Angela VanZandt got the idea to write her first movie script at a Budgetel Inn in Fort Smith, while on a business trip.
Back in the days of videotapes, she was working for movie distributor Sight and Sound Distribution. Her job was opening new accounts and negotiating deals with video stores across Arkansas.
"It just came upon me to write a script," she says. "I got the Gideon Bible out of the drawer and I just closed my eyes and pointed to a verse. I thought, you know, maybe I'd get a sign. So I pointed to Psalm 45 and it said, 'the words will flow from your mouth, like the pen from a ready writer.' So I took a week off work and in four days wrote my first script. I had [an electric] typewriter and extension cord and went out in the yard and wrote."
Then, her day job took her out of state. "I was really good at cold calling and they wanted me to open up another market and they sent me to Atlanta," she says.
While in Atlanta she joined the organization Women in Film. "Women in Film was very good to me because I was a newly emerging screenwriter. We met once a month and it gave me a chance to keep in touch with other writers and keep inspired."
"Less than 1 percent of all screenwriters make it to the big screen" she explains, "and only one percent of those are women. It's a challenge but I like a challenge. Tenacity is very important."
While there, she met and had dinner with Ted Turner, founder of Cable News Network and WTBS.
"He liked the idea and optioned it for three months."
Then Turner's company merged with Time Warner and the script was lost in the shuffle. After that, a small studio optioned the script and then went out of business. She didn't share the concept of the movie script.
"Things will happen and then they'll fall. It's just -- a lot of this is being at the right place and the right time." She says a television network is looking at the script now, one of 12 she has written. "It can take forever or overnight. Some of us have to pay our dues."
VanZandt, who's back in Little Rock, started a chapter of Women in Film in Arkansas.
"We are going to have workshops and roundtables in a lot of different areas. We will be teaching acting, writing, producing, executive producing -- ... that's where the money comes from -- crew and songwriting."
She says encouragement is also very important and if nothing else, Women in Film is a network of encouragers.
VanZandt has been encouraged by one of her advisers about the state of film in Arkansas. "He told me we are in a good position to make Arkansas like Atlanta or Shreveport in terms of film production."
"The way we are going to do this," she says, "is we are going to be strong together. I'm not saying you can't do it alone, but it is a lot easier when we do it together."
Women in Film is an international organization and VanZandt hopes to network with women from all over the world.
"We can help each other here, but we need help everywhere with Women in Film. I want to get the attention of the world and bring them here to make films. We have locations in Arkansas that look like movie sets, we have towns that haven't changed in 150 years and they are not going to charge you for a permit to make a film on their main street."
At a recent seminar, VanZandt says she was told, "You must surround yourself with people of integrity." In the Women in Film Arkansas' mission statement, she says, "I made sure that was loud and clear, that we are looking for people of integrity and people that are loyal and respectful of one another's goals and their work."
In addition to the nurturing and networking, the group is also about education. "You don't have to go to college," she says about the film industry, "you don't have to go to film school. You can learn a lot on your own and these roundtables will be an educational resource for many people.
"There's a code of ethics we are going to adhere to in this chapter," she says. "We are going to be loyal. We are going to be a soft place to land and we're going to nurture one another. The main thing is that we have the same goal and the same love of the same craft, which is film."
The inaugural meeting for new and potential members of Women in Film Arkansas will be 6-8 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Russellville. Guests can meet vice president Kimberly Skyrme, a Little Rock native, former president of Women in Film International and one of the casting agents for the series House of Cards.
More information about Women in Film Arkansas and the inaugural meeting can be found on the group's Facebook page or at womeninfilmar.com.
High Profile on 09/23/2018
Print Headline: Screenwriter starts chapter of Women in Film Arkansas