in Park City, Utah, over the next couple of weeks.

Veradale writer Bob Shill is co-author of the winning script in the Second Annual Slamdance Screenplay Competition.

Slamdance is the alternative to Sundance. It began four years ago as a way, claim the festival organizers, “to broaden the venue available for film festival enthusiasts in Park City.”

It runs concurrently with Sundance (from Friday through Jan. 23), one of the nation’s most prestigious film festivals, and strives to emphasize the works of “first-time filmmakers working with limited budgets who have not yet found U.S. distribution.”

Two years ago, Slamdance began its screenplay competition. Shill, who wrote the screenplay “Chinaware: Fragile” with the Madison, Wis., writing team of Christine DeSmet and Peggy Williams, submitted the script in time for the 1998 judging.

Though in heavy competition - some 750 scripts were submitted in all - “Chinaware: Fragile” won, earning Shill, DeSmet and Williams $2,000 in cash, a free reading to be performed during the festival by professional actors and submission to a Los Angeles talent agency.

Word has spread fast.

“This contest has really gotten us good results in that Jodie Foster has called wanting to see it,” Shill says. “Julia Ormond - it’s tailor-made for someone like that.”

Based on a true story, the screenplay involves a woman named Dolly Cameron who, Shill says, saved 3,000 Chinese women slaves at the turn of the century.

“I ran across the story in a little-known book,” he says. “It was so big, and it involved all women. I just figured that I needed to bring in some women and collaborate.”

A quadraplegic since a 1971 diving accident, Shill, 40, has been writing for about 10 years.

“I didn’t even know what I was writing about,” he says. “I just loved to write.”

He was involved for a while with a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America.

“They were about the only writers group that I could find out about here in Spokane,” he says. “It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I wanted to be with other creative people, other writers. I’ve still got some very good friends in that group.”

Despite the lure of the Park City spotlight, Shill doesn’t plan to attend Slamdance to share the award.

“It’s so busy there, people are tripping over each other,” he says. “I’m in a wheelchair, and it would really be a hassle for me in all that snow.”

But he figures on getting an even bigger award when the scipt is sold and, maybe, one day made into a movie.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of who all would be interested in it,” he says.

On the schedule

Mark this down: Oregon writer Craig Lesley, author of novels such as “The Sky Fisherman,” “Winterkill” and “River Song,” is scheduled to read from his works at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 23, in the Spokane City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

In addition to being a writer, Lesley teaches English and creative writing at Mount Hood Community College. His appearance is being sponsored by Eastern Washington University and the Spokane Arts Commission.

The reader board

Susan Mayse, author of “Awen: A Novel of Early Medieval Wales,” will read from her book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the The Met.

Barbara Nichols, co-author of “Out of the Blue: Delight Comes Into Our Lives,” will sign copies of her book from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hastings store in Coeur d’Alene, 101 Best Ave.

Poets Gwendolyn Albert and Vince Farnsworth will read from their respective works at 8 p.m. Thursday at The Vox coffee house in Moscow, Idaho. Albert and Farnsworth have spent the last several years living in Prague, Czechoslovakia. For further information, call (208) 882-7646.

Yasoda Spickler, author of “Radha: A Diary of a Woman’s Search,” will read from her book at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington.

, DataTimes

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