Go West, Young Woman

This just in from the home-team shout-out department: Longtime City Paper theatre reviewer and feature writer Jennifer Corley is heading to Park City, Utah, next week, but she’s not going for the deep powder. Corley’s original short screenplay Mary’s Last Day has placed third in the Slamdance Film Festival‘s Short Screenplay Competition, earning her VIP status and a full-ride to the 11-day indie festival’s program of screenings, parties, and elbow-rubbing. Slamdance was created in 1995 by a passel of upstart filmmakers who’d watched the Sundance Film Festival turn on its indie roots and become a showcase for moneyed, connected studio hacks. The festival they created runs concurrently with Sundance each year, but champions beginning directors with no or limited budgets and is generally considered the cream of the true indie film festival crop.

They don’t get much more indie than Corley. She’s been writing for the stage and screen since she was a student at the College of Charleston in 1993, and she’s taught both screenwriting and theatre at Trident Technical College. Corley’s also worked as a crew member on a number of area film shoots – most recently on Rogue Pictures’ The Strangers, which had her commuting to Florence for most of last fall. But she’s never had one of her screenplays produced.

Mary’s Last Day is about a teenage girl who’s visited daily by the ghost of an 18-year-old British boy from the 18th century. Each day the ghost warns her she’s going to die, and so each day Mary prepares a farewell videotape for her family, makes the necessary preparations, and plans her funeral.

“It’s a surreal relationship, sort of a love/hate thing, where he’s bored in the afterlife and he chooses this girl to pick on,” Corley says. “But every day she believes him, and every day she doesn’t die.” She pauses, and then adds for clarification, “It’s a comedy.”

Corley understands well that her chief mission while she’s out there is clear-cut: schmoozing her little heart out. Therefore she’s traveling armed for bear – carrying two additional short scripts and a pair of feature-length screenplays.

“It’s a great networking opportunity,” she says. “I’m hoping I’ll make some connections out there. But I’m gonna have to work on my small-talk skills.”

We’d like to think Jennifer’s always gonna be around for the City Paper (read her review of PURE Theatre‘s The Pillowman this week on page 40), but the fact is, the kid’s got talent; there’s no guarantee she’ll be sticking around.

“I have no idea what the future holds. It’s like it’s scary but it’s good. Because it’s so wide open.” –Patrick Sharbaugh