This past weekend I was on a writing team for an entry in Milwaukee's first 48 Hour Film Project competition. The international contest asks teams to make a four- to seven-minute movie in a randomly drawn genre (western, musical, horror, etc.) and incorporate a required line of dialogue, prop, and character. The instructions are given on Friday night and by Sunday night the teams must turn in a finished product.
I had replied to a Craigslist.org post seeking writers for the Avant Guardian filmmaking team a couple months ago and director Melissa Musante sent the team updates now and then. I have to admit I was somewhat alarmed to find out last week that the writing team included 12 people who didn't know each other. How could that many strangers come up with a meaningful story? How could we write believable dialogue when we didn't even know the sounds of each others' voices? How would we manage all those egos? I spent the ride to Melissa's house trying to think of useful icebreakers from summer camp that might get us focused and productive.
It reality, the process went quite smoothly, with smaller groups of writers brainstorming possible story lines from which Melissa picked one. A core writing group of about 5 of us retreated to the basement to develop a three-scene movie that ultimately was titled "In Spades."
The strangest aspect of working on this project was the sense that, once the writing team was done with our work on Friday night, we were giving up our brainchild to the production crew and we had nothing to say about how the movie looks, sounds, or paces. One of America's first published poets, Anne Bradstreet, commented on that same feeling of letting her writing go - maybe before it was ready -- in her poem "The Author to Her Book" from the mid-1600s:
Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos'd to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
From what I hear from Melissa, the movie turned out great. You can, like old Anne Bradstreet's readers abroad, come judge our team's offspring if you attend Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. screening of "In Spades" at the Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St. (414-453-2436 or www.timescinema.com).
Our little movie will be in the company of eight other films in that first screening, and then 10 additional entries will be shown at an 8:30 screening. Each film that was submitted by the deadline will be subject to votes by both a panel of judges and the audience. The ones that didn't make the deadline can still win the audience popularity vote.
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.