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By: Sandra Brennan

My job might be securing trolls. And that’s OK. I’m here to learn. In a few short weeks WIFV members start production of WELCOME TO LUNATIC FRINGE (EPISODE ONE), an original screenplay by Maureen Offutt and Heidi R. Willis. The premise goes something like this:  In a hair salon called Lunatic Fringe, stylists use inheritance and intrigue for the perfect perm. As production is set in motion, WIFV members are reaching out to colleagues and friends in the metropolitan area to use each episode as a form of professional development.  “The idea was a mentoring project that would result in something on screen instead of a series of missed phone calls and lunches with mentors,” said  Melissa Houghton.

The screenplay is the backbone to all movies and WELCOME TO LUNATIC FRINGE is no exception. Created to be both entertaining and manageable to produce, the first episode has one location and few characters. And if one script page equals one minute of viewing, the story should unfold under ten minutes. Many scripts are developed through WIFV workshops, including the series written by Offutt and Willis. As a new phase of production begins for the movie, a new set of expertise is on hand to guide critical decisions impacting casting, camera direction, sound design and post production. At every juncture there will be a WIFV or FOM (Friend of Melissa) to help sort and solve production challenges.

Robin Noonan-Price will direct the initial episode under the mentorship of Erin Essenmacher.  “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Noonan-Price, a producer of educational media for Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools. For several years, Noonan-Price has set a goal of directing a feature film by serving as an executive producer of a short film called SUSPICIOUS DENSITIES, a line producer for the WIFV’s 48 Hour Film entry, a yearly judge for DC Shorts and participant of ScriptDC. (Full disclosure:  Robin and I are colleagues at FCPS and long time members of WIFV.)

The crew will soon face fast deadlines. A premier date in January is preferred, which means post production needs to start late November, which means cameras roll in mid November. Yikes! There’s a lot to do:  casting actors, wardrobe, props, table reads and equipment, equipment, equipment. Not far below these practical matters, the script remains everyone’s roadmap.  Scriptwriter Maureen Offutt was on hand at this week’s meeting to explain how she imagined the characters and future episodes. Along with Heidi Willis, Maureen created storyboards, character maps and clipped photos to depict the look and feel of the future film.

Casting Director Martha Karl asked about budget and the possibility of hiring union actors, while insisting that she couldn’t do her job without firm production dates.  Shoshana Rosenbaum volunteered to be the script supervisor, broadening her own experience as a writer. (In fact, her script THE GOBLIN BABY is a finalist in the DC Shorts Film Festival this year). Dianne Williams pulled production notes, and writer, Jax Baires offered to snag costuming support.  And so many others said, “…just let me know how I can help.” I’m not sure who all the mentors are just yet so I decided to volunteer and zero in on trolls, a key set element.   Since my own collection was tossed during a family move, I was open to suggestions.  “Call Trystin for props,” I heard.   “He’s in New York right now, but he can get his hands on things and it will look fabulous!” I need to meet Trystin if I want learn more about set design and the small things that make feature films possible.  What did Melissa Houghton say about the project?  “We wanted to give everyone a chance to learn something new and spread their wings.”

For now, got trolls? Let me know, eBay is a little pricey.  Next week: Finding a location. Will it be a Miracle?

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Sandra Brennan is an award winning producer of educational media