Arts + Culture

Oscar-winning 'Milk' screenwriter to be honored at UCLA film festival event

Showcase to feature staged readings of prize-winning student scripts

UCLA alumnus Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "Milk," will be honored with UCLA's Distinguished Achievement in Screenwriting award on Wednesday, June 10, at the Freud Playhouse on campus.
The presentation will take place at 7:30 p.m. during UCLA's Screenwriters Showcase, a gala event featuring staged readings of student screenplays and teleplays selected by a jury of respected industry professionals in an annual competition.
The showcase is part of "UCLA Festival 2009: New Creative Work," a nine-day celebration of the newest work by students from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, which takes place at UCLA and other sites from June 5 through 13.
The event will be hosted by screenwriter and UCLA alumnus Mike Werb, whose works have included the Jim Carrey comedy "The Mask," the John Woo-directed action-thriller "Face/Off" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."
Admission to the Screenwriters Showcase is free, but space is limited and reservations are required. To R.S.V.P. and view a schedule of events, visit Campus parking for the festival is available for $9 in Lot 3 (enter campus at Hilgard Avenue and Wyton Drive).
The 2009 Showcase feature winners are:
Barbara Curry: "Talk of the Town" (romantic comedy)
A cutthroat tabloid reporter goes undercover as a nanny in order to get the scoop on the impending marriage of a famous Hollywood couple but ends up falling for the guy and his motherless children.
Meg Gifford: "Paint It Black" (black comedy)
Four siblings are being raised to fulfill their parents' own desires for success until a hippie neighbor moves in and introduces the kids to a world their parents never wanted them to see.
Ed Goodman: "Limbo Larry vs. Death Et Al" (comedy)
Larry Stickler, a self-righteous rule-follower, dies in a car crash but accidentally eludes Death and becomes a rogue spirit. Larry just wants to return to the land of the living and marry the woman he loves. All that's preventing him are the Bureaucracy of Heaven, the Laws of the Universe and one angry Grim Reaper.
Joseph Hartstone: "New Dogs" (drama)
A young Republican political operative switches parties and gathers a group of old friends to run an unknown Democratic candidate against the most powerful Republican congressman in Washington.
Nils Lyew: "Lutins" (thriller)
Two desperate brothers set out to rob a bank, but when the heist turns unexpectedly violent, one is forced to stop his out-of-control sibling from killing people — sending both of them deeper into the madness of their childhood trauma as the last minutes of their lives frantically tick away.
The 2009 Showcase TV winners are:
Ben Taylor: "Lifers" (TV pilot)
Recovering alcoholic and substance-abuse counselor Bob Cooley can't decide what's going to drive him back to the sauce more quickly, the steady stream of in-denial patients or the neurotic, semi-reformed junkies he has counseling them.
Doc Pedrolie: "Boss" (TV pilot)
A prodigal son and deep-cover FBI agent returns home for the funeral of his murdered best friend, only to learn that his father, the corrupt longtime mayor of Chicago, ordered the hit. The son goes undercover in his own family to take down his father.
Finalists in the 2009 Showcase feature category are: Kyle Clayton ("The Man Who Fell off the Earth"), Steve Cuden ("The Memory Tour"), Maureen Johnson ("The Wedding Belles"), Tom Pugh ("The Irregulars") and Kit Steinkellner ("Billy and the Boyfriend"). The 2009 Showcase TV finalists are Kelly Fullerton ("Maudlin") and Charlemagne Rafols ("Our Guy Shin").
Writer, producer and director Dustin Lance Black won the 2008 Academy Award and Writers Guild of America award for best original screenplay for "Milk," the Gus Van Sant-directed biopic about late gay rights activist Harvey Milk. A 1996 honors graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, Black started his career as an art director on commercials and transitioned to directing documentaries, television series, commercials and music videos. The success of his first two documentaries — "On the Bus" (2001), about participants in the Burning Man festival, and "My Life With Count Dracula" (2003), about Sci-Fi superfan Donald A. Reed —  and of his short film "Something Close to Heaven" (2000) led to work producing, directing and writing The Learning Channel's hit program "Faking It." In 2004, Black signed on as a writer for HBO's acclaimed series "Big Love," for which he drew on his devout Mormon childhood in San Antonio, Texas. Black also served as co-producer during the program's recently completed third season.
Just prior to "Milk," Black wrote the story and screenplay for "Pedro," a film about the life and legacy of famed "Real World" cast member and AIDS victim Pedro Zamora, which premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and debuted on MTV this spring. He recently began work on his feature directorial debut, "What's Wrong With Virginia," a drama set to star Liam Neeson and Jennifer Connelly. In addition, Black and Van Sant will team up for Fox Searchlight's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," an adaptation of the celebrated Tom Wolfe book about the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s.
Screenwriters Showcase host Mike Werb and his writing partner, Michael Colleary, are currently developing "Prophets of the Ghost Ants" with author Clark Carlton and Lawrence Bender/A Band Apart.
The UCLA Screenwriting Program, established in 1965, has provided a strong foundation for hundreds of graduates, including Francis Ford Coppola, David Koepp ("Spider Man"), Josefina Lopez ("Real Women Have Curves"), Michael Miner ("RoboCop"), Alexander Payne ("Sideways"), Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. ("Norma Rae"), and Eric Roth ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). The two-year master of fine arts program encourages students to concentrate on writing well-structured stories inhabited by vivid, compelling characters. The elements of character, dialogue, scene, setting, texture, style and tone are explored through an intensive workshop process in which students learn the key elements of creating scripts for feature film and television.
The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television offers its students a unique blend of scholarship and practical training, bringing together the highest levels of professionalism with the social mission of a public university. The school's landmark integration of theater, film, television and digital media and its outstanding faculty and facilities nurture creative innovation, personal vision and social responsibility. Alumni include such notables as Allison Anders, Jack Black, Charles Burnett, Tim Robbins, Moctesuma Esparza, Catherine Hardwicke, Todd Holland, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Tim Robbins, Brad Silberling, John Schumacher and Audrey Wells.
For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom.
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