Writers Guild partners with Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

Special to The Democrat

Writers Guild of America, the Los Angeles- and New York-based union that represents 11,000 writers in television and movies, has become an official supporter of the annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration in Natchez.

&uot;The Guild’s board of directors unanimously voted to support the conference,&uot; said NLCC founder and co-chairman Carolyn Vance Smith of Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez.

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Attending this year’s celebration to represent the WGA is Victor Nunez of Tallahassee, Fla., an independent filmmaker who has twice won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival.

&uot;What a compliment!&uot; Smith said. &uot;With this association, the celebration is lifted to a higher level than ever.&uot;

Agreeing with Smith about the significance of the new WGA support are two leaders in the film world, both originally from Mississippi and now living and working in California. They are Gerald McRaney and Sam Haskell III, both of whom are members of the NLCC’s Advisory Board.

&uot;The Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration shines the spotlight on the literary aspects of the cinema arts,&uot; said McRaney, nationally known actor (Major Dad) and chairman of the NLCC’s Horton Foote Award for Outstanding Screenplay Writing.

&uot;I’m delighted that the Writers Guild of America has chosen to become an official participant in what has become academia’s most significant recognition of screenwriting. How appropriate it is for a festival that was designed to honor writers of the cinema arts to have such enthusiastic support from the WGA.&uot;

Echoing McRaney’s comments about the significance of the connection between the NLCC and the WGA is Haskell, who is worldwide head of television, William Morris Agency Inc., Beverly Hills, Calif.

&uot;The endorsement of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration by the Writers Guild of America will enhance the credibility of the celebration tenfold,&uot; Haskell said. &uot;I’m proud that the Hollywood community is embracing this Mississippi-based literary and film society, and I am confident that other top-flight Los Angeles-based organizations will soon follow.&uot;

WGA representative Nunez is known for his character-driven projects, set against the backdrop of his northern Florida home.

Among his film projects are &uot;Ulee’s Gold&uot; (starring Peter Fonda), for which he was screenwriter and director; &uot;Gal Young ‘Un&uot; (based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ short story), for which he was screenwriter, director, editor, producer and cinematographer; &uot;Ruby in Paradise&uot; (starring Ashley Judd) and &uot;A Flash of Green,&uot; both of which he directed, and &uot;Without Evidence,&uot; for which he was cinematographer.

Nunez, who is a new member of the NLCC’s advisory board, will attend the NLCC Feb. 20-23 and will be introduced at the awards ceremony.

&uot;The WGA is committed to assisting the NLCC with speakers and films for future programs, ideas for future themes, publicity and promotion,&uot; Smith said. &uot;The NLCC is already being promoted on the Writers Guild’s Web page. We are very excited to have such prominent national support.&uot;

WGA board members were particularly pleased with the screenplay writing award given each year to an outstanding writer, Smith said. The first winner, Horton Foote of Wharton, Texas, was honored in 2002. Immediately the celebration named the award after him.

This year’s winner, Billy Bob Thornton, author, director and star in &uot;Sling Blade&uot; is likewise well-known. He will receive the 2003 Horton Foote Award for Outstanding Screenplay Writing in ceremonies at 6 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Natchez Convention Center.

Thornton, who won a motion picture Academy Award for Best Screenplay for &uot;Sling Blade,&uot; has written numerous other film scripts during the past 20 years.

Thornton will be present to accept the award, sign copies of his CDs and videos, and help lead a discussion of &uot;Sling Blade&uot; following its showing at 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Natchez Community Center, 215 Franklin St.

&uot;The emphasis on fine writing and fine literature at the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration is our strong suit,&uot; Smith said. &uot;We are delighted that a national organization devoted to the same cause has found us and wants to support us.&uot;