Professional actors read 10-minute scenes from film and television scripts written by current and former Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students at the BMCC Time Warner Screenwriting Fellowship program’s Script Reading Gala held the night of March 2 in BMCC’s Theater 2.
The screenwriting fellowship was made possible by a $25,000 grant from Time Warner Foundation announced in June 2016. The grant also covered the student writers’ transportation, lunch, books and film screenings, as well as screenwriting software and laptop computers.
“At Time Warner we believe in creating an artistic landscape where the best ideas and most talented creators can share their stories with global audiences. We recognize that meaningful support to organizations create opportunity and access to diverse and emerging storytellers. A BMCC-Time Warner Fellowship is instrumental in removing the barriers to opportunity for the next generation of screenwriters in American film, and we are privileged to partner with them,"said Diahann Billings-Burford Executive Director, Cultural Investments, Time Warner Inc.
Starting in September 2016, 10 burgeoning screenwriters — each a BMCC student or 2016 graduate who has taken a BMCC screenwriting course — spent 14 Saturdays developing their projects under the direction of BMCC Media Arts and Technology professor George Stevenson.
“We worked at a different pace with each student as they developed their scripts for a feature film or television pilot, and a lot of our initial work focused on which would be the best format for their project. We considered things such as length; if it would be shot single-camera or multi-camera,” said Stevenson.
During the theater reading, actors took the stage for each writer’s script. They sat in chairs, facing music stands, each with a microphone, and stood when it was time for their character to speak. Stevenson, as narrator, stood at a podium reading stage directions for each scene.
Friends, family and faculty filled the theater and the writers sat in the front row, standing for applause, as Stevenson introduced their scripts.
The wide range of story ideas, the imagination and determination each screenwriter brought to the fellowship was impressive, said Stevenson. The group started working at 11 a.m. almost every Saturday and would work well past 6 p.m., as their scripts started to take on a life of their own, he said.
“All the students had great ideas and during the developmental phase, some of the stories and characters changed extensively,” said Stevenson.
BMCC Time Warner Fellows and their projects included:
Marcelino Sorza is a Writing and Literature major. Sorza’s screenplay, Fun and Games, is a one-hour comedy-drama series centered on a Brooklyn cosplay store — one that specializes in anime and gaming costumes —frequented by a group of friends.
Maty Dakar is a 2016 Video Arts and Technology BMCC alumna. Her screenplay, US of A, is a one-hour comedic drama that chronicles the character building and soul-searching process of 10 young immigrants and first-generation Americans in New York City.
Dympna Roman is a 2016 Liberal Arts alumna. Roman’s half-hour TV pilot, The Long Journey Home, is a comedy about an Irish-Ecuadorian family in Queens, planning their first trip to Ireland.
Enrique “Eriq” Ortiz is a 2016 graduate of BMCC’s Video Arts and Technology program. His feature, Forever, is about a rival and culturally distinct clan of vampires who try to get along in contemporary Miami.
Chris Vanbrussel is a Video Arts and Technology major and president of the BMCC Video Production Club. His animated feature, Avian Airlines, is about an airline staffed by flightless birds whose workplace behavior is a mixture of the rational and the absurd.
Alfonso J. Henrique spent 12 years in the U.S. Navy before enrolling at BMCC where he is a Writing and Literature major. His TV pilot, A Hot Mess, centers on a young man who breaks the engagement with his older boyfriend, and moves back in with his roommates, who are not all thrilled about it.
Lilybeth Gonzales is a BMCC Video Arts and Technology major. Her feature, Blindly Bound, deals with the vicious cycle of physical and psychological abuse throughout the generations.
Brian Releford spent 10 years pursuing an acting career before enrolling at BMCC as a Video Arts Technology major. His feature, The Gunmaker, is an explosive, epic western involving a railroad baron and his posse in a small New Mexico town.
Rondel King is a BMCC Video Arts and Technology major. His feature, I am One of He, is about a group of commandos on a mission to find the Ambassador of Rwanda near the Bermuda Triangle. The mission goes awry and the only way back home is to face inner demons head on.