Monday, April 25, 2011

kNIFVES Crew Produces PSA on Domestic Abuse

I believe I have a lot in common with “The King’s Speech” screenwriter David Seidler who joked when he won an Oscar for best original screenplay at age 73, “My father always said to me I’d be a late bloomer.”

I’ve recently experienced an exciting adventure through my own late blooming screenwriting career. No Oscar as of yet, but through the experience I learned more about the craft of screenwriting, participated in an actual production, and hopefully made a difference in my community. What fun!

Several weeks ago, members of the Screenwriter’s Special Interest Group (SIG) I belong to through kNIFVES, Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society, were given the opportunity to write a script for a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) on the subject of Domestic Abuse for the Post Falls Police Department (PFPD).

First I researched how to write a PSA and then took a look at some on-line. Finally I contacted the Victim’s Services Unit (OASIS) of the PFPD and asked them for insight into the audience they wanted to reach and anything in particular they wanted to say.

Then I wrote my 30-second PSA – all 1½ pages of it. It took me 3 days.

To my surprise, because the subject touched so many people, 13 scripts were submitted from our small group, some writers submitting more than one. A couple of weeks later, I was pleased to learn the members of the PFPD chose my script, "Break the Cycle" as the winner.

Then the real fun began. I got to watch my script – all 30 seconds of it – go from pre-production, through production, and into post-production all in a 1½ day workshop designed to teach students how to produce a PSA.

The amount of work the kNIFVES professionals put into this short commercial was amazing. The Line Producer and Production Manager, Karla Petermann, worked for weeks lining up mentors and actors willing to donate their time and talent for a good cause – to let abused women know that someone cares and someone will understand if they just call.


I worked on rewrites with W.J. Lazerus the producer, perfecting each of the three short scenes in the script. Believe it or not, there were actually 5 rewrites on this simple little script that I considered perfect in the first place!

Once the final script was OK’d by the client, the actors were recruited, the Call Sheets were printed, the students were signed up, and we were good to go.

What excitement for me the weekend of the shoot. I proudly wrote Mary Jane Honegger – Screenwriter on my name tag and stood back to watch the action.

From the first words out of the director’s mouth, I knew I was in good hands. As he directed the actors and shared his vision of the scenes I had written, I realized each one was becoming even more powerful than I had envisioned.

And he wasn’t the only one. Each one of the twenty-three crew members (Yes, 23!) worked their magic, helping to make a difference through the PSA we were creating. Cinematographer John Bateman and Camera Operator and Editor Paul Brand were TOTALLY amazing to work with. Each gave me a hug, congratulated me on my script, and asked what it was like for me to watch my words turn into action. What nice guys!

Other crew members included two assistant directors, and a couple of production assistants; grips, gaffers, mixers, and prop guys. There was a Best Boy, a makeup artist, a hairdresser, a wardrobe gal, and a still photographer; all donating their efforts and use of their equipment.

After a day-and-a-half of shooting, I was, well, shot. As a screenwriter my duty was done once the filming started, but during the last couple of years I’ve discovered I love the behind-the-scenes hustle and bustle; so I jumped in whenever I could; helping mostly with props, making sure the crew got fed, and things got cleaned up.

By late afternoon on the second day, only a small crew was left; just a couple of mentors teaching a handful of students the art of editing. But they got the job done and the next day I received a copy of the PSA via e-mail.

I was warned by the director that the piece still needed some ”tweaking” and that the music wasn’t finalized, but to me, finished or not, it was stunning. And as I watched I was struck with the realization that this piece became more powerful as the result of true team effort. Each person who touched the script - director, cameraman, lighting director, and actors added the emotion that brought my words to life.

"Break the Cycle" will be released on “Cinco de Mayo,” according to the director. It is scheduled for release on our local PBS station, but release to other local stations is being considered. The video will be installed on the PFPD website and I hope to post a copy on our blog.

If you would like to check out kNIFVES, visit their website at www.knifves.org. Our Screenwriting SIG meets the third Tuesday of each month in Coeur d'Alene. You'll find more information on the website under Announcements.

One out of every three women will become a victim of abuse at some time during her life. If you or someone you know is being abused, call 208-773-1080. They can help.

6 comments:

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Mary Jane, what an accomplishment! Not for only your script, but for a team of 23 people who gave their time, talent and energy. Thanks for taking us through this exciting experience, and I can't wait to see the final product. (Do you have a red carpet in your house to walk down?) :-)

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

And the Oscar goes to.... Congratulations Mary Jane on your success as scriptwriter, and tackling such a serious subject.

Jennifer Rova said...

Do you have your dress picked out for the Academy Awards in February 2012? Congratulations on your accomplishment! We know someone famous!

Mary Jane Honegger said...

I know now why I like you guys! Talk of red carpets, Academy Award gowns, and Oscars all for a little 30-second spot. I'm so glad to have a rooting section like you!!

Beth Bollinger said...

It was such a great experience! And your script was very powerful. It was a great 1 1/2 days, too (says one of the "production assistants" - apparently I had that title all along!).

elizabethbrinton said...

Way to go! It sounds like an amazing experience, and to think you aided a very good cause in the process.