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Springvale Commons provided a great backdrop for this scene from last year's Script to Screen winner, "Derrick & Boyd."

By James Harmon

Did you get a chance to catch any of the Sanford Independent Film Festival this year on WSSR-TV? In addition to all the wonderful films from Maine and around the world, each year the festival has a competition called Script to Screen. This year we had more than twenty short screenplay (30 pages or less) submissions.

SIFF Festival Director Brian Boisvert and I, along with judges Shawn Sullivan and Nathan Saunders, judge screenplays, and I get final say over which project to develop and produce as a short film, which premieres at the following year’s festival.

This year, the students in my video production classes at Sanford Regional Technical Center made multimedia presentations for each of the selected screenplays, so we could show the screenplays in our virtual festival alongside the selected films. The multimedia projects started with a great audio recording of the screenplay, then had to come up with visual elements to help tell the story. We had some students use hand-drawn storyboards, others use a Zoom call with virtual backgrounds that matched the scenes, and quite a few that used creatively-edited stock footage to compliment that team’s assigned screenplay. It was a really fun project, and I think we’ll keep it going even if we have a more traditional festival next time.

It was a joy reading and thinking about SIFF7 selected screenplays. The extra time I spent working through each one with the students made me even more aware of the immense talent and unique perspectives we have coursing through our festival every year. Reading these screenplays at times had me laughing out loud, sitting on the edge of my seat, amazed, and constantly visualizing what each moment of each screenplay could look like. This year was the most difficult contest to judge, because each selected screenplay had such a distinct flavor, and–keeping with the metaphor–they were all uniquely delicious!

We selected a pretty diverse group of screenplays this year. There were hilarious comedies, heart-wrenching dramas, and a submission from Greg Tulonen, who won last year’s contest with his buddy comedy “Derrick & Boyd.” This year we selected “Whispers of Carcosa” as the winning film to become the next SIFF Script to Screen Production. Written by Pete Yagmin, it’s a cosmic-horror short that perfectly captures that “the universe is falling apart in front of my very eyes” H. P. Lovecraft vibe. We look forward to collaborating with him on the production.

The films are made by Sanford Films, my micro-budget indie production company. “Whispers” will be our fifth script to screen project. To finish these projects, I work with a network of amazing filmmakers as needed: sometimes composers, directors, cinematographers, performers, and audio gurus, and I get my students involved however I can.

We look forward to reading more scripts when we open our next submissions window, and we look forward to seeing you back in the theater for SIFF8 in 2022!

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