Inside D.C. entertainment

Two local screenwriters make finals of DC Shorts competition

August 24, 2010 - 01:26 PM
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mary ratliff
Mary Ratliff readies her camera. (Photo: Jon Malis)

Kelli Herod has been flirting with screenwriting since taking a class on the subject at the University of Maryland five years ago, but her 15-page script for Break Up, Break In, Break Out is unique in at least one respect. "I'd never actually completed a screenplay," says the 28-year-old Arlington resident, "so this is my first screenplay I've finished."

The script is also, therefore, the first one Herod's ever submitted to the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition, the judges for which selected it as one of six finalists, out of 106 submissions. Though the competition is hosted by the DC Shorts Film Festival (Sept. 9-16), the finalists' work will be performed live by actors on Oct. 16 during the ScriptDC screenwriting conference. The audience that night at the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church will decide the winner, who will be awarded $1,000 to shoot the film and another $1,000 if he or she submits a completed film in time for next year's DC Shorts.

Herod says she might shoot her script regardless, "but I would love to win. I kind of feel like I've won already, but to actually win would be amazing. I'd be over the moon."

Break Up, Break In, Break Out is about a girl, Kara, who's been dumped and, in order to work on her novel, needs to get her laptop back from her ex. As Herod puts it, "Hilarity ensues." In Catching Up, Reston resident Mary Ratliff, another finalist in the competition, interweaves two scenes more than a decade apart — and does so in just seven pages. A graduate student at American University, she wrote the script not for a film class but rather one about media depictions of crime, as it depicts how a prison guard's kind treatment of an inmate leads that inmate, now free years later, to help the guard's daughter when her car's broken down on the side of the road.

"Everything that's in this script is based on things that happened in real life," says Ratliff, whose father was a prison guard in the small town of Pulaski, Va., where they grew up. "These people who were going in and out of jail for public drunkenness were people my dad grew up with. They weren't nameless, faceless people."

The film, she says, is about how "the choices that you make today have consequences that you never see." Filming will begin a week or two after the competition — even if she doesn't win — and she plans to submit it to next year's DC Shorts. "We're full steam ahead," she says. "We're not even going to pause."

Tickets to attend the competition are $12 and can be purchased on ScriptDC's website.

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