Hollins University is a little, hidden gem. The gorgeous campus is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where cicadas buzz about while you sit in a rocking chair on the front porch. It’s mostly known as a women’s college and has some famous alumnae, such as children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. But the university also has fantastic, low-residency, co-ed, graduate programs. Among them is the summer graduate screenwriting and film studies program. Since this unique program runs for only six weeks during the summers, students here have had the opportunity to learn from numerous industry professionals, whether they serve as professors or guest speakers. The specialties of our visiting faculty include horror, children’s television, comedy, drama, minorities in film, and production. While we have many professors who join us summer after summer, no two summers have the same line up of professors, so there are plenty of opportunities to learn from as many industry experts and make as many professional connections as possible from other universities such as UCLA and NYU. Included is the list of professors who have graced Hollins University in past summers and who will be joining us this summer. See any familiar names? Great! Come learn from them here at Hollins.
Some of the Hollins University Summer Graduate Screenwriting and Film Studies students made their way to Richmond, Virginia in April to attend the 2018 Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF). One student even got to see the legendary Danny Glover at the Historic Byrd Theater. And, yes, that is, in fact, Danny Glover sitting under the Hollins University logo 🙂
Hollins graduate student Colleen Hahn (right) shared some of her thoughts on the festival:
“One of the great things that happened at RIFF was meeting Tamika Lamison. She is the founder of Make a Film Foundation but also had a feature in the festival called Last Life, an amazing film/allegory on forgiveness and choice related to enslaved people. In addition, her Make A Film Foundation recently funded The Black Ghiandola, also showcased and written by 16-year-old Anthony Conti, who died last December right as this was finished. Tamika gets talent like Johnny Depp, Laura Dern and a cast of amazing people to support, star and direct.
I also went to the opening day of NONA, Kate Bosworth’s film on human trafficking. Her husband, Micheal Polish wrote and directed it. The film offered a unique perspective on the human trafficking issue that dispelled a lot of the current notions presented in media. In addition, he focused on the human side on why and how this happens – and that most of the victims have no idea until it is too late that they are being trafficked. Quite frankly, it changed my perspective on the issue especially since most of the victims of human trafficking in the US are from the US, not foreigners. Many are trafficked by people they know – family members, friends, and boyfriends. I have seen quite a few of these films but the point of view of this feature was focused more on how innocent women are trapped and/or forced into this rather than what the life is – in other words, less about the sex scenes and more about putting a face to the victims.”
I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been running this blog page for Hollins University for a year now and I have yet to properly introduce myself. Where are my manners? Allow me to ameliorate this.
Name: Amanda Hobbs
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia, USA
How long at Hollins?I’ve been a graduate student in the summer graduate screenwriting & film studies program since 2015.
What made you chose this profession?Long story short, this place feels like the right place. This industry has given me more chances than others. I believe in following the yes’s. So this is where it’s lead me.
Favorite films/directors/writers/scores/composers/costume designers? Favorite films: Chicago, A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, just about any Disney film, The Princess Bride, Invictus, Long Strange Trip, Midnight in Paris, The Dark Knight, Charlie Wilson’s War, Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen… Directors: Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Susanna Bier… Writers: Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino… Composers: Michael Giacchino, John Williams … Costume Designers: Colleen Atwood, Alexandra Byrne, Jenny Beavan
Goals for this blog:To reach as many people as possible and be a valuable tool for as many people as possible. I strive to include articles about multiple aspects such as filmmaking and production, the atmosphere and culture of the industry, women and minorities in the industry, and perspectives from the actor’s or director’s points of view. I seek out multiple – if seemingly unusual – sources for inspiration, creativity, and anything else I think could be of value to anyone working or hoping to work in the film industry. Since this page is sponsored by an actual living, breathing university, I also like to showcase the work of our students and professors in hopes that you will come spend time with us so you can become better at your craft and become a part of this incredible family of creatives and artists.
What genres do you like to write? Is there another genre or aspect of the industry you’d like to explore more? I’ll admit my brain tends to go into a Hallmark/Lifetime kind of place. But, I do have an incredible fascination with history. It’s really not as boring as people think. History is all about people and their stories. As far as the film industry goes, I want to learn about anything and everything I can get my hands on: writing, directing, acting, film scoring, or costume design. My skill set, however, is an entirely different discussion – ha ha. Anything can be learned if you’re willing to be a student.
Where do you find inspiration? History and real life stories fascinate me. I also find myself gravitating towards stories about women. Women have stories just as rich and compelling as anyone else. I’m not the sort to condone or resort to man-bashing; I think it’s neither necessary nor appropriate and contradicts the goals of gender equality. I just think women deserve to have the credit for their contributions, respect for the abilities of their brains, and deserve to have their stories shared and celebrated.
Tricks for sustaining/maintaining creativity? How do you fight creativity blocks? When I write, I like to lock myself in room with a big window, stick my earbuds in and listen to classical music (which is also not as boring as people think). The Beethoven station on Pandora does the trick for me. It’s nice to have something in your ear that will block out the outside world for a bit while also stimulating your brain enough to keep your attention. Whenever I find myself struggling to write, I realize that it’s time to take a break. The brain needs some rest. So I’ll find something else to do like go for a walk – fresh air does wonders, find a craft to do, read a book, or exercise. I like to think of it this way: when you hit a block, the creative fuel tank is empty. So in order to keep going, you need to refuel. I find it enormously helpful to go find something else to do because staring at a blank page all weekend accomplishes nothing. Go socialize, enjoy a meal with people, have conversations… I’m an introvert and I’m saying this. Yes, private time is important. But humans are social creatures and require interaction with other humans for a multitude of reasons. That’s neither an accident nor a fluke. Also, pick a writing time and defend it like mad – this is something I struggle with immensely.
Fun facts/favorites/interests/hobbies: Fun facts: I attended the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City for the first time this year and volunteered with the Richmond International Film Festival. Both wonderful experiences. Interests: outdoor activities, travelling, gardening, music, cooking/baking, crafts, reading
Bio: A little bit about me. I’m Amanda, your humble blogger. I grew up in Chesterfield, VA (just south of Richmond). I received my Associate’s in Arts degree from Richard Bland College, my Bachelor of Arts in History from Virginia Tech, and I’m currently working on my MFA at Hollins University. As far as my involvement with the film industry, I’m slowly but surely, making my way. I was an active member of the music community as a band student in high school and wanted to pursue a career as a music teacher, but eventually realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. However, I did become a sister of Tau Beta Sigma, the National Honorary Band Service Sorority. I considered pursuing a theatre major, but opted for history because I felt it would be more versatile, it was subject I was genuinely interested in, and I still thought I wanted to be a teacher. After teaching preschool for several years, spending a semester in a teacher licensure program, and not satisfied with where I was headed, I decided to take another direction and go after something that I really wanted. I came upon Hollins University after doing an online search for film programs in my home state of Virginia. I stewed over it for some time before applying, but once I did I never looked back. I’ve continued to pursue work in this industry because it’s given me opportunities that others wouldn’t. And, plus, there’s more than one way to be a teacher.
Episode four of Page Ten, the Hollins University Screenwriting Podcast, is up and running, just click on the link below, or if you’d rather, it’s also available to download on iTunes. Head over and take a listen to the interview with guest Lawrence Ross, and if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe and catch future episodes.
Episode three of Page Ten is up and running, just click on the link below, or if you’d rather, it’s also available to download on iTunes. Head over and take a listen to the interview with guest Barbara Curry, and if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe and catch future episodes.
HU: What brought you to screenwriting? How did your interest develop?
DD: I grew up cracking jokes, telling stories, and acting out skits in the family kitchen. Whether you’re editing, acting, writing or directing, storytelling comes from the same core concepts and that was developed early on for me as well as a vivid imagination.
HU: What were a few of the highlights of your experience at Hollins?
DD: Playing in a band – The Rewrites! Geoff Geib introduced me to Ryan Adams (we played “New York New York”) and I’ve never been the same! Ilan on Keys, Matt on lead guitar, Joe on base, and Geoff on rhythm guitar. That was pretty sweet!
Being able to just get away from the normal world for 6 weeks and focus (mostly) on the craft of screenwriting and the Hollins community. Tim’s guest speakers were amazing. Taking notes from them and networking was great! Hollywoods. Ping Pong!!!
HU: Tell us a little about your professional life to this point – how did you land the jobs and were they positive experiences?
DD: When people ask me what I do, I tell them, “I split my time between being a University Film professor and a filmmaker.”
I am currently the Chair of Cinematic Arts at Lipscomb University, where I lead a grad program for Film MFA’s and an undergrad BFA in Film Production. Like all jobs in academia, there are good parts and bad parts. Since this is going online, I think I’ll shy away from listing the bad parts, but one of the amazing parts is – I take a group of my MFA’s to Cannes every year. That means, I get an all-expenses paid trip to the Cannes Film Festival every year! The food, the networking, the red carpets…the food! There are worse fates.
I stay quite active in production.
I am the showrunner for a reality TV show called, “Soccer Moms” and am in post-production on the season, running a team of about a half dozen editors.
I’ve also been hired to write and produce a romantic comedy for a group out of London and Russia and this is a deal that sprouted out of meetings I had in Cannes over a year ago, which certainly speaks to the importance of being in the room with the right people. I’m planning on flying to Moscow and St. Petersburg within the month, to do location scouting, and yes, I’ve already started getting paid.
HU: What was the experience like making Old Fashioned? How has it changed your professional life?
DD: It took 12 years to put Old Fashioned out into theaters, which felt like it would NEVER happen! It was a total rollercoaster ride, which left some scars, and changed some relationships for both good and bad. This industry is tough, man!
Being a producer on a theatrically released feature has certainly changed my trajectory and the scope of what I get considered for and paid to do. For instance, this British/Russian film that I’ve been hired to write and produce, the conversation started because they were speaking to a friend of mine at Cannes and mentioned they were looking for an American producer who had a theatrical release under his belt. BINGO! I was immediately allowed in the pool of candidates because of the OF producing credit.
HU: Tell us about the next film you’re working on.
DD: I’m in the middle of working on the Russian/British Rom-com. It’s currently an independent film, but folks at Lionsgate are interested in seeing how it develops with an eye toward getting involved.
I am developing a feature with an exec at Lionsgate, which is a crossover Latino Rom-Com. Cool thing is, I developed this script while I was at Hollins.
I am in development on a TV show to be shot in Australia and the main showrunner is from Battle Star Gallactica. Two other key players are a seasoned line producer and a former Paramount VP. It’s really exciting to be a part of for a few reasons: it’s historical fiction, the overall size of the budget, subject matter and, of course, some free trips to Oz!!! Would it be gauche to ask for a bloomin’ onion upon arriving in Sydney?
I’ve got some other things in the works as well that I might be able to talk about in a month or so, but I have to keep things quiet for the moment.
HU: What is your life like now after graduation?
DD: Super busy, but the level of my career both academically and production-wise, continue to rise. Also, I get to spend summers with my family now as opposed to being gone for 6 weeks for school!
I’m on the board of the Sunscreen Film Festival, which is a bi-coastal film fest and one of only 23 in the world with an Oscar sponsorship. We are known for our emphasis on Film education and were named one of the top 25 coolest film fests in the world by Moviemaker Magazine because of this emphasis. I am blessed to be the Education Director, so as a university Film prof, it’s a perfect fit for Sunscreen and me.
We have a robust offering of panels and workshops, which have included major players in the industry (Mitch Bell, VP Marvel Studios, Victor Hsu, Producer of Transparent and Arrested Development, Ed Asner (UP), Patrick Warburton (Emperor’s New Groove), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), etc.). Coincidentally, last year, one of our screenwriting panels included Hollin’s profs: Goeff Geib, Kelly Fullerton and program director, Tim Albaugh.
HU: Who was your favorite guest at Hollins? Or favorite screening.
DD: Fave guest was Sean Sorenson, who works with Tim in production. Fave screening might have been Friends with Benefits – that was just a fun night and I think I won candy or something from the hat raffle thing. A Girl Walks Alone at Night, is up there as well.
HU: Is there a class you wish you would have taken while you were at Hollins?
DD: I would’ve liked to have taken a sitcom writing course. Also, writing for animation could’ve been cool.
HU: Do you have any advice for the current Hollins students?
DD: If your plan is to teach and stay where you are, then do that. However, if your plan is to actually work in the industry as a professional screenwriter and/or filmmaker, then move to LA and start networking. You can begin by attending Sunscreen LA. I might know someone who can help with comp tickets…
Dave DeBorde is an award-winning filmmaker whose experience in the industry is long and varied. Dave has worked as a producer with legendary Hollywood producer William Gilmore (A Few Good Men), helped produce the award-winning short film The Least of These. In June of 2012, Dave directed the feature film romantic comedy Marriage Material. Dave was later hired the showrunner for the brand new reality TV show Soccer Moms, which is slated to broadcast regionally on network affiliates during primetime on Saturdays and is in negotiations for international distribution.
Alongside his various directing and producing credits, Dave is also heavily involved in performing arts education, creating the wildly successful educational tracks for the Sunscreen Film Festival, which was rated by MovieMaker magazine as one of the world’s Top 25 Most Attractive Film Festivals as a result of the educational tracks. Dave was likewise instrumental in bringing notable attendees and track participants, such as actors John Travolta (Pulp Fiction, Grease), Bill Cobb (Night at the Museum) and other contributors like screenwriter Tim Sexton (Children of Men), casting director John Jackson (Sideways, About Schmidt, The Descendants), producers Sean Covel (Napoleon Dynamite), Ralph Winter (Wolverine), and Dean Batali (That 70’s Show). Dave is also the department chair of the Cinematic Arts at Lipscomb University and recently worked as producer of the successful independent romantic comedy Old Fashioned. Dave serves as the President of Soverignty Pictures and is the chief creative conduit responsible for the artistic direction of the company.
Episode two of Page Ten is up and running, just click on the link below, or if you’d rather, it’s also available to download on iTunes. Head over and take a listen to the second half of the interview with guest Kelly Fullerton, and if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe and catch future episodes.
Budgets. If only every filmmaker, or budding entrepreneur for that matter, had an unlimited supply of money and resources to get their projects up and running. But however, most people don’t. Many folks starting out have to create a budget, and oftentimes, with a very small amount of money. Jason Brubaker curated a list of budgeting tips to help the minimalist filmmakers with minimal funds create projects they can be proud of. Just think of how impressed everyone will be when they found out you only spent “that much!” to create your masterpiece. Limits spark creativity.
HU: What brought you to screenwriting? How did your interest develop?
AT: My undergraduate degree was in Classics, but after graduation I started to realize that teaching Latin was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had always really loved film, but it never crossed my mind that it was an industry that real people worked in – it was for famous Hollywood types. But when I started to examine what I actually wanted to do for a living, I realized that it was, in fact, making movies. Finding the Hollins program was really a catalyst the decision to pursue that interest.
HU: What was your first script about?
AT: Trying to remember. I know there were a few false starts. I’ve got a couple first acts lying around that I never finished, but I think the first script that I actually completed was a mockumentary about a small town church trying to deal with a new pastor. The church was very conservative and traditional, but the new pastor was a woman and very modern. My Hollins thesis was an animated script about a cat who wants to take over the world. I’ve actually worked on that one more since graduating. I think it’s pretty fun 🙂
HU: What were the highlights of your experience at Hollins?
AT: The screenings were always really awesome – I got to see a lot of great films that I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own, and there are a few that have really stuck with me, like Antonia’s Line, and To Be or Not To Be (the Jack Benny/Carole Lombard version). I also really loved the teleplay course I took, and I got to shoot my first short film!
HU: Did you pursue the MA or MFA? How did that program help your growth at Hollins?
AT: I did the MFA track, but it was great because we also got to take some film studies courses which I really enjoyed.
HU: Tell us a little about your professional life to this point – how did you land the jobs and were they positive experiences? Where do you currently live and work?
AT: I currently work and live in Los Angeles. When I moved out here, I got an internship at a production company, (by randomly replying to a Craigslist ad I think), and once that was over they would hire me as a production coordinator on some of their shoots. When I was there it was called SpiritClips, but I believe it has since been bought by Hallmark and produces content for them. It was really good experience to start to understand how production worked out here in LA and to just keep in practice with being on an actual set. From the connections that I made there, I ended up working as a director on a movie review show called Just Seen It for a few years. More recently, I have been working as a social media manager to bring in money while I pursue my own projects. Two years ago I raised money via kick-starter to fund a web series that I wrote and directed called Jess Archer Versus. We’ve been releasing episodes this summer. At the moment I’m trying to figure out how to fund my first feature, a horror/comedy that I wrote over the past couple years.
HU: What has your experience been like as a woman in this industry?
AT: I have been pretty lucky so far. SpiritClips employed a lot of women in key positions, and so the environment was very encouraging for female filmmakers. I also met a lot of great people on Just Seen It – independent filmmakers who have decided to get out there and make their own content. That inspired me to take the steps to actually shoot my web series. As a filmmaker, and particularly as a woman, I think you have to take the bull by the horns and just go ahead and do it yourself. Don’t wait for Hollywood. This might mean you won’t have as high a budget or as many resources, but take these restrictions as a challenge and find creative solutions to tell the stories you want to tell! Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now 🙂
HU: Where would you like to see your career go from here?
AT: In my wildest dreams, I’d love to direct a Star Wars movie. It’s been such a huge part of my life – my first short story in second grade was basically a rip-off of A New Hope, only with Princess Leia replaced by a pony. What can I say, as a kid I loved Star Wars and ponies…why wouldn’t I combine them? More realistically and in the immediate future, I do have a feature that I want to direct, and I’d love to do another season of Jess Archer Versus. I also have two more pilots for possible web series (or TV) – if I can make any of those things happen, I think I’ll be on the right track to that Star Wars movie, right?
HU: Is there one class/lecture/seminar you wish you had here at Hollins? Why?
AT: I know it’s not necessarily writing-centric, but I wish there had been a producing class for me to take. Something that went into the details of how to do a budget and scheduling, breaking down a script…things like that. The boring paperwork side of filmmaking. I got some of that in the production class I took where we made our own short films, but I would have loved a class with more of a focus on purely producing. Those are the kind of skills that productions are always looking for out here in LA, so you can supplement your income as you pursue writing.
HU: Who are your favorite screenwriters/filmmakers? Whose work inspires you the most? Why?
AT: I’m a big fan of Billy Wilder. His scripts are so efficient and well-structured. Just really tight and funny. I also really love, and am probably most inspired in my own work, by Edgar Wright (and by extension Simon Pegg, who he often collaborates with). His sense of humor and visual style are right in line with mine, and I’m really interested in the way that his scripts with Simon Pegg tend to lay out a blueprint for the whole film in the first act. There’s always a ton of little clues and details that pay off later on, and are fun to try to spot upon re-watching. Whenever I’m stuck in a scene, or looking for an interesting way to transition between scenes, I just think, “what would Edgar Wright do?” and inspiration usually strikes.
HU: What advice do you have for current students? If you could do this all over again, what advice would you give yourself?
AT: Take advantage of everything the Roanoke area has to offer! I think I probably spent a little too much time holed up in my room. And sure, I was writing and that was great, but I wish I had explored downtown a little more, maybe gone for some hikes. I know there’s a lot of work to do, and you might feel like you should always be writing, but sometimes your brain needs a break!