Michael Smallwood, director, PURE Theatre core ensemble member and City Paper contributing arts editor, has been granted the 2023 South Carolina Arts Commission playwriting/screenwriting fellowship.
The $10,000 fellowship is awarded each fiscal year in several artistic disciplines to creatives with artistic merit who have made a career out of their art form and are dedicated to their craft.
“It’s really exciting,” Smallwood said of receiving the fellowship. “I love making movies, and writing is one of my favorite things in the world. I like telling stories, so I’m really excited to use this to tell more stories.”
Smallwood certainly has a long list of accomplishments, particularly in recent years. He received the fellowship based on several recent projects: his play Retcon, which was performed in Charleston in 2016 and 2017, 2019 in New York and again in Charleston in 2020 as part of a PURE Theatre virtual play reading series; his 2019 short film How Many Times; and his most recent project, a short film called What a Beautiful Wedding.
Smallwood, who wrote, directed and starred in What a Beautiful Wedding, won Best Director in May at the Crimson Screen Horror Festival. The short was part of the virtual San Francisco Black Film Festival earlier this month and will play at the HorrorHound Film Festival in Cincinnati this fall. It is currently streaming on Octopunk Media’s patreon.
Smallwood’s other recent short How Many Times received the Audience Award at the South Carolina Underground Film Festival in 2019 and can be viewed on YouTube.
Aside from his work as a writer and director, Smallwood has appeared in several films and television shows in the last two years. You may recognize him from his role as one of Lyle Lissons’ (played by Eric Andre) associates in season two of Danny McBride’s HBO series The Righteous Gemstones. Or perhaps you saw his character facedown fictional killer Michael Myers in the October 2021 release of Halloween Kills.
Clearly Smallwood has had his hand in many projects over the last few years. Now, with the fellowship under his belt, he’s looking ahead to his next venture.
“I’m hoping to use this either to make another short film or potentially work towards producing my first feature film,” Smallwood said. “I have three feature length screenplays right now, any of which I could make. The only thing stopping me is the funding. This grant would be a really good head start to getting one of those made.
“I’m going to spend the next few months going through my catalog of stories (both written and currently in the works) to try and decide which one I think is the best fit for this grant — which one speaks to me the most right now. But, my plan is to produce some new film project.”
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