Cynthia Whitcomb House Location for FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition

Alis Volat Propriis poster Script to Screen Competition winning scriptThere’s a twist to the Willamette Writers’ 2014 FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition this year: the Cynthia Whitcomb House for Writers is the filming location.

That’s right. Previously scripts had to follow a theme – Wild West, which was the 2012 Conference theme, and Fresh Brewed, which was the 2013 Conference theme. The judges read so many coffee shop scripts in 2013 that coffee sales went up. Even in Portland, which is saying something.

However, there’s no theme this year. Only location, location, location.

This is good. Really good.

Why is a set location good for the FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition?

Having a set location is a huge advantage for our script writers and for Willamette Writers. It gives our production team at Ampersand a better idea of both filming restrictions and possibilities. It’s a known quantity. They don’t have to stress about finding the perfect location for the alien abduction scene because they know exactly where the author envisioned that abduction scene should be. There’s low potential for scheduling snafus, and if a scene doesn’t take, the chances of being able to reshoot it at a later time, while recreating the exact time of day and ambiance, are much better.

For example, Alis Volat Propriis, the 2012 winning script, took place in an office/library. Luckily, one of the members of the production team knew someone with an empty house, but they only had two days to shoot. For Coffee, Table, Book (formerly known as Inspiration, the 2013 winning script), the coffee shop location was even more of a challenge, especially since the bar side of the filming site was open during the day and sound quality wasn’t the best. Fortunately, Coffee, Table, Book is a silent film… 🙂

The added bonus for script writers is that you can gain insight into the space. You can take a virtual tour of the Cynthia Whitcomb House on the FiLMLaB website, or – better yet – reserve yourself a room and get steeped in inspiration. You could act out your own script while writing it (just don’t bother the other writers in the house with your dramatic Act II monologue). Need a cup of tea? Wander into the kitchen for a little break. Decided you want to move the break-up scene to the garden? Excellent. There’s a lovely patio there that would give your heroine the perfect opportunity to shove her (now ex-) boyfriend into the bamboo and storm off.

The Willamette Writers House has unfortunately been sold, so the tour and rooms are no longer available.

There are still rules/regulations/conditions (natch). Check the complete Rules and Guidelines for the FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition just to be sure you aren’t breaking any in your script, but, for the most part, they involve reasonable requests. There can’t be huge alterations or set design changes to the house. In other words, no repainting the Algonquin Room just because you think your Dorothy Parker-esque character would have preferred it in red. There’s also a maximum of four main characters. Minors or “extras” are acceptable, but a party scene probably won’t be possible. Unless, of course, you provide the booze, the music, and the clean-up crew. We might be able to work with that. Might. And that alien abduction scene you were hoping to film? Yeah. Probably not going to happen. (I know. Build your hopes up and then dash them away.) But Willamette Writers doesn’t have access to a green screen or sound studio. It could be that even a car driving to the coast might be filmed à la Mister Roger’s Neighborhood using a Matchbox car and a paper towel roll as the Highway 26 tunnel.

The house, however, is large, and the backyard is lovely. There are lots of different rooms, and lots of different opportunities for screenwriters in this year’s FiLMLab Script to Screen Competition!


Leave a Reply