LAKELAND — While I was between full-time newspaper gigs, among the odd jobs I took to help pay the bills was critiquing and judging movie screenplays submitted from across the United States.
Hundreds were submitted weekly to the St. Petersburg company for which I worked and of those, maybe two or three per week were worth sending to production companies in New York City or Los Angeles.
Now some intrepid Polk County scribes and stage and film producers have gotten together to help playwrights, authors and actors get a step up in the screenwriting, stage play and acting fields: Just Write! Lakeland.
Formed in September by Lakeland storywriter-storyteller Tanya Tyler, Just Write offers movie and stage writing opportunities for local writers to create and put their works up for critiques. They are then vetted by Polk County-area theater professionals and some will be selected to eventually be produced.
Tyler, who at one time wrote plays for acting troupes in New Jersey in the mid-1980s, said Just Write has met about 16 times.
Along with Jon Fedkiw, Just Write's executive producer, the organization has about seven core members. April 9, they attended auditions at Lakeland’s Frescos Underground for actors interested in a series of original, one-act plays by regional authors. Five actors read scenes for those plays, scheduled to take place June 8 and 9 at a Polk County venue to be determined.
Ken Bundy, technical director-producer, said he sees Just Write as a way to give writers a place to take their works to not only be read but possibly produced.
“Our intentions are to take the best of the table-reads and put them on the stage or make them into movies,” he said. “We also offer a way for an entire piece to be read and the writers get the chance to hear what their pieces sound like in real life.”
Although Just Write welcomes works from anywhere, Bundy said its focus is on local talent first.
“Over a month, we realized we needed to do this but there was no outlet for niche writing regional pieces with local talent in the process,” he said.
Besides Tyler, Bundy and Fedkiw, Just Write Director Nathan McMahan and volunteers Brad Barfield, prop master, and Carl Bradfield help keep the process rolling. Bradfield portrayed “Charlie Coachman” in the award-winning 2017 independent film “The Florida Project,” starring Willem Dafoe.
A Just Fund Me web page has been set up to help finance the group. The group is currently working under the Just Cares Inc. not-for-profit community group.
Prospective writers can contact Just Write! Lakeland at 863-226-2709, see Facebook at Just Write! Lakeland or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Catala can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7533. He can be reached at Twitter @pcat0226.