Filmmaker Directs Writing Workshops

Los Angeles writer and director Nichol Simmons, a 1987 CJ graduate, shared a unique lesson with students at her alma mater during the first few weeks of school this September.

On a short return trip to the Dayton area, the filmmaker volunteered to offer screenwriting workshops to sophomore English and senior creative writing students over two school days. Student-participants were introduced to the nuances of screenwriting and reminded of the importance of “showing vs. telling,” while learning about the emphasis placed on plot and character development in the movie business.

“Many students are interested in movies and letting them see how important writing is to any movie is both eye opening and fun,” said Mike Kelly ‘87, English teacher.

Mr. Kelly, who opened the classroom to his Eagles classmate, felt Simmons’ lessons “re-emphasized” what he was teaching and opened students’ minds to different writing styles and possibilities.

“We will read several plays this year that have been turned into movies. Some of the stories we will read have also been turned into movies,” Kelly said, “but moreover, we talk about things like tense and perspective, and working with screenplays brings those ideas to the foreground.”

As part of the workshops, students in classes with Mr. Kelly (periods 3, 6 and 7) and fellow English teacher Mr Jim Brooks (period1) explored excerpts from Simmons’ script, How Rabbit Brought Fire to People, and also completed a writing exercise of their own. The sophomores will "try their hand at writing a mini-screenplay, as well," Mr. Kelly said.

Simmons holds a degree from Wright State University's Motion Picture Production Program. She was honored at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival for her short film, Dry Mount, and also helped write and direct the FilmDayton web series Freak Club, which was partially filmed on location at CJ in August 2012.