screenwriting workshop

Filming Wraps on New MPI Original Comedy Short

Last month we completed production on the MPI Original short film A Piece of Cake. This comedy comes from writing and directing duo Austin and Meredith Bragg, who work as award-winning video producers and editors at Reason TV.

The short originated in a 2018 MPI concept development screenwriting workshop. MPI worked with the Bragg brothers to turn their concept into a completed draft and shortly thereafter, acquired the film for production. 

The film follows a desperate father (Rich Sommer, Mad Men; Glow) who discovers his daughter’s favorite cake decoration is illegal. He descends into a confectionery black market and must make the ultimate parenting choice: break a birthday promise or break the law? 

While the film centers on family dynamics and the outrageous twists and turns that unfold to fulfill the birthday girl’s request, it also shines a light on policy themes such as the overregulation of ordinary actions. 

The Braggs have worked with MPI for many years, participating in our cinematography workshop, screenwriting workshops, and our Business of Film program. They also created original sketches for MPI’s comedy news channel We the Internet TV. Now MPI is proud to enable the Braggs to take their careers to the next level with this compelling calling card short.

“The ability to work with such an accomplished cast and crew was not just an education, but a revelation,” they wrote. “The practical on-set skills and insights we've gained through this process are already having a positive impact on our work. We can't say enough about the talent and energy that MPI has devoted to this production.” 

The film is now in post-production and will screen in festivals next year.

MPI Filmmaker Premieres New Film

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In the spotlight: Rob Smat

Since 2015, filmmaker Rob Smat has participated in MPI programs ranging from an internship to our Mindful Editor seminar to a screenwriting workshop. Today he premieres his first feature film, The Last Whistle. Starring Brad Leland (Friday Night Lights) and Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recreation), the film follows the head coach of a successful Texas high school football team through the chaotic aftermath of his all-star player dying during practice. 

“From my start as a marketing intern at 20th Century Fox, to my participation in workshops and masterclasses, I have been set up to be the best writer, director, editor, and overall filmmaker I can possibly be,” Rob says. “MPI is a talent development machine like no other, and I owe a great part of my first film, The Last Whistle, to what I've learned and gained from the MPI.” 

Coming off a successful festival run, The Last Whistle is now showing in theaters across the US. You can find the full list of theaters and watch the trailer here. The film is also available for download on iTunes

Inspired by Rob’s success? MPI is currently accepting applicants for its 2019 screenwriting workshops. Find more information and apply here

Six Screenwriters, Six New Stories About Freedom

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Summer Screenwriting in Full Swing

MPI’s summer concept development workshop has launched! During this fourteen-week workshop, six screenwriters will each craft a one-sentence logline, a one-page synopsis, and an outline for a film or series whose story arc advances human freedom in an appealing, mainstreamable way. That may not sound like much -- but it’s the difficult, invisible, and important work that prepares the screenwriter to write.  

Each participant will present their work twice to their fellow screenwriters, thus creating opportunities for feedback, synthesis, and revision. Exceptional story ideas will have the potential to be produced and promoted by MPI -- indeed, A Piece of Cake, a short film developed in last year’s concept development workshop, shoots this month and will be in festivals next year.

Learn more about MPI’s writing workshops here.

RECAP: MPI's Winter/Spring Screenwriting Workshops

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MPI’s Virtual Screenwriting Workshops End on a High Note

Every great film starts with a great story. And that’s why MPI is committed to supporting screenwriters and documentary filmmakers find, develop, and craft great stories about freedom. This year, MPI is offering seven screenwriting workshops—and we just wrapped the first two.

“Writing the Calling Card Short Film” met weekly from January through April. Along the way, seven filmmakers wrote and revised short film scripts on subjects ranging from moving dramas about political refugees escaping tyrannical states, to comedic takes on online witch hunts, to marijuana legalization. Each participant presented their work twice to the larger group, using the notes received during the first workshop to revise toward their second presentation.

“Documentary Storytelling” likewise met weekly from January through April—with a brief hiatus in the middle so that participants could move their films forward. Some used the time to polish rough cuts; others used it to do field research or capture interviews and new footage. One participant even considered converting his doc into a narrative feature—a thought experiment that proved richly illuminating as he decides how best to frame and produce the story he wants to tell.

Led by MPI chief creative office Erin O’Connor and executive vice president Maurice Black, both workshops received rave reviews. Participants called the workshops “transformational,” “inspiring,” “collaborative,” and “challenging.” Additional comments:

This workshop is a wonderful opportunity for you to improve your story and also collaborate with immensely intelligent and experienced people.
To be able develop a project within a community willing to give you honest and forthcoming feedback is a dream for many writers who often have to navigate the limitless choices a story presents without input, affirmation, and objectivity from a group of others skilled in the craft.
The workshop is an excellent way to develop or improve one’s own writing discipline. Being part of a weekly scriptwriting group, that includes two major presentations of one’s own writing, really helps an individual writer hone their craft and better prepares them for future collaborations with writers, directors and producers.

Later this month, MPI will launch two additional workshops: Concept Development, led by Erin, and a second Calling Card workshop run by Maurice. Both will run throughout the summer.