A state fellowship for screenwriters is seeking not only to help a few selected writers get professional development but also to get more films and television shows to be set and filmed in Missouri.
From Nov. 1-15, the Missouri Film Office’s annual “Missouri Stories Scriptwriting Fellowship” will accept film screenplays or TV scripts with storylines set in Missouri.
“The film and TV industry is one of the hardest to break into — especially from the Midwest,” film office specialist Andrea Sporcic-Klund said in a news release.
“We started this program to encourage more content set in Missouri and are looking for writers who have been inspired by Missouri history, places and people,” Sporcic-Klund added.
Over the past five years, 240 scripts have been submitted to the contest for writers seeking admission into the fellowship. Submissions have come from 12 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Sporcic-Klund told the News Tribune 16 scripts have won, and of those, three have been filmed and another three have been optioned — which means the projects have a producer attached and a contract is in place for the film to be made within a couple years.
The three winning films that have been made are: “Belong to Us,” directed by Patrick Rea and written by Amber Rapp, filmed in Kansas City, and scheduled to be released Dec. 27, according to IMDb; “Big Muddy,” directed by Matt Shapira and written by Paul Piercy, released last month and filmed along the Missouri River; and 2017’s “Dog Days in the Heartland,” from writer-director Chad Carpenter, filmed in the St. Louis area.
Sporcic-Klund added all entrants get written feedback on their submitted scripts. Scripts are judged on six criteria, including relevance to Missouri.
She said “most of the scripts that have won have been predominantly set in Missouri,” though not all stories start or end in the state.
The three winning writers who are selected for the fellowship get to go on a “four-day, all-expense paid experience in Missouri, where they will work with professional writers from the film industry serving as mentors,” according to the news release.
“Previous mentors have included Bob Gale, writer and producer for the ‘Back to the Future’ movies; Phillip LaZebnik, screenplay writer for ‘Mulan’ and ‘The Prince Egypt;’ and Valerie Woods, writer and producer for ‘Queen Sugar,’” according to the news release.
Sporcic-Klund said this year’s retreat-like, four-day fellowship experience — usually at a bed and breakfast inn — will return to Excelsior Springs.
Though the fellowship is more about the writers’ professional development, they do get time with mentors to talk about their script, she said.
The program also opens the door for her to talk with producers about winning scripts, she added, as the film office keeps a database of Missourians who work in the film industry in Los Angeles and New York.
Well-known films that have been set in Missouri, filmed in the state or both include:
• “Gone Girl,” a 2014 Academy Award-nominated mystery-thriller directed by David Fincher and set in Missouri, which had filming locations that included Cape Girardeau.
• “Winter’s Bone,” a 2010 Academy Award-nominated drama directed by Debra Granik, set and filmed in the Ozarks.
• “You’re Next,” a 2013-released horror-thriller, filmed in Columbia.
• “Escape from New York,” a 1981 sci-fi action film, filmed in part in St. Louis.
The 2017 crime drama “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” was filmed in North Carolina. The 2007 bio-pic drama “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and 2019’s Christian faith-based drama “Breakthrough” — based on the story of a 14-year-old boy who drowned in Lake Saint Louis and was dead for a significant length of time before coming back to life — were both filmed in Canada.
The popular Netflix streaming crime drama show “Ozark” is filmed in Georgia, though Sporcic-Klund said the show’s writer-creator is from Missouri, and “it comes from a place of having been there.”
She said to encourage stories set in Missouri to also be filmed in the state, “it’s best to support these Missouri-based projects from the beginning, from the writing stage.”
On the web:
More information about the Missouri Stories Scriptwriting Fellowship and the ability to submit a script is available at mofilm.org/made-in-missouri/mostories/. There is an entry fee of $45.