Expecting Something at the Expecting Goodness Film Festival, by Susan Levi Wallach

Friday night with Melinda Cotton in the hotel bar:

Kari Jackson called us brave—“us” being the writers who submitted short stories (their darling lambs) to the Expecting Goodness Film Festival, where twelve of them, shorn, would premiere as ten-minute films.  OK, not shorn.  Massaged, tweaked, re-imagined, visualized.  Those characters that had gamboled through our minds?  About to be up on the David Reid Theatre screen, in Spartanburg.

Earlier this evening, I sat with Matthew Fogarty (whose reading of “Denouement” rocked) and found out that we have more in common than Columbia: Neither of us had seen the films that tomorrow will be shown to a sold-out house, and both of our filmmakers had ditched our titles. “Denouement” was now “Resolution”; my “Simon of the Dessert” had become “Grace” (Bunuel does have a lock on the film title).

No matter. This is “a writer’s film festival.” We all are expecting goodness—that’s the name of the festival, and Kari, the festival’s associate director, has us feeling optimistic and bold. But at the end of the reading, which none of our filmmakers attended, Matthew and I are wondering—in a good, expectant way—what we’ll see tomorrow.

Melinda Cotton, the remaining Columbia writer, is better than optimistic. Her filmmaker, Durham Harrison, kept her involved throughout the process. Even let her attend the shoot. “I told him, ‘Here’s my heart,’ ” she said, referring to her story “Grammy’s Keys.” (Her filmmaker, his filmmaker:  Writers can be possessive—anything for the illusion of control.)

Question:  What if the movie I had running in my head while writing the story is not the movie that Adam had in his when he wrote the script?

Answer:  It probably isn’t.  And it doesn’t matter.  Really, it doesn’t.

 The morning after:

The Expecting Goodness Film Festival was a feat of organization, from the “red carpet” photo opps for the filmmakers and writers to the stick-to-the-schedule precision that had a seven-or-so-hour event wrap just about on time.  Not that anyone attends a film festival for anything other than the films. All of them had merit; a few were exceptional. Among the standouts was “Pretty Pitiful God,” by Columbia’s Jeffrey Driggers and Drew Baron, based on a short story by Deno Trakas (and featuring two of the Almor brothers, Itai and Gaal). Not only did it win the Jasper’s Pick Award but also a shout-out from Paris MTN Scout. “Resolution” made it to the screen only as a half-finished music video; “Grace,” which had almost nothing to do with my story, was a fabulous, comic riff on love and obsession.

 The writer of the short story, Deno, with my favorite film makers Jeff Driggers and Drew Baron — with Deno Trakas, Jeff Driggers and Drew Baron in Columbia.

(L-R) Deno Trakas, Jeff Driggers and Drew Baron, on location while filming “Pretty Pitiful God” – photo by Brooke Ensign

Besides the six Expecting Goodness participants already mentioned, filmmakers Ron Hagell, Shirley Ann Smith, and John Daniel Fisher (who won Best Emerging Filmmaker for “Remember, No Thinking”) also live in the Columbia area.  The Nick will show all of the films from the Expecting Goodness Film Festival at a special screening on May 21 at 5:30 PM.

~ Susan Levi Wallach

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