Member Spotlight

Petra Perkins
Writer

Q: What is your field of focus?
A: I’ve been long focused on memoir writing, as I have three in progress (mine, my husband’s, and my daughter’s) plus a novella and an epic poem, but recently I started (oh-no!) a *new* project – a screenplay, which is even more fun because I have fantasies of it becoming something like “The Book of Mormon.” Plus, PLUS, if that’s not crazy enough, I have another project slowly working its way like a worm through my sleep-deprived brain — a film or stage play, a dark comedy in circa 1859.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
A: I’ve studied writing at the Lighthouse in Denver for seven years, mostly workshops in fiction, creative non-fiction, experimental/hybrid poetry and screenwriting. And, gratefully, because of this superb writing school, I’ve been published in several genres, including essay and monologue. I’ve studied humor writing, too, and lean towards integrating some form of humor into most of my work.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
A: Where did I get the inspiration to write all the time? Well, from the get-go it was some chronic internal voice: I liked the idea of ensemble pieces, bringing together several characters in comedy (or tragi-comedy). For me, the screenplay of the movie “M*A*S*H” is ever-inspiring and iconic.

It started when I was young, writing plays for my family to perform (yes, you can imagine the introverts’ reactions), at school, and later even on my job in business management (for team building). These were always wildly satirical plays. Nora Ephron was my early essayist role model; David Sedaris, for his light/heavy risky wit. But for imagery and dialogue, and for truly deep –practically buried — satire, I went to Paul Theroux and read everything he wrote. Then I wrote a little play about him writing it. Then years later, I got the courage to send it to him (gaaaa). He answered and said he “loved it!” and some other nice words and wished me well in my writing endeavors. That bit of feedback was greatly encouraging and kept me going.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
A: My favorite project is always the one I’m working on at the moment! Takeaways from it are lessons learned to make the next project go easier and better. Also, I notice how I integrate poetry. I believe the study of poetry, the absorption of it, and the use of poetic device give dimension to everything I write.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
A: My hopes for the Colorado media, TV and film scene include increased resources (talent, money, tools) committed to growth in women’s projects, and male dedication to projects about female subjects. I would also like to see Colorado’s politically-oriented media projects used as national flagships, to become leaders in bi-partisan discourse or treatment of political/social/economic issues via TV or film, because we, in this trend-setting ‘blue’ state, have insight and influence to share.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
A: The only advice I have to give writers — something I tell myself daily because I work on too many things at once — is: Just get your idea down, down and dirty as fast as possible, from start to finish. Take it from mind to matter ASAP. T-h-e-n go back and make it clean, smart and pretty.
Also, don’t hesitate to connect with your favorite author/actor/producer/director/filmmaker. They actually might answer.



July 2018 Member Spotlight

Suz Jordan & Laura Alsum

Winner’s of the Athena Project/ WIFMCO Media Mashup!

Congratulations to our short script writer Laura Alsum and our podcast writer Suz Jordan! These projects, along with a short play, will be produced this summer/ fall and then presented as part of the TedX Mile High Adventure Series at the end of November.

We asked Suz and Laura to answer a few questions for us so you can get to know more about them and the amazing projects they are working on in Colorado.

Q: What is your field of focus?
Suz: Writing will always be my first love, and now I’m learning about producing. I’m drawn to the role and responsibilities of a producer because I enjoy collaboration and project management.
Laura: Screenwriting mostly, but also fiction writing – short stories and novels.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
Suz: When I look back over my professional lives (administration, product development, marketing, freelance writing, and management), my journey has been all about building the relationships, skills, drive, and patience needed to thrive in this industry. I used to sneak into closed sets on Los Angeles studio backlots and quietly absorb each person’s contribution to television and film projects. That education and respect for the work keeps me excited about new projects. Some of my studies include broadcast journalism classes, multiple screenwriting courses with Cynthia Whitcomb and Trai Cartwright, and degree programs in communications and organizational management. You’ll probably run into me at WIFMCO meetings, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers seminars, classes at Lighthouse, and film and arts venues in Denver.

Laura: I was always interested in creative writing and the arts and linked up with Denver’s Phamaly Theatre Company (www.phamaly.org), a theatre group founded by and for people with disabilities. After participating in a writing-to-performing workshop with them, I knew telling stories was something I had to keep doing. I signed up for an online screenwriting course, and after getting positive feedback and placing well in a competition with my first script, I decided to bite the bullet and apply to grad schools for screenwriting. In 2014, I graduated from UCLA’s MFA in Screenwriting program.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
Suz: My love of films began in the womb. The Ford Theater allowed my mom to escape a difficult parent. She and my dad fell in love at that theater. Films have been the touchstone of good and bad times for my family. One of my favorite classic industry women is Ida Lupino, a name that many people won’t recognize. She was a force as an actor/writer/producer who often broke the rules.

Laura: I was born with a physical disability. While I had a happy childhood with good friends and a supportive community, I didn’t have as much energy to run around like other kids. And so I spent more time with quieter activities – reading books, watching television and movies, and creating elaborate stories with my dolls (complete with high-stakes drama, backstabbing, and murder mysteries). As I grew older, I realized people like me with disabilities (especially women) were not being represented in media. Moreover, we weren’t representing ourselves. Since I saw this needed to be addressed, and since I loved stories, it all fell into place, and I understood this is what I should be doing. And although I don’t write exclusively about disability, it informs all the stories I tell in one way or another. As for mentors, I was partnered with writer-director Nancy Savoca when I was awarded a Sloan screenwriting award through the Tribeca Film Institute while at UCLA. Although our contracted mentorship ended years ago, she is still an important mentor and friend. She always has great advice and encourages me about working in film and television outside of NYC or LA.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
Suz: My favorite writing project is a baseball story about my dad’s major league tryouts. I had to experience several life events before I could capture this story and put it on paper.

Laura: Although my feature screenplay “Survival of the Fittest” received the most notice out of all my scripts, my favorite is a screenplay called “God’s Colony.” It’s a historical drama feature based on real events, and I absolutely loved doing the research for it. I even was able to travel to Las Cruces, NM, where the story took place. I could feel the atmosphere – the landscape, the isolation of the town – and this really informed my story. From then on, I realized the need for my stories to have a “feeling,” and that I need to be in that same feeling while I write them. Maybe it doesn’t make sense, or maybe it sounds too mystical, but it works for me!

Q: Any projects coming up?
Suz: My “How the Goblin Lost His Giggle” podcast from the Athena/WIFMCO mash-up contest is scheduled for production in November. I’m currently finishing a Christmas romance script. Also, I probably have ten years of projects covering every surface in my office. Establishing “Flying Pencil Productions” for film projects and “Hear Ye Productions” for podcasts this year made my dreams more of a reality. Now, I have to finish the website.

Laura: I’m completing a novel (a YA fantasy) and am working on a few short stories.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
Suz: My biggest hope for our scene in Colorado is solid, sustained investment in projects conceived and produced by our state’s amazing creative talents.

Laura: I’d love for people’s reaction not to be, “Colorado? Oof, that’s rough,” when they hear I’m trying to make a go of it here. But all joking aside, I’m starting to see just how large the film and arts community is in Colorado. There are so many people making great things, but it seems like we’re doing it more in isolation. I think it would be great if we could build our communities and be more of a voice together. (That’s why I’m so happy to have learned about WIFMCO – this is exactly what they’re doing!)

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
Suz: I have three.
1. Sometimes projects are meant to fail and result in valuable lessons learned.
2. Seek legal advice and cover your ass (valuable lesson learned).
3. Remember to say “thank you” every day because we get to work in this crazy industry—and sometimes get paid for it!
Laura: I definitely need to give this advice to myself, but just keep creating. It can be a bit demoralizing when things don’t seem to go your way, or you wonder if you’ll ever make a living or get anywhere with your art. But keep writing, filming, acting, etc. Try to find your tribe (even if it’s just one other person) where you can encourage and push each other.



June  2018 Member Spotlight

Roma Sur & Jessica McGaugh

“Pulse of the Mountains”

Winner of WIFMCO’s 1st Annual Film & Media Finishing Funds Grant

WIFMCO is excited to introduce you to Roma Sur and Jessica McGaugh the winners of our 1st annual Film & Media Finishing Funds Grant. Roma and Jessica are taking home $1500 to use on their film: Pulse of the Mountains

Q: What is your field of focus?
Jessica: I consider myself an all-encompassing filmmaker. That means, I direct, shoot, edit and produce work. Some projects I will do one of those things, some projects I will do all of those things. I’ve worked in fiction and documentary and believe there is much value to doing both.

 Roma: A filmmaker and faculty member at the Film and Television program at the University of Colorado, Denver. She came to the US in 2000 and received her Master’s degree in Film and Video Production, with a focus on Screenwriting, at the University of Denver. She received the Harold Mendelssohn Graduate student award in 2003.  Her short documentary, Storytelling Today received the Boulder Community award. Her feature documentary, The Golden Hour won the Best Documentary Award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston, 2013, and was broadcast nationally on NDTV, India in 2015. She recently completed co-editing her feature documentary titled Changing Tides about a paraplegic swimmer reclaiming his life. Her current project Pulse of the Mountains is slated for release in fall 2018. She recently completed her feature screenplay titled The Rock Within which has been receiving strong reviews at contests.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
Jessica: I received an MFA in film from Syracuse University. Following my MFA, I worked as an editor in New York before moving to Colorado. Since then, I have been producing independently and teaching film and TV at the University of Colorado Denver.
Roma: Before coming to the US I was a copywriter with advertising agencies. While writing and producing television spots for commercials I realized this is what I wanted to do. That was like a teaser. I wanted to do the real deal. I came to the US and got my Master’s in Film and Video production.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?

Jessica: My first passion was music. I have played music since I was a kid and took it very seriously throughout most of my life. However, when I studied at the University of Arizona as an undergraduate, I soon after found that film making was something I would like to pursue. It was an easy transition moving into this new medium and I think my musical background has made me a better filmmaker.
Roma: My mentor is Craig Volk at CU Denver. I learned a lot from him about dramatic writing and about teaching screenwriting. I am also inspired by local filmmaker Sean Jourdan who is a friend and mentor. He is always encouraging as a fellow filmmaker.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
Jessica: 
My favorite project thus far was a documentary titled “The Golden Hour.” My long-term film partner, Roma Sur and I shot the film in India in 2011. The month in India was an incredible adventure, but more than that an incredible learning experience. The production of that movie, all the way through its distribution was the greatest amount of problem-solving I’ve ever dealt with while working on a project. I grew enormously as a filmmaker and as a person throughout that experience.
Roma: My favorite project would be my first doc feature The Golden Hour. This was a project that I started from ground up. I heard the story on NPR radio, called the protagonist, and floated the idea of a documentary. Almost magically everything happened and the next thing we knew we were going to Boston to film him at Harvard Medical and then to India  in summer of 2011. I collaborated with Jessica McGaugh on this project, my longtime filmmaking partner. This film was featured on the NDTV website and received the Best Documentary award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston. There were many takeaways. But the biggest one was to be really mindful of how we allocate our time and budget. We learned many lessons along the way which we implemented in following projects. Spend wisely, but also have a buffer. The second day of our shoot, we busted one of the LED lights. We spent an entire day trying to locate an equipment rental place in New Delhi. That put an unexpected dent in our budget.

Q:  Any projects coming up? 
Jessica: Currently I am in the middle of working as Director of Photography on a post-apocalyptic feature film titled “Feral.” We are shooting sections of the film every summer for four years to allow for the child actor to age throughout the duration of the movie. As a DP, this type of movie is a dream to shoot. I get to play with shadows and texture, travel to run down places around Colorado and work with a great cast and crew. The final piece of the shoot will be summer 2019 followed by its release.

Roma: The immediate one would be Pulse of the Mountains. We hope to complete it by the end of this summer. The other project would be my feature screenplay – The Rock Within. It is loosely inspired by true events. My artist statement is to give voice to women and children related issues and narrate cross-cultural stories. I hope to initiate a dialogue on tabooed issues, like infertility through this film. I have started sending out the screenplay to contests and received strong positive feedback so far on the unique premise and an international target audience.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
Jessica: To be perfectly honest, I would like to see the independent community grow big enough to support more narrative television and films.
Roma:  I think Colorado is already a fast-growing market for film, television and media. It’s growing reputation as a foodie destination made it the chosen location for Top chef’s season 15. Colorado produces a large amount of non-fiction content. It is the hub of post-production work for many of these big budget non-fiction shows.   Colorado Springs is already a coveted location, with the recent filming of the Netflix film ‘Our Souls at Night.’ And I see this as a growing phenomenon.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc?

Jessica: My advice to filmmakers is not to wait for their passion projects to happen on their own. I feel that you should just go out there and do it. If you don’t know how to do something specific, there are many resources online and around Colorado. I’ve found that many film/tv/media people are friendly and willing to talk to you about production challenges.  Another thing that Roma and I are working on as filmmakers is finding and building our audience for each movie. Although this can feel like a full-time job and a massive undertaking on top of making the film, it is crucial in this day and age to keep connected through social media and get your work out there.
Roma: Hold on to your BIG vision. Have that in the horizon. But set short term achievable goals which will finally get you to that BIG vision.