Table Tales 

Virginia Screenwriters’ Forum searches for the next breakout screenwriter.

A two-bit hustler tries to prevent a medical mission’s leader from injecting the population of a remote jungle village with a lethal drug, vaccine blue.

A writer, who fulfills the terms of her late mother’s trust by moving to her ancestral Scottish castle, discovers she’s been drawn into her family’s tragic past.

A young architect, whose professional life is on the ascent, finds his personal life on the descent and questions whether we’re anything other than truly alone.

These scenarios make up the three acts of three different screenplays, works of the award-winning Virginia Screenwriters’ Forum. A show on Sunday, by some of Richmond’s finest actors, is meant to bring the pages to life, through 30-minute table readings followed by audience discussion.

Roxanne Lane, Jeff Thomas and Bob Eason are the screenwriters featured at July’s event. Eason is a graduate of Randolph-Macon College who holds a certificate in digital filmmaking from Boston University and lives in Williamsburg. His screenplay, “Echoes of Blue,” was produced in Richmond in the late ’90s. “It went straight to video,” he says. He also produced a documentary about radio-controlled airplanes, called “Dog Devil Pilots,” which was picked up by the Discovery Channel.

The forum gives the “gift of content to the commonwealth,” says Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, a sponsor of the table readings along with the Virginia Production Alliance and CenterStage. Speaking at a table reading in January, he singled out the four Academy Award nominations for Richmond movie producer Michael Gottwald’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as an example of homegrown talent, and said more local content is needed to “keep the funnel full” of new work.

Screenwriter Brian Lee Weakland won the 2012 Script Exposure Drama Competition, was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest and a co-winner of the 2012 Virginia Screenwriting Competition. An act from his screenplay, “Klaus the Great,” was featured at the January reading. A journalist for seven years who’s transitioning to full-time creative writing, Weakland says he joined the Virginia Screenwriters’ Forum in spring 2012 because he’d written three mystery novels and wanted to convert one into a screenplay.

He thought writing a screenplay sounded “kind of easy” when the idea came to him, he says, and he sat in on one of the foundation’s monthly meetings. “I was so energized by the creativity of the members that I immediately began work on a family drama inspired by my father,” he says. Forum members offered invaluable advice, he says, and “Klaus the Great” ended up winning three national contests.

“Drawing on the experience of VSF writers -- notably Helene Wagner, Eric Carlson, Robin Farmer and Roxanne Lane -- I completed a second screenplay based on the escape of Sigmund Freud from Nazi Austria (‘Last Waltz of Vienna’). So far it has won 11 national and international film festivals, including New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas -- and was named Best Script of Europe in the European Independent Film Festival in Paris last May.” He calls the forum, in its 23rd year, a Richmond treasure, “due in large part to our founder and director, Helene Wagner, who has brought together a group of gifted writers whose screenwriting skills are sharpened monthly.”

Though Wagner hasn’t had a script made into a film, several of her scripts have been optioned. She worked with Los Angeles and New York production companies as a Writers Guild of America, East, literary agent. A screenwriting instructor at the University of Richmond’s School of Professional Continuing Studies, she’s converting her screenplay “Devil Catchers” into a full-length stage play, “Believe,” for its Richmond premiere later this year. In May, Mary Baldwin College’s One Act Festival showcased one of her plays for four days running, and it was a finalist in the table-reading category at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

As for Sunday’s event, attendees can expect to be entertained, says Woodlake resident Susan Ackley, who sat in the audience of a previous show: “It was very easy to follow the narrative and had us wanting more at the end of each act.”

The Virginia Screenwriters’ Forum table reading takes place Sunday, July 14, from 1-3:30 p.m., at CenterStage at 600 E. Grace St. Free, but reservations required. Call 288-2858 on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To attend a monthly Virginia Screenwriters’ Forum, email vsf@comcast.net.

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