Participant profile: Rebecca Schechter

We voyage to Canada today to meet screenwriter Rebecca Schechter.

Canadian delegate: Rebecca Schechter

Canadian delegate: Rebecca Schechter

Rebecca was born in Newark, N.J. and attended the University of Chicago for one year before emigrating to Canada, where she completed her studies in the social sciences at York University.

Her career as a screenwriter took off in 1987 with the feature film Taking Care.  Since then, she has written primarily for television, and has produced, story edited and/or written on many of Canada’s high-profile drama series, including: Blue Murder,  Degrassi: The Next Generation, Riverdale, Side Effects, North of 60, ENG and Street Legal.

She won the Gemini Award in 1992 for Best Writing in a Dramatic Series for her work on North of 60.

In 2006, Rebecca began working on her first half-hour comedy – a sitcom in development at CBC. Called Pray for Me, it focused on a group of Muslims living in a small prairie town. In addition to re-shaping the series and working as Creative Producer, she renamed the show Little Mosque on the Prairie. The first season premièred in 2007 to blockbuster ratings, and is now in its fourth season. The series has been nominated for Directors Guild of Canada awards, Gemini Awards, and Leo Awards, and has won both a Gemini and a Leo Award.

Rebecca is currently developing a 1-hour drama series for CBC.


Participant profile: Michael Winship

We return to our series of participant profiles, and swoop into New York city to meet the President of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE): Michael Winship.

American delegate: Michael Winship

Michael Winship

Michael’s television career began in Washington, DC, at the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT). Since then he has worked as a television writer and producer for a variety of programmes: music and arts specials (Benny Goodman: Let’s Dance, Jukebox Saturday Night I & II and Mancini and Friends, among others), kids’ TV (including 3-2-1 Contact and Square One TV for the Children’s Television Workshop), made-for-TV movies (My Sergei, CBS), and documentaries and public affairs (NOW with Bill Moyers, NOVA, American Experience, Nature, and Smithsonian World, among others).

Currently, Michael works as senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, for which he just received the Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in writing. In addition, for the Journal and GateHouse News Service, Michael writes a syndicated weekly column which also appears on websites and blogs nationwide.

He is author of the book, Television (1988), a history of the medium published by Random House. It is a companion book to the PBS series of the same name, which Michael also wrote and co-produced.

Recently, he co-produced two theatrical productions in Los Angeles, The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, by Robin Soans and Charlotte: Life? Or Theatre? a musical work by Elise Thoron and Gary S. Fagin.

Michael’s been a member of the WGAE since 1981, and has served several long stints as Council member since 1990. He was Chair of the Awards Committee from 1989-2004, and Editor and Co-Editor of the Awards Journal from 1992-2003. His dedication was rewarded in 1998 when he received the Richard B. Jablow Memorial Award for Devoted Service to the Guild. He is a six-time Writers Guild Award nominee, and received the award in 2004 and 2009 for the commentaries “Wall Street Scoundrels” and “Yankee Stadium and the New Gilded Age.”

social media networking

The first World Conference of Screenwriters will not only provide delegates with the opportunity to physically meet and discuss issues that affect them directly, it also offers them the chance to network and create a global community of screenwriters.

To facilitate this the Conference has an event page on two of the most popular social media networks:  Facebook and LinkedIn. Badges for these sites are permanently listed on the right-hand column of this site.

If you use either (or both) of these networking sites consider joining the Event pages. There will be many delegates at the conference, and this could help you to get a sense of your colleagues in advance of the conference, and afterwards could serve as a useful connection point.Twitter

Don’t forget to follow the Conference Twitter, which will keep you abreast of any updates to the blog. Hopefully during the conference itself delegates who twitter can use it to build a picture of the event for their colleagues around the world who cannot attend. I recommend a hashtag of #wcos, which is short and easy to remember.

Participant profile: Marcela Fernández Violante

Today we zip to México to discover more about screenwriter, director and union activist, Marcela Fernández Violante.

Mexican delegate: Marcela Fernández Violante

Marcela Fernández Violante

Marcela was born in México City, and was one of the first generation of graduates from Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC). Upon her graduation she began her career with a documentary about artist Frida Kahlo. The film won an Ariel – the Mexican Academy Award – for “Best Documentary.”

As a professional Writer and Director she has made seven feature films: De Todos Modos Juan te Llamas (1975) shown in the Museum of Modern Art  in New York as The General’s Daughter, followed by Cananea (1977), Misterio (1980), En el Paìs de los Pies Ligeros (1981), Nocturo Amor que te Vas / Love Lost in Darkness (1986), Golpe de Suerte / Lucky Break (1992), and Acosada (2002). Her work has won several national and international awards, and Marcela has the largest filmography of any female director in Latin America.

She is a full-time Professor,  teaching “Dramatic Structures and Genres”, at the Centre for Cinematographic Studies, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México,  where she also served as Academic Director from 1985-1989.

In 2000 she was elected General Secretary (President) of the Sindicato de Autores y Adaptadores de Cine de México, as well as General Secretary of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Producción Cinematográfica (STPC – the Film Production Union), which is a Confederation of workers that unites three Guilds (Actors, Writers and Directors) and Technicians (sound engineers, photographers, art directors, etc) as a single worker’s union.

Participant profile: Uwe Wilhelm

It’s a quick flight over mountains and rivers to meet another German participant, Uwe Wilhelm.

German Delegate Uwe Wilhelm

Uwe Wilhelm

Uwe was born in Hanau am Main, and after a short stint working various jobs (including as a truck driver and a musician), he studied Philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt. Afterwards, he went on to study acting at the Folkwang School of Music, Dance and Speech in Essen. Until the end of the 1980s he worked as an actor in theatre and feature films.

Since 1990 Uwe has worked as a playwright,  a screenwriter of film and television, as well as a director. At this point he has written 150 scripts across these media.

His feature films for cinema include Bandits (1997, with director Katja von Garnier), Cascadeur (1998, with Uwe Kossmann), and Sass (2001, with Holger Karsten Schmidt). His television feature films include Judith Kemp (2004), Einmal Dieb, immer Dieb (2007), and  Schwarzwaldliebe (2009), which he also directed.

For a five-year period he also took on the role of producer, and founded the production company “Development Hell Ltd”, and developed scripts for feature films.

Uwe has several screenplays for film and television in development, as well as a novel and a music project.

Participant profile: Jacqueline Surchat

We return to our series of delegate profiles, and swivel the spotlight on Swiss screenwriter and filmmaker, Jacqueline Surchat.

Swiss delegat Jacqueline Surchat

Jacqueline Surchat

Jacqueline began her career with a bang  in 1989 when she won the prize for the best school film for her seven-minute short “Au bout du fil”, which she wrote and directed. It was shown at Nimes’ International School Film Festival in 1990.

Her other short films have competed at many festivals. Jacqueline’s  short film “Utopie hors-jeu” won the 1992 ‘Prix du public’ at the International Comedy Festival at Vevey, Switzerland (appropriately, the adopted home of Charlie Chaplin). Her 30-minute comedy, “Le bonheur à cloche-pied” (1994) was shown at numerous festivals and won the ‘Prix de la Licorne d’or’ at Bludenz in Austria, as well as the prize for best short film at the Uppsala International Short Film Festival in Sweden.

In 2003 and 2004 she made two documentaries, each with a running time of 55 minutes: Fribourg autrement and Hafis Bertschinger: l’artiste nomade. Between 1991 and 2009 while creating her own films and documentaries Jacqueline found time to write a dozen short and feature-length films.

She is also the creator and writer of Marilou, a 24-episode series for Swiss television. Currently she has several screenplays in development.

In 1987 a book she co-wrote with Madeleine Denisart was published. Titled Le cigare et les fourmis, it’s a history of women’s work in industry in the Canton of Vaud (Switzerland) from 1850 to 1950.

She is the head of the screenwriting department at FOCAL, the Foundation for professional training in cinema and audiovisual media in Switzerland.

Organiser profile: Christina Kallas

This is the first in our profiles spotlighting members of the two groups organising the World Conference of Screenwriters: the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG).

Christina Kallas has been president of the FSE since January 2006.

President of the FSE: Christina Kallas

Christina Kallas

Christina was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, and completed her Ph.D. on the subject of European co-productions at the Berlin University. She’s a writer-producer, member of the European Film Academy, the German Film Academy, and founder and artistic director of the Balkan Fund (since 2003).

She was a member of the Board of the German Screenwriters Guild from 2004 – 2009 and is the commissary for international affairs of the Guild since 2006. In November 2006, as President of the FSE, Christina initiated the First Conference of European Screenwriters, which was hosted by the Balkan Fund of the Thessaloniki Film Festival, and supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung and the FFA. It produced the much-discussed and acclaimed European Screenwriters’ Manifesto.

She was a member and then the chair of the commission for the financing of script development of the German Federal Film Board (FFA) from 2003 to 2008, and from 2006 to 2008 a member of the commission for the financing of film production.

Christina has taught screenwriting since 1998 at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin, at the International Film School in Cologne and at the Scuola Holden per le Techniche Narrative in Torino. Currently, she is associate professor at the Cinema Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (since 2007).

Credits as writer and/or producer include feature films I.D., which was in the international competition of the Thessaloniki International Film festival in 1994, Liebe Lügen (Love Lies), which won the First Film Award at the Munich film Festival in 1997, The Commissioner, starring John Hurt and Armin Mueller-Stahl, which was in the official competition of the Berlin Film festival in 1998, the TV movies Männer sind wie Schokolade (ARD, 1999) and Holland (in pre-production, 2010), the Best German TV-awarded series Edel & Starck (2001 – 2003) as well as the TV series Danni Lowinsky (Sat1, 2009-2010).

She is currently producing the feature film Like a Baby, written and directed by Milcho Manchevski (release date: 2010).

Christina is the author of five books: European Co-Productions in Film and Television (Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 1992), Screenplay: The Art of Invention and Narration in Cinema (Nefeli, Athens 2006), Creative Screenwriting (uvk, Konstanz 2007), Bio/pic or The Lives of the Few (Patakis, Athens 2009) and Creative Screenwriting. Understanding Emotional Structure (Palgrave, London/New York, 2009).